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Subhash K Jha Selects The 5 Best Serials Of 2020 On the OTT Platform



A  lot of what followed after Advantage Covid on  the OTT platform was  plain garbage. There were sparks of excellence all through the year. Here’s my pick of  the best from the digital domain.

1.     Undekhi(SonyLiv): This  excruciatingly exhilarating  journey into the rot  at the heartland  of  privileged feudality  is  like one straggly but stubborn  beam of light in a dark tunnel. I  must admit I came  away with  despair  from the ten episodes of Undekhi. But it is not end-of-the-world despair  but  the despair  of waiting for   the beginning of a new era when, hopefully, the super-rich in our country would understand that wealth and the accompanying power  comes with a responsibility towards the weaker sections.The arrogance of  unlimited wealth is on full display as the Atwal family  prepares in scenic Manali   for  the  Big Fat ‘Greed’ Wedding  of their heir apparent. The  series plays out partly like  a news  report  and partly like an allegory  on  exploitation .As a tribal  girl runs for her life in the jungles she reminded me  of Smita Patil  in Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala. Except that the villain pursuing the damsel in  distress  is far more dangerous than the caricatured Subedaar  in  Mirch Masala.Undekhi is  a  mirror of our times. Produced by  Applause Entertainment(worthy  of applause, indeed)  and  directed  by  Aashish  Shukla Undekhi must be seen.

2.     Scam 1992(SonyLIV):  Hansal Mehta’s narrative, based on the infamous Harshad Mehta Dalaal Street scam, is not afraid to get its feet wet in the mud. Hansal   looks at his Gujarati characters with a certain respect and admiration without excessively edifying them. The journey from the cramped two-room apartment to the sprawling glass-encased affluence of Harshad Mehta and his family is delineated with vigorous authenticity.

That the director is a Gujarati and his leading man Pratik Gandhi too is a Gujarati goes a long way into constrictive an energetic yet calm edifice of middleclass ambitions and how far an individual is willing to stray from him home territory in pursuit of big bucks. While remaining true to journalist Sucheta Dalal and her co-writer Debashish Basu’s book, Hansal’s deeply authentic series explores Harshad’s family, his relationship with chief players of the stock exchange in more depth and detail. What Hansal has done is to open up the Harshad Mehta saga , denuding it of any admirable aura but nonetheless retaining the basic dignity of a saga that changed the way the Indian middleclass looked at money.A remarkable  achievement, again  produced by Applause Entertainment.

3.     Pataal 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  self-congratulations. 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. 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.

4.     Four  More Shots  Please(Amazon): Season 2  of Four More Shots Please  is   far more  well-informed and  shapely than  Season 1. The  performances even the  men , are uniformly likeable even when the characters  are doing unlikeable things , like cheating on their wives and showering way  too much attention on  their girlfriend. Warning to potential spouses and mates: too much attention is even more dangerous than too little. Four  More Shots celebrates life in all its  ugly uncomfortable  messy glory. It’s  a really goodlooking  series with some exquisite locations where the characters  just  shit, puke  and pee  on  the  idyll.  From guys who come too soon to girls who never reach  on  time,  Season 2  sweeps across the tempestuous spectrum of the man-woman axis, laying deliberate stress on what women want but ensuring that the men  have a  voice too.It’s been a while since I watched every episode of  an OTT series. No, not binge-watched. That would be doing no justice to the  dialogues that just flow with a sardonic  wisdom.I watched it a little at  a time savouring the  incidental  details.

5.     Hasmukh(Netflix):  It’s like Arjit Singh  being hired  to play a  bad singer.It takes a  very brilliant actor to play a  bad actor. Vir Das,a  first-rate  stand-up comedian , plays an inept pathetically cheerless stand-up  comedian  in  Hasmukh  who needs  a  strong impetus  to  make him come  alive on stage.No, a shot of  that strong beverage won’t do. Something far  more potent…like  murder perhaps?It is  a tempting premise for a  crime  thriller. Something like Sonam Kapoor playing a couture  queen who kills  to  kill it  on  the ramp.And Vir Das , who really should be  seen more  often,  simply nails  it. He is  an  innocent,  virginal wannabe  comic virtuoso bullied by his abusive  uncle, and  sexually molested by his aunt who gropes  him while he makes the tea.Chai-ld abuse?

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