Over the course of the past few months, we have been bringing you weekly lists of movies to watch on the OTT platform. Of course, there were other lists too, often necessitated by events that were not always pleasant. As 2020 draws to a close, we thought it would be a good idea to curate a list of Indian web series that you could re-watch or must watch over the holidays.
Before getting to the actual list, which is quite subjective in nature and based on those that we as a team have watched, we must tell you that the list only comprises releases of 2020. Also, the list is only made up of titles that are released on Amazon Prime, Netflix, SonyLIV, HotStar, and ALTBalaji among the platforms.
Now, this doesn't mean that we did not view some of the popular web series on platforms such as Zee5, Voot and Eros Now. It is just that we also took into play the overall popularity of some of these shows and the fact that these received a thumbs up from actors of other shows, as you would see in this recent roundtable involving some top actors.
Readers may find some popular web series missing from our list. We have put together a list of such shows that were honourable mentions, but did not figure in our list for reasons that we are espousing alongside.
- Year in review: In 2020, OTT platforms came of age in India
- Netflix's StreamFest a big hit - 8 lakh new app downloads in India
- Indian OTT platforms make a beeline for Tamil content
- Amazon Prime Video to globally premiere nine Indian movies
Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story
Director: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Pratik Gandhi, Shreya Dhanvanthri, Anjali Barot, Nikhil Dwivedi, Lalit Parimoo, Rajat Kapoor, Vishesh Bansal.
Synopsis: The web series tells the story of Harshad Mehta and the stock market scandal of 1992 told through the eyes of journalist Sucheta Dalal and her partner. Their book forms the reference point for the 10-part web series. Pratik Gandhi, who essays the role of Mehta, is pitch perfect and so is the support cast made up of Shreya Dhanwanthary, Anjali Barot and Rajat Kapoor. Each of the ten episodes keeps viewers riveted on the story and before long we feel invested in the tribulations of the protagonist in his dream of helping the middle class make money. For Gandhi, this is his first major role and he infuses shades to the character that makes viewers alternate between empathy and hatred for him.
Directors: Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy
Cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Gul Panag, Neeraj Kabi, Swastika Mukherjee, Abhishek Banerjee, Ishwak Singh and Rajesh Sharma
Synopsis: Yet another web series that launched without much fanfare but held the audience enthralled with a taut narrative and a screenplay that unravels each of the characters in stark contrast to what they appear to be. Jaideep Ahlawat gets to play his first meaty role, having appeared in several movies in smaller parts, and does a delicious job as a cop whose sole aim in life is to solve at least one case. His relationship with a subordinate, the family and especially his son is made of stuff that resonates well with the masses, while the intrigue is something that keeps the classes invested in the story. The supporting cast also give outstanding performances, none better than Abhishek Banerjee as Hathoda Tyagi and Swastika Mukherjee as the suffering wife of journalist Sanjeev Mehra, played with finesse by Neeraj Kabi.
Platform: Amazon Prime Video
The Verdict: State vs Nanavati
Director: Shashant Shah
Cast: Manav Kaul, Ellie Avram, Saurabh Shukla, Angad Bedi, Kubra Sait, Makrand Deshpande and Sumit Vyas
Synopsis: If you have watched Rustom (a movie that got Akshay Kumar a National Award), this is a must watch, because it shows up the earlier cinematic effort for all its hollowness. The series revolves around the infamous Nanavati case of 1959 which shook up India's defense establishment and brought together the Parsi community like never before. We recommend it because the story is told in complete honesty. Performances by the main cast is beyond reproach though actors like Saurabh Shukla (who plays journalist Russi Karanjia) are pitch perfect. This is a web series that once again keeps viewers invested through the narrative, in much the same way that Nanavati himself did during the actual trials.
Platform: ALTBalaji and Zee5
Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra
Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta and Biswapati Sarkar.
Synopsis: Amidst all the blood and gore that most of the web series spewed in 2020, Panchayat stands out like a breath of fresh air (or a sore thumb, if you find the former justified). It tells the story of a young engineering graduate who gets appointed as secretary to a Panchayat in rural Uttar Pradesh. He is in a job he hates, at a place that offers no solace and amidst a bunch of rural folk whom he cannot understand. The situations that he finds himself in and the manner in which the local folk react brings a smile to our faces. Jitendra Kumar, who essayed the role of a gay lover in "Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan", is both likeable and irritating, as are the support cast made up of the excellent Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta. Though the reception was low key, the series gathered good reviews and is now set for another season.
Platform: Amazon Prime Videos
Avrodh - The Siege Within
Director: Raj Acharya
Cast: Amit Sadh, Darshan Kumar, Neeraj Kabi, Vikram Gokhale, Madhurima Tuli and Arif Zakaria.
Synopsis: Yet another case of a web series opening our eyes to the shortcomings of an earlier effort on celluloid. Yes, we are referring to the Uri attack and the surgical strike thereafter that was told with lots of Josh in Uri: A Surgical Strike featuring Vicky Kaushal. This one moves at a slower pace and takes into account several nuances that the movie missed. However, the team has ensured that action sequences are excellently choreographed. In spite of watching a series where action rules, there are some noteworthy performances from Amit Sadh, Darshan Kumar and Neeraj Kabi. What's most important is that the series isn't a high pitched narrative that the earlier version was, attempting to cash in on the jingoism that followed the real event.
Aarya (Disney HotStar) - We see Sushmita Sen make her small screen debut in this crime drama appearing on Disney HotStar. It has everything going for it, a support cast, a decent story line and some dramatic twists and turns. However, the problem is that the story is a straight lift from the Dutch drama Penoza. It is still a good watch and director Ram Madhwani has left scope for another season, but we didn't pick it due to the fact that it is far from original.
Special Ops - When KayKay Menon appears on the screen, we watch with bated breath. And in this international spy thriller, the audience is treated to a rollercoaster ride following the terror attack on Parliament. It is directed by Neeraj Pandey along with Shivam Nair and is worth a watch. The only reason we kept it out from our top-5 list is due to the sometimes over-the-top action sequences and the fact that twists and turns are visible a mile away.
Bandish Bandits - If you are a fan of Naseeruddin Shah, this one's for you. There is lots of classical music, a far from classical love story wrapped around intrigue that the audience is seldom aware of in the musical Gharanas of north India. The face-off between Shah and the excellent Atul Kulkarni is a treat, though the story meanders on for no rational reason at times. The series is set for another season and director Anand Tiwari hasn't really given us reason to wait for it.
Mirzapur - 2 - Suffice to say that after the first season, this one was a let down though the story does move to its logical conclusion. But wait! There is a third season in the offing. Pankaj Tripathi appeared to lose steam in this one and it is Divvyendu Sharma, who plays his errant son, that takes gets the plaudits. The star cast from the first season continue to essay their roles, which appears to stagnate on a single note for most of the second season.