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Women’s Day: Best Women-Led Movies and Female Directors



Women’s Day: Best Women-Led Movies and Female Directors
With International Women’s Day here, we wanted to highlight some women-led movies from India and around the world. Too often, the conversation ends up being about women on screen, and not what’s happening behind the scenes. And that’s why this list is divided into three categories: female directors, movies from India, and international films. We’ve made sure to include only those titles that you can stream in India, but that does mean you miss out on a lot. The work of many trailblazing female directors is not easily available for viewing in India, unfortunately, including the likes of Deepa Mehta, Chloe Zhao, Sofia Coppola, Lynne Ramsay, Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Penny Marshall, Věra Chytilová, Niki Caro, Marjane Satrapi, Lucrecia Martel, Andrea Arnold, and Chantal Akerman. If you’re looking to support female creators, take the extra step and seek out their movies wherever you can. For now, here’s a good starting step.
By female directors

Mira Nair

The New York-based filmmaker has won international accolades for her work, including two at Cannes and one National Award for Salaam Bombay! (Mubi or Tata Sky), which focuses on the day-to-day life of children living in the slums of then-Bombay (now Mumbai). Nair won the Golden Lion for Monsoon Wedding (not on streaming) that was inspired by A Suitable Boy which she couldn’t then get the rights for. Nair did get the rights nearly 20 years later, turning A Suitable Boy (Netflix) into a TV series last year.

A Suitable Boy Review: Mira Nair and Book Fans Finally Get Their Wish

She’s also behind other critically-acclaimed movies such as The Namesake (Disney+ Hotstar) and Queen of Katwe (Disney+ Hotstar).

Agnès Varda

Martin Scorsese once called Varda “one of the Gods of Cinema”, and that’s really all you need to know about the French legend who died two years ago this month. Her best work has been in the documentary realm or looking at women’s issues, and some of it is thankfully available in India thanks to Mubi.

There’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) which follows a young singer for two hours as she waits on a medical test result. In The Gleaners and I (2000), Varda follows gleaners as they search for food and items thrown away across the countryside and in cities. It was voted one of the best documentaries in a Sight & Sound poll.

And Varda goes autobiographical in The Beaches of Agnès (2008), visiting places from her past and reminiscing about life — and her eightieth birthday — on camera.

Cléo from 5 to 7

Meghna Gulzar

Gulzar had a troubled start to her career but after an eight-year sabbatical she collaborated with Vishal Bhardwaj on Talvar (Netflix or Disney+ Hotstar), which tells the story of the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl and the family’s hired servant were killed, and the inept police bungled the investigation.

She followed it up with Raazi (Amazon Prime Video), that is based on the real-life events depicted in Harinder Sikka’s 2008 novel “Calling Sehmat” and stars Alia Bhatt as an undercover Kashmiri RAW agent who marries into a Pakistani military family to spy on the enemy prior to and during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.

Her latest was Chhapaak (Disney+ Hotstar), which wasn’t received as well as the other two. In this film, Deepika Padukone played acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, following her through facial reconstruction surgeries, the police investigation, court proceedings, and a petition to regulate the sale of acid.

Lilly and Lana Wachowski

Responsible for quite possibly the greatest action sci-film of all time, the Wachowskis — inspired by anime and martial arts movies — delivered their seminal work with The Matrix (Netflix or Prime Video), which follows a computer hacker (Keanu Reeves) who starts to question the nature of his reality, and with help from a group of rebels, begins the fight against the machines that now rule the world. A fourth entry in the franchise is due in December 2021.

Their other work hasn’t lived up to those standards, but it hasn’t stopped them from experimenting, giving us V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, and Sense8.

Kathryn Bigelow

For now the only woman to win the Oscar for best director — Chloe Zhao could potentially shatter that given the awards momentum for Nomadland — Bigelow picked up that award for The Hurt Locker (Prime Video or Tata Sky), wherein a new leader (Jeremy Renner) of a bomb disposal squad surprises his subordinates with his views and reckless approach to the job in the Iraqi capital.

Praise was also showered on her next effort, Zero Dark Thirty (Netflix, Prime Video, JioCinema, Mubi, Hungama Play, Tata Sky, or MX Player), which depicted the decade-long international manhunt for Osama bin Laden, dramatised as and when needed to keep a CIA intelligence analyst (Jessica Chastain) at the centre of the story.

zero dark thirty zero dark thirty

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/Sony Pictures

Zoya Akhtar

Akhtar’s best work is arguably Gully Boy (Prime Video), in which an aspiring, young street rapper (Ranveer Singh) from the slums of Mumbai sets out to realise his dream, while dealing with the complications that arise out of his personal life and the socioeconomic strata to which he belongs. It has its faults though, which is also true of her most commercially successful work.

