Paatal Lok is Amazon Prime’s latest contribution to the police-based investigative thriller genre of web television series. Written by Sudip Sharma, the story is loosely based on the novel ‘The Story of My Assassins’ by Tarun Tejpal and draws inspiration from the concepts of Swarg, Dharthi and Paatal (heaven, earth and hell). This tightly-knit crime thriller is produced by Anushka Sharma’s production house Clean Slate Films and directed by Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy.
Cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Abhishek Banerjee, Gul Panag, Swastika Mukherjee, Ishwak Singh, Mairembam Ronaldo Singh, Niharika Lyra Dutt
Duration: 9 episodes (1 season)
Paatal Lok is the story of a disgruntled New Delhi cop, Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat), who has almost abandoned hope that his career will amount to anything other than ordinary. He tells his subordinate Imran Ansari (Ishwak Singh) that the world is divided into three categories, Swarg, Dharthi and Paatal, and that he is a permanent resident of the Paatal lok, destined only to see Swarg from the outside. His world is turned upside down when he is handed a high profile case, an attempted murder of a prominent journalist and anchor, Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi). Chaudhary’s quest for the truth takes him deeper into the dark realm of the netherworld. As he delves deeper into the life of the four suspects, Vishal Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee), Tope Singh (Jagjeet Sandhu), Kabir M. (Aasif Khan) and Cheeni (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh), he unearths certain startling truths that not only enable him to solve the case but also help him rediscover himself.
Jaideep Ahlawat’s portrayal of the protagonist is spectacular. He wins hearts as the washed-out cop who wants nothing more than solving an important case, mainly to redeem himself in front of his family and colleagues. His strained relationship with his abusive and unappreciative father shadows his relationship with his teenage son. To add to that, he is unable to adapt to the modern ways of the world and hence he is left behind as even his juniors move on to become his seniors. Through the depiction of Hathi Ram’s inability to converse in English and please others for personal gains, Sudip Sharma highlights the present society’s emphasis on the role of good command over English and sycophancy as necessary qualifications to succeed in life.The urge to solve the case at any cost indicates Chaudhary’s desire to prove to the world that he is not completely incompetent, which in turn provides him with a sense of self-worth.
Ishwak Singh as Imran Ansari represents the youth of the police force. Ambitious and morally upright, Ansari is eager to make his mark in the police department. As the series progresses, the show throws light on the discrimination and dislike against Muslims through Ansari’s character. Ishwak Singh’s performance has a freshness and shows a lot of potential.
Vishal ‘Hathoda’ Tyagi is a mentally unstable and vicious man. Exposure to a violent culture very early in his childhood turns him into a cold-blooded murderer. His chosen weapon of murder, a hammer, gives him the name Hathoda (hammer) Tyagi. Abhishek Banerjee has done justice to the role of Tyagi.
The show presents many important issues of the modern world such as violence, discrimination, the safety of women, infidelity and anxiety. The scene where a rival family discusses raping the girls of Tyagi’s family as a very common means of teaching anyone a lesson sends shivers down our spines. In fact, the abysmal state of safety of women in certain parts of India is highlighted multiple times throughout the show. The life of one of the suspects, Cheeni (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh), draws the attention of the audience to issues like child abuse and discrimination against transgenders.
However, the series has a few weaknesses. For instance, as the story progresses, the subplots and backstories slowly start to weigh down the pace of the plot. Each character brings to life some important issue or the other. Storylines of villainous characters who are given too much importance at the beginning of the story meander and are somehow lost in the muddled mess of subplots. Consequently, the series finally ends rather meekly, leaving the viewer tired and slightly disappointed.
Paatal Lok is a captivating and entertaining crime thriller. It successfully captures the attention of the viewers and leaves them curious enough to keep them glued to their screens. With some excellent performances and good cinematography, the show is definitely worth watching even though the ending may be slightly disappointing. But would it be fair to say it is as good as Netflix’s Sacred Games? Probably not.
About the Author: Saranya Sankar is a freelance writer based in Bangalore. Her writings can be read at www.thereviewowl.com