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3 OTT Webseries You Can’t Afford To  Miss

OTT Webseries, Which Will Surprise You

OTT Webseries: Paatal Lok(Amazon Prime  Video)

This one   just  blows  you  away, no two ways about it.  After  suffering the  load of crap that’s being offloaded on the  digital  platform to make   hay while the  sun strangles,  Paatal Lok comes as  a jolting reminder  of what levels of brilliant storytelling can be achieved on the OTT platform by those  who know  how to use  the extended space afforded by the medium.Not a single  moment is wasted  in the  9 episodes of  taut and  coiled  storytelling. This is  a series that requires  our complete  and unconditional attention as  Sudeep Sharma’s devious screenplay  slithers   from one level of  dramatic tension to another without an iota of  selfcongratulation.It all starts with an  assassination attempt on a high-profile television journalist Sanjeev Mehra with a ‘chick’ on his  shoulder.

[tnm_video layout=”mnmd-post-media-wide”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNwWMW4mxO8[/tnm_video]

I  refer to the  fling that he has with a sharp junior correspondent  Sarah Matthews(Niharika Lyra Dutta). A fling that  flings  the  superstar  anchor into  an unanchored  voyage  into the land  of  the damned.Sanjeev’s wife  is that clueless  biwi  in a bubble who believes  bad  vives can be shut out of her  home by shutting out the news on television and who treats her digs as her  children.  Swastika Mukherjee plays this wife as  the only innocent  character  in the plot.The  unfailing Neeraj Kabi plays  Sanjeev Mehra with a heady mix  of  unbridled arrogance and calm causticity.

But the real hero of this drama of  the damned  is  Jaideep Ahlawat ,a washed-out  Delhi cop  named  Hathiram  Chaudhary  with  a nagging wife(Gul Panag) and a problematic adolescent  son(whose  waywardness is part  of  the film’s unanchored  landscape). Out of the  blue  Hathiram is assigned a  high-profile  case for no seeming reason.Ahlawat sinks into the  boorish but  fiercely  dedicated cop’s role, taking the  character  kicking and  dragging through a  gauntlet of deception and  betrayal.

At one point he is left starting at  the  breasts  of a young  woman who offers herself in  return of clemency in   a hotel room. The choice that Hathiram makes here  defines his  character  and his attitude  to  the  cancerous corruption all  around him.Equally  lucid is  Hathiram’s   associate  a  young idealistic  Muslim  named Ansari who is constantly reminded of what “his” community is responsible  for.  Ishwak  Singh who  plays Ansari is  the   kind  of actor who  can let you know what a  character is stinking while standing still in a frame. This is a remarkably articulate performance likely to be  drowned  in the din of attention-seekers.Paatal Lok doesn’t spare us any  of the details that come in the  territory  of  political corruption. Episode  3 is  specially  unbearable brutal and gruesome.

It  opens with a  closeup of a school-ghanti’s  gong. In  a few minutes the  gong is used by the  film’s  vicious  unsparing villain  Hathoda Tyagi(Abhishek Banneree)  to bludgeon  three  young boys to their bloodied death. Soon thereafter a man from the upper caste in the Chitrakoot town in  MP, leans politely  over  a middleaged  lady to say,  “My son promised your son that his father will fuck his mother. So  here I am. And it’s not just me  but also my ten associates.”Don’t flinch. Life never  promised us a  rose garden.And  Paatal Lok is not afraid to create a  stink.

This  is  a series that can take potshots at  its dramatic interjections and  narrative exclamations. At  one  point the  star-journalist  Mehra  observes caustically, “If you want to make news  just throw in a minority issue and an LGPTQ  reference.”Paatal  Lok has both. It  uses  these  topical   tropes  with  such  unstrained dramatic intensity that we  feel we are being subjected to whatever  is  the reverse of  artistic  manipulation. Many times  during  the gripping  narrative  I found myself  praying for things to go the right way. But it’s always  the  other way. Death in this  series is  always sudden  violent and  irrelevant. Just like  life.