I’m talking about Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Netflix or Prime Video), which finds Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol playing three childhood friends who set off on a bachelor trip across Spain, turning it into an opportunity to heal past wounds, combat their worst fears, and fall in love with life. Zindagi was definitely overlong, and felt like an advert for Spain at times.

Akhtar also executive produced and directed episodes of Made in Heaven (Prime Video).

Ava DuVernay

Though her early great work — Selma and Middle of Nowhere — is not available, DuVernay’s most recent output was heavily nominated at the Emmys. Yes, it’s not a movie — but it’s only four episodes. It’s called When They See Us (Netflix) and in it, DuVernay presents another hard-hitting look at how the US criminal justice system contributes to racism, through the lens of the Central Park Five — five African-American and Hispanic teenagers — who were falsely imprisoned for several years.

Nandita Das

Directorial opportunities have been hard to come by for Das, better known for her work as an actress. In 2008, she made her feature-length debut with Firaaq (Prime Video, JioCinema, Zee5, Mubi, ShemarooMe, Tata Sky, or MX Player) which looks at the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom across the socio-economic strata. Naseeruddin Shah, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Inaamulhaq, Paresh Rawal, and Deepti Naval are part of the ensemble cast. It won two National Film Awards.

And then a decade later, Das returned with Manto (Netflix or JioCinema) which naturally follows Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) — one of the finest Urdu writers of the 20th century — before and after the Partition of British India, as his acclaimed life in then-Bombay is uprooted and he finds his work being challenged in Lahore. It’s a film that becomes more relevant by the day.


Shahana Goswami in Firaaq
Photo Credit: Percept Picture Company

From India

Soni (2019)

A short-tempered young policewoman and her cool-headed female boss must contend with ingrained misogyny in their daily lives and even at work, where it impacts their coordinated attempts to tackle the rise of crimes against women in Delhi. Ivan Ayr directs.

Soni Is Netflix’s Best Indian Film That Almost No One Will Watch

Watch Soni on Netflix

Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)

Denied for a release for six months, this black comedy centres on four women (Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Plabita Borthakur, and Aahana Kumra) in small town India who set out on a journey to discover freedom and happiness in a conservative society.

Watch Lipstick Under My Burkha on Amazon Prime Video

Axone (2019)

Through the lens of the titular aromatic fermented product — pronounced aa-khoo-nee, it translates as “strong smell” — writer-director Nicholas Kharkongor explores the stereotypes held by, the racism of, and the insular nature of Indians towards their counterparts from the Northeast in a light-hearted fashion. Sayani Gupta and Vinay Pathak star.

Watch Axone on Netflix

Ankur (1974)

In writer-director Shyam Benegal’s feature-length directorial debut, a child-desiring Dalit woman (Shabana Azmi) married to a deaf-mute alcoholic potter is seduced by the village landlord’s son (Anant Nag), which causes personal and societal problems.

Watch Ankur on Disney+ Hotstar (for free), Mubi, or ShemarooMe

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020)

Janhvi Kapoor plays the titular flight lieutenant who was one of the first Indian women to fly in a combat zone in this military drama biopic that’s cliched for the most part, but includes some stellar scenes that touch upon society’s double standards and dissects patriotism vs nationalism.

Watch Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl on Netflix

gunjan saxena gunjan saxena the kargil girl

Janhvi Kapoor in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Photo Credit: Maajid Khan/Netflix

Neerja (2016)

The true story of the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime honour Ashok Chakra, 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), who thwarted the hijacking of a Pan Am flight in 1986 and died trying to get passengers to safety.

Watch Neerja on Disney+ Hotstar (for free)

Thappad (2020)

A housewife’s (Taapsee Pannu) seemingly perfect married life ends up in pieces after her husband slaps her during a party at their home, which makes her question and re-evaluate her life. Anubhav Sinha directs. Praised for addressing domestic violence, a topic routinely brushed under the carpet in patriarchal India, though some objected to the “easy solutions” it offered.

Watch Thappad on Amazon Prime Video

Margarita with a Straw (2014)

Kalki Koechlin plays a cerebral palsy-afflicted teenager in this coming-of-age drama from Shonali Bose, who falls in love with a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent after she moves to New York for her undergraduate degree. Koechlin’s work and Bose’s sensitive handling of the movement disorder were highlighted.

