‘Showtime’ Review: A Toothless Series About Bollywood With Emraan Hashmi & Mahima Makwana


It’s a miracle that movies and TV shows get made. The journey from a mere concept to a full-fledged script is a lengthy process. Getting a movie (or a show) greenlit based on a screenplay is comparable to an installment of Mission: Impossible. Assembling a cast and crew and finishing a film (or show) without exceeding the given budget is insane. If that’s all there was to it, you could’ve shrugged and said that that’s not too hard. But the process of putting that film on the big screen (or even the small screen) while passing the various kinds of censorship laws, test screenings, and making one’s money back is what makes filmmaking so bloody tough. Now, various projects from all over the globe have tried to give us a peek into the inner workings of the silver screen in an attempt to make us more empathetic towards the entertainment industry. Hollywood has given us Barton Fink, The Aviator, Tropic Thunder, The Offer, The Artist, Dolemite Is My Name, Entourage, and the Scream franchise. Japan has done One Cut of the Dead. Despite the vastness of the industry, the two good Bollywood projects about the art of making movies that I have watched are Luck by Chance and The Dirty Picture. And after Showtime, I fear that it’s going to stay that way for a while.

Sumit Roy’s Showtime, tells the story of Mahika Nandi, a film critic at a news channel. She has watched the newly released Viktory Studios film, Pyaar Dangerous, and thinks that it’s utter garbage. When her boss falls sick, she is asked to do the official review. Zico, an employee of Viktory Studios, approaches Mahika and tells her to give the film at least four stars because it’s bound to be a super hit. He bribes her by offering her a new phone, and she seemingly takes it. However, when Mahika sits down to film her review, she not only lambasts it but also exposes the scummy tactics used by Viktory Studios to win over critics. She is promptly fired from her job. That said, her state of unemployment doesn’t last very long as the owner of Viktory Studios, Victor Khanna, posthumously announces that Mahika is her granddaughter from his first marriage and she’ll take care of the production house. Meanwhile, his arrogant and rude son, Raghu Khanna, gets next to nothing. This puts both of them on a warpath and their movies in jeopardy.

If the aforementioned synopsis of Showtime interests you, then you should definitely check out the series on Disney+ Hotstar. If you want to come to a decision based on what I’m about to say about the series, please be warned that none of it is going to be good. Now, the first thing that I want to address is this Part 1 and Part 2 nonsense. Hotstar has done this with The Night Manager and The Freelancer in the past, and they have done it again with Showtime. I get the reasoning behind it (the streaming platform wants to generate interest and anticipation), but the issue is that breaking up 7-8 episodes into two parts doesn’t really work when the meat of the story is in the second half. And, maybe from the perspective of a viewer, it can seem somewhat intriguing, but as a critic, what the hell am I supposed to talk about? The character arcs are incomplete. The plot is incomplete. The themes are incomplete. So, what am I supposed to critique or praise? If I comment on what I have seen so far—which is one half of the picture—all I can come up with is that it’s horrible. But isn’t that a disservice to the writers? To have a portion of their work criticized because some MBA graduate marketing professionals said that shows should go out in two parts? Well, I guess if the showrunners and producers don’t care about what they are putting out there, then why should I?

Showtime is made of half-baked ideas which are meant to spark speculation. But the longer you stay with those ideas, the stupider they seem. Victor and Raghu are probably supposed to be a broken reflection of Yash and Aditya Chopra, going by their appearance and the polar opposite perspectives on what good cinema means. Then you look at the name of one of the producers (Karan Johar) and wonder why this man, who is apparently very close to the Chopras, is doing a hit job on them. And then you hear the endless lines of exposition uttered by Raghu and come to the realization that it’s not a fully-formed character, just a walking-talking rumor mill. Armaan is an amalgamation of Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn (they use a piece of music from Ishq’s “Neend Churai Meri”), and Akshay Kumar. Does he get to do anything substantial? No. All the female characters are travesties. Yasmin Ali has an affair with Raghu and gets pregnant. Wow, so original. Mandira is Armaan’s wife, and she wants to make a comeback. Again, the originality is astounding. And then there’s Mahika. Everything that she does after becoming a producer is headache-inducing. She talks so much about filmmaking and does so little filmmaking that it’s legitimately infuriating that a bunch of experienced filmmakers came together and failed to make a character do a ton of fake filmmaking. How is that possible? Go and ask Karan Johar and Co. On top of all that, there’s some flimsy commentary on domestic abuse and the practice of boycotting films, which is somewhat relevant, I suppose.

Chup: Revenge of the Artist, Showtime, and that one tweet from Vidyut Jammwal have aggressively pushed forth the notion that paid reviews exist. I am here to say, as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic who has been working in the industry for about 6 years, that they are all correct: paid reviews do exist. Gift hampers are sent, interviews are greenlit, set visits are allowed, and many other tactics are used to coerce a publication or a channel to get a positive review for an upcoming project. However, if Showtime didn’t have cameos from Nayandeep Rakshit and Rajeev Masand, I would’ve believed that the makers of the show really wanted to criticize this insidious culture that has been established by studios and media outlets, and they would like to put an end to this despicable practice. Since that’s not the case, that aspect of the show is meaningless. In addition to that, the series doesn’t delve into the fact that the concept of paid reviews is limited to big publications with a bottomless well of money to back them up. Smaller, indie publications fly under the radar and are filled with honest journalists who love good films and shows and have spines that’ll put these “popular” advertisers masquerading as critics to shame. However, to shed some light on this corner of the entertainment business, artists need to be knowledgeable and well-intentioned. Since none of those words are synonymous with Showtime and its makers, I better not waste any more of my energy on them.

The less I say about the performances in Showtime, the better. I don’t think it’s entirely their fault, though. Mahima Makwana, Emraan Hashmi, Mouni Roy, Rajeev Khandelwal, Shriya Saran, Vijay Raaz, Vishal Vashishtha, and many other members of the cast are immensely experienced actors with a lot of projects under their belt. But the material they are working with, the direction they’ve been given, and the scenarios they are put in—it’s bad, cheap, tacky, and undercooked. The series inadvertently proves the fact that making good movies and shows is like capturing lightning in a bottle, and making good movies and shows about making movies and shows is like sending your homemade rocket to the Moon. Anyway, if you are interested in films and shows that talk about the art of filmmaking, take your pick from any of the aforementioned titles. There are documentaries available on YouTube, packed with interviews from the cast and the crew, that’ll give you a lot of insight into how movies and shows get made. There are books on Satyajit Ray, Martin Scorsese, and Akira Kurosawa’s body of work; give them a read. If you want to waste your time, watch Showtime.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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