10 Indian web shows that you need to watch ASAP
Good web content has been catalysed by platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, AltBalaji etc.
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The future is web, at least when it comes to shows and original series. For Indians, with years of watching terrible content on television — full of ham-fisted misogynistic writing, mediocre acting and clichéd sanskaari tropes — western TV shows have always been the salvation. Real revolution, however, came in the form of YouTube shows a few years ago. TVF’s Permanent Roommates and Pitchers (well, it is a bad rip-off of HBO’s Silicon Valley), despite their apparent mediocrity, opened avenues for something new: the age of web series.
Since then, things have only gone north. Good web content has been further catalysed by platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, AltBalaji etc. Most recently, Netflix released the first look of an upcoming web series called Sacred Games, based on Vikram Chandra’s book by the same title. The series not only boasts directors like Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, but also a stellar star cast Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte.
Not only that, the video platform has also announced and is in the process of making more original Indian content: An adaptation of Prayaag Akbar’s novel Leila; Ghoul, written and directed by Patrick Graham, that chronicles the life of an interrogator who turned in her father as an anti-government activist, comes to the centre to realise that some of the terrorists imprisoned there are not from this world; Crocodile, a murder mystery, written by Binky Mendez, set in Goa; Selection Day and Bard of Blood.
While these projects are still to make their way to the small screens of tablets, laptops and phones, there is still a plethora of good web content on a variety of platforms. Here are 10 that you need to watch right now.
1) Shaitaan Haveli
Sometimes almost too meta and self-aware, this horror parody created by stand-up comic Varun Thakur takes ample potshots at the cheesy Ramsay Brothers horror movies of the 80s. The story revolves around a filmmaking crew that arrives at an abandoned mansion in a remote jungle to shoot a horror film. The catch? The mansion itself is haunted.
2) Bose: Dead/Alive
In nine episodes, the series, directed by Pulkit traces the mysterious disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose and the politics around it. The AltBalaji series is based on Anuj Dhar’s book India’s Biggest Cover-Up, and features actor Rajkummar Rao in the lead role.
Rebooting the classic Satyajit Ray detective series, AddaTimes, a Bengali web content platform has tried to do a Sherlock. The series features Parambrata Chatterjee as the Bengali sleuth and looks less like the movies hundreds of thousands of Bengali folk have grown up watching; rather an almost James Bond like action/adventure flick.
4) Inside Edge
This Amazon Prime Video original series is a sneak peek into the murky, corrupt and debauched world of T20 cricket. While the show itself has received mixed reviews, actor Richa Chadha’s portrayal of a character based on Preity Zinta has garnered praise across the board.
5) The Test Case
Featuring Nimrat Kaur as an Army officer and Juhi Chawla as the defence minister, this AltBalaji 10-part series on Republic Day, 2018, has received generally positive reviews for its portrayal of a woman foraying into the hypermasculine world of the armed forces.
6) Romil and Jugal
Of all things present on the Indian internet, tales of homosexual love has always been conspicuous by its absence. But that is not the case anymore. In a sort of play on the Shakespearean title Romeo and Juliet, this AltBalaji series tells the tale of two young men who struggle to stay in love in the homophobic Indian society.
A bit of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and a bit of desi masala, this Amazon original featuring stand-up comic Sumukhi Suresh is a departure from two decades of Bollywood tropes where a man stalks a woman, hoping to win her heart. Nope. In Pushpavalli, things go the other way round, as the titular character moves from Bhopal to Bangalore to pursue (read stalk) a boy, Nikhil, whose advances she misunderstands as romantic.
8) Laakhon Mein Ek
Most youth stories in India either focus on the decadence and mistakes of college life, or the goofy teen romances of high-school. No one, however, focuses on the purgatory that is students attempting to get into colleges. Created by stand-up comic Biswa Kalyan Rath, Laakhon Mein Ek follows the journey of Aakash, who is forced by his parents to join coaching classes to get into IIT and struggle to cope up with the pressure of achieving better grades. It’s a commentary on this country’s education system and the pressures it puts on the youth.
Vikrant Massey of A Death in the Gunj and Lipstick Under My Burkha fame brings his power-packed performance to yet another show. This time, a coming-of-age tale, Rise follows the life and the struggles of Shrey, a young IT professional who gets sacked and decides to take a road trip to the mountains to find the meaning of life.
10) Going Viral Pvt Ltd
Another self-aware Amazon comedy, this web series starring Kunal Roy Kapur is about a media company that thrives on making its content viral, something all internet users and digital professionals can find relatable. Despite the mixed reviews the show has received, there is a enough in it to keep one hooked, not to mention Kapur’s prowess — he makes everything more funny.