OTT Webseries: Unpaused:(Amazon Prime  Video)

There is an awkward  moment between  the  classy Lilette Dubey and her  young  unlikely Covid companion when the former….there’s no polite way of putting this…farts.Both the women laugh off the  moment in a way that can only happen when there  is  deep comfort level between two people. This  moment in   Unpaused, a resplendent  anthology of  five Covid –related  film,emblematizes the  absolutely unforeseen equations and  bondings that the pandemic had perpetrated.

[tnm_video layout=”mnmd-post-media-wide”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXGfGV2v6GE[/tnm_video]

Straightaway,  I  must say the anthology comes as a welcome  surprise. When  I heard  of a  Covid anthology  I  thought it would one of those let’s-make-hay-while-the-sun-shines kind of  obscenely exploitative ventures. Thankfully, the  films are  born out of  compassion rather than greed.

The Covid theme  flows organically  out of the stories  , and the  characters are  never allowed to  feel sorry  for themselves. These are  bright stories  burnished with a directorial acumen that elevates the  theme from a topical   statement  to an enduring experience.In the  story  Rat-a-Tat(inaptly  clever  title  just because  it’s  got a rat  in  it) one  of my favourite  segments  of the omnibus, a  65-year old uperclass woman(Lilette Dubey)  finds herself getting close  to a young feisty  Maharashtrian girl who moves in from nextdoor when a rat infests her  apartment.

A potentially manipulative formula film(two women from  diverse  generations  and  culture  locked  up together in one home) grows into a gentle,warm,engaging study of the human condition when pushed to the  wall. In case  you  had forgotten  how accomplished  Lilette is as an actor here she is, in full command  over a story  that needed the two women to feel  like a makeshift family. The surprise is  Rinku Rajguru, the Sairat girl whose eyes dance as though  they know the secret  of  staying happy during a  crisis. Tannishtha Chatterjee  directs the two women with that nurturing care that comes naturally to a woman director.Another gem in the anthology is also directed by a woman. Nitya Mehra’s Chand Mubarak  about an unlikely bonding between a lonely aging woman and an   autorickshaw driver is again buoyed and  navigated effortlessly through  a tricky maze  of  overt sentimentality,  by the two actors  in central roles.

Ratna Pathak Shah is  superb as a lonely  cantankerous autumnal woman trapped  under an emotional lockdown. Newcomer  Shardul Bhardwaj as the  autorickshaw driver is  a discovery. Actors and  not stars  guide  these stories to their  apt  destinies.The  best  segment  of  the  anthology is  cinematographer-director Avinash Arun Dhaware’s   Vishaanu, a  deeply  moving  though  stubbornly unsentimental  story of a  Rajasthani migrant  wage-earning couple  and their  son  waiting after the lockdown to be taken home, making a highrise duplex abandoned by its owners  their temporary  home, as the man makes anxious inquiries  on how to  transport himself and family to their  village.

He obviously hasn’t met  Sonu Sood. So he  must  negotiate with sleazy ambulance drivers using their vehicles to make money out of miserable  migrants.Through  it all, there  are  the skilled  actors  Abhishek Bannerjee  and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan suffering and  dancing their way into viral fame from  a posh place to stay   and  a city that doesn’t belong to them. Geetika  in a sequence where she makes  all the right noises  about Mumbai in exchange of food and masks,is  a class act,as too when her face  crumbles on realizing that the temporary luxury  abode must come  to an end.Director-cinematographer  Avinash Arun (remember his  brilliant Marathi film Killa?) shoots  the deserted  streets of Mumbai and the uneasily lit makeshift  home  of the couple in colours  of poetic resonance.This  segment is  a certifiable masterpiece.

