Movie Review by Charles Radcliff, former head of global issues LGBTQIA rights at United Nations.

Film: Season’s Greetings
Cast: Celina Jaitly Haag, Lillette Dubey, Azhar Khan and Shree Ghatak.
Director: Ram Kamal Mukherjee
Rating: 5 stars

If the extended lockdown has you scouring Netflix for something new to watch, here’s a suggestion for something completely different and a guaranteed treat: a new Indian film called “Season’s Greetings: Tribute to Rituparno Ghosh” streaming now on Zee5.

But “Season’s Greetings” is far from being any film. It’s a lovely, tender, bitter-sweet family drama that deserves all the accolades it’s currently getting and more. Celina hits a career high playing Romi, a successful Indian ex-pat returning to India to present her Muslim boyfriend Usmaan (Azhar Khan) to her mother Suchitra (Lillette Dubey) for the first time. What was planned as a warm, welcoming family lunch quickly descends into acrimony (in a pattern that will be familiar to many across cultural boundaries) as long-repressed tensions between mother and daughter break to the surface. At the risk of giving too much away, the mother has her own secret whose revelation in the film’s final moments creates a lovely, surprising twist.

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Outside India and the Indian Diaspora, when people think about Indian cinema they probably think about melodrama, musicals and spectacular dance numbers. “Season’s Greetings” is the opposite of all that (even if it does include some very sweet musical sequences). It’s touching, understated, and put together with the lightest of touches. For that we can thank Ram Kamal Mukherjee, the über-talented author-turned-filmmaker who directs the film. It also has an outstanding ensemble cast, alongside Celina are Lillette Dubey (Indian national treasure status) as the mother, debutant and impressive Azhar Khan as the boyfriend and Shree Ghatak as the family’s transgender cook and maid. Ghatak’s performance in itself is a milestone for Indian cinema. A transgender actor playing a trans character in a mainstream Bollywood film is path breaking. Picturesque location and poetic cinematography by Pravatendu Mondal creates magical moments, at several occasions in the film. Indian classical music originally composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore creates a parallel world of symphony that orchestrates the drama in manifold.

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I am utterly devoted to Celina Jaitly Haag, who plays the leads in the film. She is a revelation in this film, dealing with layered complexities often with her eyes through silence.

So, if you have 45 minutes (it’s short!) and access to Zee5, enjoy “Season’s Greetings.” a film worth five stars!