Watch Margarita with a Straw on Netflix, Voot, or JioCinema

No One Killed Jessica (2011)

Based on the 1999 Jessica Lal murder case, an activist-journalist (Rani Mukerji) teams up with the victim’s sister (Vidya Balan) to bring the entitled son of a prominent politician to justice. Praised by most critics, though some took issue with its heavy-handedness.

Watch No One Killed Jessica on Netflix


Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Set in 18th-century in the northwesternmost region of France, a painter (Noémie Merlant) falls in love with the aristocratic reluctant bride-to-be (Adèle Haenel) she’s been secretly commissioned to paint. Powered by the captivating direction of Céline Sciamma, who won two Cannes awards for her work. One of my favourite films of last year.

The 10 Best Movies of 2020

Watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire on Amazon Prime Video or Mubi

2020 best movies portrait of a lady on fire

Adèle Haenel, Noémie Merlant in Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Photo Credit: Pyramide Films/Lilies Films/Arte France Cinéma/Hold Up Films

Little Women (2019)

Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep lead the ensemble cast of writer-director Greta Gerwig’s clever metatextual ode to Louisa May Alcott, whose 1868 novel of the same name, about four young women who live life on their terms, this seventh live-action adaptation is based on.

Watch Little Women on Amazon Prime Video

Wonder Woman (2017)

After a pilot (Chris Pine) crashes and informs them about an ongoing World War, an Amazonian princess (Gal Gadot) leaves her secluded life to enter the world of men and stop what she believes to be the return of Amazons’ nemesis. A DC superhero movie directed by Patty Jenkins.

Review: Wonder Woman Is a Much-Needed Win for the Flailing DC Universe

Watch Wonder Woman on Amazon Prime Video

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Chile’s first openly transgender actor Daniela Vega stars as a trans waitress and singer in this socially aware and compelling character study film, who feels the full wrath of society after the unexpected and sudden death of her older male lover. She must fight for the right to be herself: a woman. Won the Oscar for best international film.

Watch A Fantastic Woman on Amazon Prime Video or Mubi

Roma (2018)

Alfonso Cuarón revisits his childhood in the eponymous Mexico City neighbourhood, during the political turmoil of the 1970s, through the eyes of a middle-class family’s live-in maid (Yalitza Aparicio), who takes care of the house and four children, while balancing the complications of her own personal life.

Watch Roma on Netflix

Incredibles 2 (2018)

The excellent sequel to the terrific Pixar original puts the focus on the ultra-flexible mother Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) as she sets out to restore faith in superheroes, while the father must take care of the three superpowered kids. Brad Bird returns as writer and director.

Watch Incredibles 2 on Disney+ Hotstar

Hidden Figures (2016)

The real-life story of a team of gifted and talented female African-American mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe) at NASA who played a vital role in the early years of the Space Race while dealing with the cruelty of their co-workers.

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Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox




Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox

Microsoft is teaming up with Inworld AI to create game development tools for Xbox, enabling developers to create characters, generate entire scripts and quests, and more. The multi-year deal brings an AI design copilot and an AI character runtime engine to the forefront, both of them being totally optional to use and to varying degrees. Of course, the use of AI in art has been criticised by many for simply lacking originality, in addition to running the risk of fewer jobs for artists — a growing fear among many considering the alarming number of layoffs seen at game studios this year in an attempt to cut costs.

“At Xbox, we believe that with better tools, creators can make even more extraordinary games,” Haiyan Zhang, GM, Xbox Gaming AI, said in a blog post. “This partnership will bring together: Inworld’s expertise in working with generative AI models for character development, Microsoft’s cutting-edge cloud-based AI solutions including Azure OpenAI Service, Microsoft Research’s technical insights into the future of play, and Team Xbox’s strengths in revolutionizing accessible and responsible creator tools for all developers.”

The aforementioned AI design copilot is a toolset that will help game designers turn prompts into scripts and dialogue trees. In contrast, the character runtime will enable dynamically generated plot beats and quests. We’ve already seen heavy AI integration in games by way of procedural generation — a more recent example being the 1000+ planets in Starfield. Not to mention, enemy AI has been around for way longer.