The Apartment with Richa Chadha  effectively playing a  career woman betrayed by her husband,  who decides to  kill herself and is saved by a kindly charming neighbour(Ishwak Singh)  suffers from a crammed plot. Too much is  being said here, in too little time. While the Covid  theme hovers uneasily around the  characters, director  Nikkhil Advani focuses on  bringing in the MeToo movement with  Chadha’s  husband(Sumeet Vyas, in an embarrassingly sketchy role as a sexual  harasser) getting  over-familiar with all his female staffers. Couldn’t this  just have been the story of  a  depressed suicidal woman  and her  neighbour?Isn’t that depressing enough?Raj and Dak’s Glitch is the quirkiest segment .Its bright  blotchy colours and unpredictable narrative pattern  suggest   the hands  of  directors  who want to have fun with this futuristic story  of  Covid bringing together a hypochondriac(Gushan Devaiah) and Covid warrior(Sayami Kher). After meeting  in a  virtual bar named ‘Men Are From Bars’(ha ha)   the  duo  delves   devilishly into their  crazy lines and  zany situations.

It’s  all  very new and also somewhere  deep down an anxious  attempt to  make light of a  grim situation.Unpause is empowered  by a fierce  flavor of  optimism amidst the  current Coronova crisis.  It’s a remarkable anthology filled with  hope courage and  sunshine.Makes us  grateful that at least some  good has come out of  the  terrible  crisis.

OTT Webseries: Delhi Crime(Netflix)

It isn’t easy being on the  right side  of  the  law when all you get  for your efforts is  brickbats  and  insults  from fencesitters. To say that this disturbing but finally redundant  real-life crime drama  whitewashes the khaki uniform  would be  frivolous  and  irresponsible  to the extreme. What it does do is to humanize the police force by showing a cluster of fiercely committed  police persons(the two  main Khaki persona in  the story are women) driving themselves over the edge to nap the perpetrators  of the crime.

[tnm_video layout=”mnmd-post-media-wide”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNuKwlKJx2E[/tnm_video]

Did  the  cops on the case really show this level of commitment?  Does  it matter? Heroism  on  a level where  it  heals society is unquestionable.Recreating in vivid vicious  colours  the  events  before during and after  the life-changing ‘Nirbhaya’ gangrape in Delhi, this 7-part series spares  us the  brutality  of watching the rape but protects  from none of the trauma  and horrific aftermath  of  a crime that shook the conscience of the nation.As  we hear  our  drama’s hero Vartika Chaturvedi say, this crime was different, the savagery  was  unprecedented.She got it right.

I will  never forget the  sequence where the ravaged  girl is rolled into the  hospital bloodied brutalized  beyond all  human explanation, in pain beyond all endurance she tells her father, “I will be fine.”We do  that  all the time. We keep saying things will be fine when we  know  they will only get worse.Director  Richie Mehta  negotiates with  powerful hands the many  hurdles that a crime investigation so complex must  face.

This is  a very professionally handled  crime drama, superior to some of  the real-life crime dramas on television ( some of which are  not bad at all) mainly for  the level of  performance  director Mehta gets  out  of  the cast specially Shefali Shah. But it doesn’t achieve that  level of  emotional impact that  I expected  from the  product considering the fine talent that’s gone  into it.

There are two reasons  why Delhi Crime stops short  of being a  masterpiece  on real-life crime. For one  it  holds back way too much of the angst  probably to appeal to a global audience. The attempt to subdue  the  sheer insanity of  the crime is admirable  but eventually a fatal error of judgment.

A  more immediate  crisis  of efficacy emerges from  the fact that Delhi Crime  resembles a  very recent Netflix film Soni which was in   every way  a superior work. The domestic disarray in the life of the female cops  and the  professional dynamics  between  two female officers in Soni is echoed here  in  the rapport that grows  between the two cops played by  Shefali Shah and Rasika Dugal, both in fine  form imbuing  the  contours  of crime with  an implosive reined-in anger at a system that fosters  inequality and  brutality.Shefali Shah is specially powerful.

She  is compelling  because her anger internalized, palpable. She  not only anchors  the series  with her persuasive presence, she also diminishes  and decimates  the  rather disturbing feeling we get that this  sort of stark recreation of  India’s most well-known sex  crime serves no  purpose except to remind us that the change we hoped to see in  the  number   of  rapes in  our country never happened.Nirbhaya lives, and dies, again.  Long live Nirbhaya.

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