2020, for all its woes, has been a vibrant year in India’s fledgling world of long-form cinematic storytelling. Here is how Hindi creators adapted to finally owning the streaming space
A pandemic-infused lockdown followed by a crippling economic recession is enough suffering for a lifetime, let alone a year. Nevertheless, faced with the dystopic nature of day-to-day existence, Indian creators seem to have taken to heart, one of Franz Kafka’s most cherished maxims, “Art is for the artist is only suffering through which he releases himself for further suffering”.
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The result of which has been a vibrant year in India’s fledgling world of long-form cinematic storytelling. Here is a look at the best Hindi shows that enhanced the streaming world in 2020, that not only lived up to the billing, but broke new ground on how other creators could be inspired.
Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime Video):
A dark-yet-gritty commentary on the systemic disintegration of institutions and the morals of individuals governing them, this Amazon Prime original is a gripping watch. The show does best when it tries to actively serve as a cinematic reflection of Indian society, exposing the nexus between politicians and media bigwigs.
The tale of an honest yet discontented officer of the law grappling to solve a complex crime is just a story-telling vehicle for its creators, to take the viewers along on a ride across the shady by-lanes of the country, exploring class divides, unique to the Indian experience. With power-packed performances by its cast, the show packs a heavier punch than many of its celebrated peers and stands out as one of the best Indian cinematic undertakings this year.
Panchayat (Amazon Prime Video):
A satirical take on an urban man’s tryst with the rural, this TVF production uses wit to blend in essential progressive values with worldly practicality. The final product takes the shape of a morally-charged tale, which is anything but pedantic.
In a way, it is an assault on the popular portrayal of rural India and its inhabitants, bridging the gap between two conflicting versions of India on a humane level, which is both poignant and hilarious to the tee. The acting chops of screen veteran Raghubir Yadav and the up and coming talent Jitendra Kumar make the entire production a must-watch, especially for Indian audiences.
Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story (Sony Liv):
Hansal Mehta’s creation revisits this story of India’s first major financial fraud by making use of some brilliant writing and innovative camera work. And, despite some of its flaws, the show successfully juxtaposes the metamorphoses of its central character (Harshad Mehta played by Pratik Gandhi) with the coming of age of our nation. The result is a compelling narrative, further enhanced by high-quality production values.
Aarya ( Disney+Hotstar):
As a crime thriller, the most striking quality about this Sushmita Sen-starrer is that it takes pride in being self-aware. The focus is not always on the shocking nature of its big reveals, but rather on the meticulous construction of detailed character arcs to build a solid narrative. Thus, despite its rudimentary plot, it makes a mark on the viewers due to its ability to tell a familiar story in its own unique and original style.
A visual treat from the get-go, Aarya mingles visually, the modern with the traditional with much aplomb, providing with some picturesque shots and sharp writing.
Pushpavalli Season 2 (Amazon Prime Video):
A quirky tale of an obnoxious stalker, Pushpavalli’s biggest triumph lies in making the viewers root for its sometimes-unlikeable central character. Sumukhi Suresh as Pushpavalli manages to convey adeptly, her zealous desperation to secure her man’s affection, by any means necessary. That, and the likes of Naveen Richard and Aiiyyo Shraddha are guaranteed to have you in stitches. A unique Indian offering, the show channels biting apprehension into a gripping piece of comedic long-form storytelling.
Mirzapur Season 2 (Amazon Prime Video):
The second season of the hugely popular Amazon original show is impressive. It manages to transport its viewers into the crime-filled universe of Uttar Pradesh’s notorious Bahubalis. Only this time the stakes have been raised even higher. It’s well-crafted screenwriting enhances performances by the likes of Pankaj Tripathi and Ali Fazal, as it goes about showcasing its fair share of choreographed violence in its gory glory.
A view into the dark world of phishing scams operated from the obscure small town of Jamtara, the show makes use of its dark premise to engage and educate its audiences on the various conniving schemes of crafty scamsters, who are essentially individuals faced with dire circumstances. The portrayal of its subjects and their humble surroundings is realistic and not laced with stale tropes. An engaging experience, to say the least, the show is a must for all the true-crime aficionados out there.