The Hell Within: Paatal Lok.

Paatal Lok is a neo-noir web television series which premiered on Amazon Prime Video on 15 May 2020. It is produced by Clean Slate Films, Anushka Sharma's banner. The series is about a down and out cop who lands the case of an assassination attempt gone wrong. Synopsis: Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary is cynical, washed-out Delhi cop who has nothing to look forward to in his less than an ordinary career. But that is until the day a high profile case lands on his table, a case too big and important for his designation. The case turns into a dark mystery thriller that leads the inspector to the dark realm of politics. Hathi Ram’s instincts tell him to investigate into the lives of the suspects. He discovers startling truths and insights that eventually help him rediscover his responsibilities as a cop, his place in the larger scheme of things and the larger meaning of life itself. Cast: 1. Neeraj Kabi as Sanjeev Mehra. 2. Jaideep Ahlawat as Hathiram Chaudhary 3. Gul Panag as Renu Chaudhary 4. Mairembam Ronaldo Singh as Mary Lyngdoh 5. Abhishek Banerjee as Vishal "Hathoda" Tyagi 6. Swastika Mukherjee as Dolly Mehra 7. Ishwak Singh as Imran Ansari 8. Sandeep Mahajan as Dahiya 9. Jagjeet Sandhu as Tope Singh "Chaaku" 10. Asif Khan as Kabir M 11. Niharika Lyra Dutt as Sara Matthews 12. Bodhisattva Sharma as Siddharth Chaudhary 13. Anindita Bose as Chanda Mukherjee 14. Vipin Sharma as DCP Bhagat 15. Asif Basra as Jai Malik 16. Manish Chaudhary as Vikram Kapoor 17. Akash Khurana as Singh Saab Review: I have always been a sucker for good mystery-politics-crime thrillers. This series, written by Sudip Sharma we are led into the darkness of this society, which gets darker with each episode. The series manages to make certain political commentary, which will certainly raise eyebrows from people, including me. In spite of a skewed political and social commentary, the series will manage to please everyone because of its gripping screenplay and some fabulous performances by the cast, forcing you to binge all of it at a go. The premise is set around Sanjeev Mehra, the prime-time anchor and editor-in-chief of a news channel with falling ratings, who is the target of a foiled assassination attempt; unknown to him, he is also on the verge of being fired. Played masterfully by Neeraj Kabi, don't be surprised if Sanjeev Mehra reminds you of Rajdeep Sardesai. In the pilot episode, Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary, played by Jaideep Ahlawat, tells his deputy Imran Ansari about how our world is actually comprised of three worlds – Swarg Lok, where the gods reside, Dharti Lok, where humans like him reside, and Paatal Lok, which belongs to the creepy crawlies. And as emphatically as he narrates this wisdom, allegedly from the Shastras, he is quick to acknowledge that it was delivered to him through WhatsApp. This scene beautifully sets up the tonality for the series. The writer, Sudip Sharma has managed to weave in a beautiful intersection of the three worlds, from the Lutyens Delhi where corporations are bought and sold by people sitting in big bungalows and sipping scotch, to the small villages in UP and Punjab where people are bullied and beaten up for belonging to a lower caste and girls are raped to win land disputes. Every action taken by the characters in the series is backed by a reason from their past, which helps in making you feel connected to every scene and keeps up the fast pace of an already gritty drama. The deputy to Chaudhary, Ansari, being Muslim gives the series a chance to show us discrimination and dislike of the other. This is one aspect of the series which looked forced. There were political commentaries on minorities, which looked skewed if not more. The scenes revolving around the communal angle didn't add anything to the main storyline and looked like the creator's way of taking a political stand. In my opinion, creators should resist making personal political statements unless it provides value to the main storyline. It feels like a distraction from the actual drama taking place. Another thing that stings me is the tremendous miscasting of Gul Panag. A tremendous acting talent has been wasted in the series. I wonder if the role of Sara Matthews would have suited her more. Having said that, Niharika Dutta gave her very best in playing that character. I would like to conclude this by giving an ovation to Amazon Prime, which has managed to outdo itself with this gritty crime drama. It’s an ambitious show, both in terms of its narrative and its themes. Give it a watch, irrespective of your political stand. Watch the trailer here:

 

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©2020 by Aman Sinha.