The web space in India was enjoying a decent growth, but 2020 changed the game for OTT platforms in a massive way. While the production of content was relatively less because of the shooting restrictions, the audience lapped up OTT content from the safety of their homes during the pandemic.
Much like the last couple of years, crime-drama was the flavour of the season, but this time around, we also saw different genres being explored in the OTT space. A show about the share market and a show about musical rivalry in a family gained success, further proving that the OTT space has grown out of its nascent stages and is starting to find its own feet. A show shot during the lockdown also became a shining example of the kinds of experiments that can be done on the platform.
As 2020 ends, here’s looking back at the top 10 Indian web series we saw this year.
1. Scam 1992 (SonyLIV)
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This Hansal Mehta series raised the bar for Indian web content in 2020, and the impact of this Pratik Gandhi-led series will surely go a long way. In the space where violence and gore sell like hotcakes, Mehta’s show proved that good content does not require to be dumbed down to reach the masses. With just a couple of episodes, Scam 1992, based on Harshad Mehta’s securities scam, draws you completely into the world of share market. Everything from its theme music, to its simplification of technical jargon, to even its choice of filter worked in the show’s favour. The casting of the show has been praised in the last couple of months and deservedly so.
2. Aarya (Disney+ Hotstar)
This Sushmita Sen-led series just did not waste any time in building up to the premise. Soon after the first episode began, it was obvious that Aarya was going to be a binge-worthy ride and it proved to be so with every episode that rolled out after. The layered characterisation, Sushmita Sen’s screen presence and the smart use of old Hindi film music also helped Aarya’s cause.
3. Special Ops (Disney+ Hotstar)
Created by Neeraj Pandey, Special Ops started in a promising manner and largely stuck to the promise. Kay Kay Menon fit right into Himmat’s part and was easily the show-stealer here. The only con here, in my opinion, was the fact that the stakes were never just high enough for us to be concerned about the good guys in the finale.
4. Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime Video)
This Jaideep Ahlawat-led series is another crime drama on the list, but Paatal Lok deserves a spot here. The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta wrote in her review, “Paatal Lok is fashioned as a crime thriller-cum-police procedural set mainly in Delhi, spinning off into several threads, some really solid, a few comparatively weak, but managing to keep its hold on us. Weaving in an awareness and recognition of contemporary India makes it political, and elevates it: Paatal Lok is intelligently written, fast-paced, and engrossing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
5. Bandish Bandits (Amazon Prime Video)
In the era of crime-drama web series, Bandish Bandits took the audience by complete surprise. It only took a couple of episodes to get enthralled by the world of classical music that this series created. While the music was a significant pillar of this show, Bandish Bandits stood strong on the shoulders of its story. Sheeba Chadha, Rajesh Tailang, Atul Kulkarni and Naseeruddin Shah were a treat to watch in this Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari series. Special props to Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music as well.
6. A Simple Murder (SonyLIV)
This deliciously dark comedy came as a breath of fresh air. Starring Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Sushant Singh, Amit Sial, Priya Anand among others, the series took an absurdist approach to its sometimes serious content. For the most part, A Simple Murder was so well done that you couldn’t help but marvel at its writing and performances.
7. Flesh (Eros Now)
Another crime drama series, this one was quite traditional in its approach towards good vs evil where, for a change, the protagonist was a good cop fighting hard against crime. Led by an impressive Swara Bhasker, Flesh was quite graphic and gory in its representation of human trade, but with its use of repulsive visuals, the show drove the point home.
8. Panchayat (Amazon Prime Video)
This TVF series starring Jeetendra Kumar had a simple premise, and as we have often seen in the world of web content, it is usually simplicity that wins the day. The show’s uncomplicated nature introduced us to characters who were extremely likeable. The best part about Panchayat was its strong casting supported by Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta and Chandan Roy. The show released during the lockdown and its content left the audience feeling a little warm and fuzzy.
9. The Gone Game (Voot)
The Gone Game was filmed during the lockdown and was a unique effort by the creators and actors. The show’s usage of technology, in terms of Zoom calls, text messages, was exemplary and in my opinion, better than many shows that are made with all the resources at hand. While Gone Game wasn’t extraordinary in the story department, it more than made up for it by effectively translating to the screen the paranoia that had consumed us during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
10. Asur (Voot)
Asur, which combined the genres of mythological fiction and thriller, revelled in its larger-than-life theories, but its grandness wasn’t communicated well enough. Asur also faltered when it came to tying up loose ends by the end of the season.
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