Inworld made headlines in August when it launched a modded story mode for Grand Theft Auto V, Sentient Streets, in which players had to investigate the rise of a bizarre AI-worshipping cult — a segment loaded with characters that spoke in AI-generated dialogue, on the fly. The mod was later taken down by publisher Take-Two, leaving a permanent strike on the creator Bloc’s YouTube channel. As per The Verge, Inworld’s AI technology can also be used for narration in top-down RPGs to warn players about any events awaiting off-screen and respond to questions like we’ve seen in the past year with AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing Chat. Microsoft has also been heavily banking on artificial intelligence, having made a $10 billion (about Rs. 83,254 crore) investment in OpenAI. The company has also integrated AI tools into its popular suite of services and also added an AI copilot to Windows.

Despite being a Microsoft-affiliated AI toolset, it would be interesting to see whether titles using them will be allowed to thrive on other platforms. In July, Valve claimed that it would be cracking down on games that included AI-generated assets if the developer didn’t own the copyright to the piece of art. For the uninitiated, when you insert a prompt to create something in AI, the software simply repurposes existing assets found online and mushes them together — basically stealing from other artists and writers without appropriate commercial licenses. Infringing them would lead to the game not being distributed on Steam, forcing the developers to seek proper licenses for the asset by reaching out to the AI companies involved. It’s unclear how Microsoft’s partnership will play out — as long as AI content is being used as a catalyst to innovate and create something new, it should be fine.

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BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It




BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It

BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is a state-owned telecommunication company in India. Earlier this year in May, the government said that the firm started rolling out 4G services in the country. By December, the networks were said to be upgraded to 5G. However, at the India Mobile Congress, BSNL chairman P K Purwar said that the company will launch 4G services in December and then roll it across the country by June 2024. The chairman added that the 5G upgrades will take place after June next year.

In a post on X shared by BSNL’s Andhra Pradesh (@bsnl_ap_circle) unit, the company confirmed that BSNL users can upgrade their older 2G or 3G SIMs to a 4G SIM for free. Not only will the upgrade be free, but a promotional image shared with the post suggests that users who opt for the upgrade will also receive 4GB of free data that will be valid for three months. It is speculated that BSNL is aiming to boost its upcoming 4G services with this offer. The announcement was first spotted by Telecom Talk.

To access the free data offer and the free upgrade, BSNL users are requested to get in touch with executives at BSNL’s Customer Service Centre, franchisee or retailer stores, or contact one of their Direct Selling Agents (DSA). The promo image also adds in a finer print that the offer is available with certain terms and conditions, but hasn’t detailed any, so far.

Reliance’s Jio recently launched the 4G-supported Bharat B1 feature phone in India. The handset is priced at Rs. 1,299 in India. Alongside 4G connectivity, the phone comes with JioCinema and JioSaavn applications pre-installed.

The Jio Bharat B1 is equipped with the JioPay application, which is said to allow users to make UPI payments. Aiming to increase accessibility, the phone supports 23 languages overall, including multiple regional languages.

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Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed




Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed

Realme GT 5 Pro’s launch date is not far away. The Chinese smartphone brand on Tuesday (November 7) confirmed the arrival of the new GT series smartphone in its home country. The Realme GT 5 Pro is teased to come with a display with over 3000 nits of peak brightness. It is also confirmed to pack a larger heat dissipation area for thermal management. The handset will ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come as a successor to the Realme GT 5 that debuted in China in August.

Realme, via Weibo, announced the arrival of the Realme GT 5 Pro in China. The display of the handset is confirmed to offer 3000 nits peak brightness. It has also been teased to offer heat dissipation with a surface area of around 10,000mm2. It is confirmed to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The post doesn’t specify the exact launch date of the smartphone, however, given the release of the teasers, the launch could be just around the corner.

The Realme GT 5 Pro has been in the news a lot lately. It is expected to feature a 6.78-inch (1,264×2,780 pixels) AMOLED display and is tipped to come in 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB RAM options along with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB inbuilt storage options.

For optics, the Realme GT 5 Pro is said to have a triple rear camera unit comprising two 50-megapixel sensors and an 8-megapixel shooter at the rear. The camera setup might include a Sony LYTIA LYT808 sensor, an OmniVision OV08D10 secondary sensor, and a Sony IMX890 telephoto sensor. For selfies, there could be a 32-megapixel sensor at the front. It is said to carry a 5,400mAh battery with support for 100W wired charging and 50W wireless charging.

The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come with upgrades over Realme GT 5. The latter was launched in China in August with a price tag of CNY 2,999 for the base model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

The Motorola Edge 40 recently made its debut in the country as the successor to the Edge 30 that was launched last year. Should you buy this phone instead of the Nothing Phone 1 or the Realme Pro+? We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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