Over The Top
The streaming service culture is taking over our homes and hearts. Here's a list of some of the critically-acclaimed Indian shows available on various platforms
Sacred Games 2 (Netflix)
Its social, thematic and political relevance smacks you in the face even harder than the ground-breaking first season, adding notches of psychological trauma (caused by the multiple deaths in season 1), communal upheaval and repercussions of war, with a sprinkling of humour, new characters to root for and just the right amount of fun your moral conscience will allow. Sacred Games is more relevant to global socio-cultural politics. From being a cat-and-mouse chase between Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde (the two main characters of the first season) and the definitive story of the growth of Mumbai, the show has now elevated to a scary thriller that reminds you how strangely close to home fiction can be.
Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime)
A disgruntled cop is assigned a high-profile case of a murder attempt, which leads him down a rabbit hole of hidden motives and deceit. What essentially lies at the heart of Paatal Lok is a courageous screenplay that questions our society's nature of burying the truth. Crime is not limited to the unresolved or resolved crime cases but our collective failure at questioning the status quo. The show calls out the hypocrisy and business of news. The narrative of news channels that sell sensationalism seldom scratch the surface of issues that actually plague the common man. The show attempts that fearlessly, as it holds a mirror to our society's damaged dynamics and structure.
Hasmukh Sudiya (Vir Das) is an upcoming stand-up comedian from Saharanpur, a small town in Uttar Pradesh. After a video of him performing at a local function goes viral, he is invited to Mumbai to compete in a television show. Everything seems merry, except there's one catch. If Hasmukh is to do well in this competition, he must commit a murder before going up on stage every time.
Made in Heaven (Amazon Prime)
The Indian original series, which is mostly in English, is created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, and directed by Akhtar, Nitya Mehra, Prashant Nair and Alankrita Shrivastava.
Made in Heaven has extravagant North Indian weddings as backdrops for devolving relationships and incredulously easy rescue jobs from getting into disastrous marriages. In the wake of each wedding is a quick primer on what affluent India's obsession with weddings can reveal. Typical problems include discreet dowry deals and unrelenting disdain for a 50-plus woman's desire for a second married life.
Delhi Crime (Netflix)
Based on the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case, the series follows South Delhi's DCP Vartika Chaturvedi, who creates a special team of officers to hunt down the six culprits, while fighting poor infrastructure, red-tapism and mounting public pressure along the way. The show is fast-paced and well-edited, and rarely digresses from the plot. It managed to be gut-wrenching without being gory, and heart-breaking, without any melodrama. Watch it for the intelligent writing, which is backed by brilliant performances by the actors - both lead and supporting.
Based on a true story, this Netflix series is both engaging and entertaining. It presents an authentic picture of rural Jharkhand. Storytelling is taut and performances are convincing but the makers neglect going into the details of phishing. There's no mention of how the youngsters got together to scam people or from where they got this idea. Instead, the makers choose to focus on the power dynamics between Rocky and Brajesh on one side and Sunny and his wife Gudiya (Monika Panwar) on the other.
Bard of Blood (Netflix)
Kabir Anand is settling into his new life as a Shakespeare professor in the remote mountains of Panchgani when a call from the PMO thrusts him back into the world he is trying to forget. A brilliant agent who served under the recently murdered Sadiq Sheikh, Kabir was expelled from RAW because of a disastrous mission in Balochistan 10 years prior. Kabir must now revisit those ghosts, avenge his mentor and face his deadliest enemies back in Balochistan, while racing against time to save both his country and his long-lost love.
Political espionage thriller based on Bard of Blood by Bilal Siddiqi.
Pushpavalli (Amazon Prime)
Sumukhi Suresh plays the titular character in Amazon Prime comedy. In season one, she moves cities to pursue her love interest, a boy she met in her hometown, Bhopal. On being turned down by the guy, Pushpa goes back to Bhopal. In season two, she returns to avenge the rejection. In most tales of revenge, the man is the unhinged character. It's a change to see a woman as a relentless stalker. While the show is mostly comedy, it's also a comment on how women are viewed.
Panchayat (Amazon Prime)
Created by The Viral Fever (TVF), Amazon Prime Video Original, Panchayat, an eight-episode series, through the journey of city-bred protagonist Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), sketches the life in a village and tries to build on instances that may seem inconsequential but are important to those living it. The small-town/village drama from the Hindi hinterland has almost peaked in films, even web-series, over the last five years. But go deeper and there are a gazillion stories waiting to be told. They need not be extraordinary, but isn't that's what life is about - finding the interesting in the ordinary.
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