SYNOPSIS: The all-new Amazon Prime Video web series Paatal Lok, produced by Anushka Sharma, is a doughty crime thriller that is brilliantly scripted, quick-paced, and captivating, and has an acute analysis of Indian immorality. The show is Amazon’s malevolent yet daring response to ‘Sacred Games’. What predominantly sets at the heart of Paatal Lok is a bold screenplay that questions our society’s nature of burying the truth. The show never misses momentum. It is uniformly paced; drives clear of predictable genre tropes, and conveys its greatest revelations in a smooth-flowing, unassuming style, a rare feature for a cops-and-criminals saga. It’s not even unfair if you say that it is one of the best Indian web series available on Amazon Prime Video.
Cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Abhishek Banerjee, Gul Panag, Swastika Mukherjee, Ishwak Singh, Mairembam Ronaldo Singh, Niharika Lyra Dutt.
Directors: Avinash Arun, Prosit Roy.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Paatal Lok denotes hell or the nether-world, the definite opposite of Swarg-Lok aka heaven. And in this story, we are driven relentlessly into darkness. It moves to and fro between Delhi’s mephitic boundaries to the city’s puffy power centres, and to remote towns and villages, to investigate the rot that’s festering at the vitals of a society. The mythic and the grimly real are juxtaposed to spin a story in which Evil combats Greater Evil with narrow probabilities of triumph.
There are three realms. The characters in the series are your people next door. If you lead a life in ‘Swarg Lok’, you will relate the same in Neeraj Kabi and Swastika Mukherjee. If you are an inhabitant of ‘Dharti Lok’, Gul Panag and Jaideep Ahlawat’s middle-class life, their fights with their adolescent son and the brother-in-law will seem customary.In ‘Paatal Lok’, you have the horrendous murderer (a fantastic Abhishek) who doesn’t even blink an eye while sled-hammering a target to death. All of these characters are given a back-story. The sharp editing will surely make you hang on to each scene, with every episode ending on a nail-biter situation that coerces you to watch the next.
A celebrity TV anchor is the prey of a bunch of murderers. Paatal Lok consists of a solid collection, with Jaideep Ahlawat ruling the series! Ahlawat has Ansari as his second-in-command whois a first-generation police officer and is trying to achieve a UPSC seat. Ansari, on his part, is at the receiving end of gratuitous, haughty advice from colleagues on the basis of his religious identity. Neeraj Kabi, who portrays this 40-something famous journalist-TV anchor who ‘used to be a hero’ once, is now trolled, attacked, threatened day after day, and even fired! In this combat of right, wrong, and ‘predictable’ left-liberals, Kabi’s character Sanjeev think to float along with the tide. Hathoda Tyagi is cool; with his cold, unemotional eyes doing the trick in maximum portions.
In the first-ever episode, the main antagonist is arrested by Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary who has been posted in the ‘Outer Jamuna Paar’. He’s sure that it’s a punishment posting after a career packed with nullity but rejection and regret. His son is mocked by his English-spouting class-companions. But then, Hathoda Tyagi provides him with the greatest case of his life. Realizing it as an indication from above, Hathi Ram jumps headfirst into the case, and this is on the attempted murder of a renowned journalist! This case owns the potency to render Hathiram a ticket to Dharti Lok with the sporadic peek into Swarg Lok. But it is only later that Hathi Ram comes to figure out that the man he believed was a common thug is, in fact, the nefarious serial killer Hathoda Tyagi, named after his weapon of choice. From the second episode onwards, we enter into the adult domain, where the show gets occupied in exposing its wares, drawing similarities between the cushy world of English-spouting, pub-trawling, bed-hopping media types, and the filthy-mouthed cops,: hell is everywhere. Episode three is a terrific (and extremely disturbing) Wild West story, set in a Punjab village — an unanticipated deviation from the gritty crime drama!
Two characters, who contrast starkly, in social or moral terms, exchange an improbablequalityi.e. fondness for strays. One is Dolly, the sensitivelysusceptible, anxiety-ridden wife of Sanjeev Mehra; the other is “Hathoda” Tyagi, a mercilessslayer with 45 murders to his name. They never come face-to-face, but their love for canines turns into a pivotalconnection between one ends of the spectrum to the other.
The Paatal Lok dwellers, be they good-intentionedhumans, cunning players, miserablepeople or models of absolute evil, bear pasts they cannot survive. They construct social exposition on issuesstarting from majoritarian bigotry and caste oppressiveness to media stratagems and political debasement.The disturbing picture that Paatal Lok paints isan image in which anyone’s story could end badly. In this planet, the opulent and powerful have no fear in fudging the underprivileged to shield their territory. Hang on.Within the nine episodes of Paatal Lok, we journey through all these three realms. Only to understand that Swarg is not all that outstanding and the denizens of Paatal Lok are not just creepy crawlies. The three worlds overlap, spill over and penetrate into each other and tell you that “all that glitters is not gold’ after all!
Finally, in the end, Paatal Lok breaks through its own jumble to postulate these two individuals, Hathi and Hathoda, each an entity of his situation, and makes us question: is anybody purely evil? The reply, my friend, rests in the love of a dog. Go figure! The series is so scrupulously crafted, that it will make you part of the hunt. The events occurring throughout the show have all happened someplace or other in this enormous nations of ours. But where Paatal Lok wins over its contemporaries is the way these occurrences are handled. The show cries out the duplicity and business of news, as it holds a mirror to our society’s ruined dynamics and structure. And now I can safely conclude that Indian Directors have mastered the art of connecting tales with the everyday life of common people and interlinking different walks of life with a message. Is this Prime’s ‘Sacred Games’? No, it is more!
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