Paatal Lok Is A Show Straight From Heaven During This Lockdown
Amazon Prime's latest is probably their best. Competitive, ruthless yet subtle in story-telling. A must watch show if you happen to love this trend of Indian content getting better.
Much has been said about the way content has gradually scaled-up and developed in the recently released shows like Special Ops, The Family Man and something as unpredictable as Netflix’s Hasmukh.
But if you have been true to your “binge-watching” routine, you must’ve have consumed these shows by now. So if that’s the case, we must tell you and advice you to start watching Amazon Prime Video’s next – Paatal Lok.
Named Paatal Lok, it is straight from the heavens for those sick of quarantining at home!
*Spoilers ahead, read if you’ve completed watching the 9 episodes of season 1*
With Jaideep Ahlawat (the tall and lanky Shahid Khan in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur) at the helm of affairs, the director manages to portray the story initially in one-dimension and then crafts the other characters to fit in well with his researched plot.
Ahlawat, playing a 3-star cop Hathi Ram Chaudhary posted at Outer Yamuna (Jamuna) Paar police station, in East-Delhi is negotiating a maze along with his newbie side-kick Imran Ansari (played by Ishwak Singh)
Two men against a morally-corrupt and brazen setup (the so-called system that never changes) is the underlying theme which tells the putrid tale of Delhi’s few & remote power circles. But much credit to Kabi, everything seems real and down to the point where nothing is fabricated or fusty.
Both Hathi Ram Chaudhary & Imran Ansari are assigned the task to investigate the arrest of 4 fugitives who are said to be on their way to assassinate a big-time journalist Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi himself). Soon cards are played out in almost the perfect sense as the characters unfurl their layers and fit right into the narrative.
An interesting combination of Vishal Tyagi or Hathoda Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee), Tope Singh (Jagjeet Sandhu), Kabir M (Aasif Khan) and Mary Lyngdoh/Cheeni (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh) are pinned down and arrested by the Delhi Police for being the key players in the assassination attempt.
But soon, Chaudhary uncovers the truth on all the 4 apprehended criminals and we’re shown the reason why all four of them reached these desperate times. The story from the onset of their poverty, abuse and neglect to their mundane minds readily agreeing for the job, flows and gives the audience a lot to think about.
In a race against time, Chaudhary must do what it takes to save face and earn some respect from his family, especially an estranged son Siddharth Chaudhary (Bodhisattva Sharma) who is naive and unaware of the world’s cruel intentions.
When reprimanded for investigating despite being suspended from duty, Hathiram has a crisp reply to his superior officer: “Aadhi zindagi baap ki aankho mein dekha hai ki beta chutiya hai, ab puri zindagi bete ki aankho mein ye nahi dekhna chahta ki uska baap chutiya hai.” It moved me.
The relevance of the story – to the case and all the individuals attached is almost uncanny yet brilliant from the word go! For a majority of the series, we are made to feel there’s nothing more to the assassination attempt than the fact that there will be more faces waiting to be uncovered, which strikingly is not the case.
New characters are revealed towards the end but the climax isn’t dramatic just because there’s a need to end things with a bang. And that pays off well.
Not for you if you cannot accept the harsh realities of this country
The underlying prerogative of being one of the majority classes is highlighted right from the beginning. The character of Chaudhary’s sidekick being labelled as a Muslim first and a police officer after, tells us what we already know about the country’s society.
“Arey darr kyun raha hai, hojaega tera. Unko bhi to varied representation dikhaani hoti hai.” says an IAS aspirant to Imran, when the latter is preparing for his IAS interview in a coaching academy.
Other social evils like – ousting the third gender, molestation and sexual abuse of poor kids, drug-abuse in slum kids, cases of domestic violence are perfectly placed to describe the people of the Paatal Lok (insects who are poor and can do anything to resist the oppression).
Pogroms against the minorities and exploitation of the lower-caste people is variably shown time and again. Through various flashbacks, we see how inhuman behavior and torture leads to the making of the 4 antagonists – Tope Singh, Vishal, Kabir & Mary.
In some scene, the modern-day problem of lynching Muslims on suspicion of eating beef has been shown much to the viewer’s relief and pain.
The trials of media (the whole take on sensationalizing news and producing fake news), the police force (CBI overtaking the case and then giving it a spin to benefit politicians and bigwigs of the industry), and a world-weary individual at the centre – all of that makes this show the Sacred Games of Amazon Prime.
Considering we might not see a second season, it may well end up to be a better processed, refined and well-told story than the Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saif Ali Khan starrer, which miserably failed towards the end of season 2.
Towards the end, a beaten, bruised and battered Hathi Ram Chaudhary subtly describes what could have been another over-the-top action scene to end the series. Rather, we see a rare end to the maze with just facts being delivered instead. Facts that made sense!
Chaudhary explains how Sanjeev Mehra is still alive because of his wife’s habit of taking care of stray dogs. The uncanny connection between Dolly (Sanjeev’s anxious and ailing wife) and Hathoda Tyagi saves his life.
Tyagi, who since birth has been accepted by very few people but by stray dogs, decides to spare Mehra’s life after watching him cuddle with a stray animal his wife is holding. It ends with a sentence that comes twice in the series – “If man loves dog, he is good man. If dog loves man, he is good man.”
SHO Virk (Anurag Arora), Sara Matthews (Niharika Lyra Dutt), DCP Bhagat (Vipin Sharma) and Gwala Gujjar (Rajesh Sharma) add well to the realistic world that’s there in the background not merely just for the sake of existence.
The women in Dolly Mehra (Swastika Mukherjee) and Renu Chaudhary (Gul Panag) are well settled to their causes and aren’t there just for filling the room.
Despite many detours, the story is flawless and never loses momentum. Ahlawat, with a performance of a lifetime, steals the show with his impeccable performance. The supporting cast – especially Banerjee as Vishal Tyagi – demonstrate you can play a psychopath without shouting or throwing over-the-top rants.
Compared to the other shows with a similar genre of gun-violence, crooked polity and a quest for power and recognition, Paatal lok stands out! And it is a show straight from heaven, especially during this lockdown.
We must also thank Anushka Sharma for producing this gem. Kudos NUSH! We finally have a series that has an ounce of every element added well together.
Rating – 8.5/10