Streaming services are now getting increasingly popular in India with giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime leading the way. Both these tech behemoths have been investing in new cutting edge content from India.
While Netflix signed on filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap to produce and direct web series Sacred Games, Amazon has also been doing its bit with shows like Mirzapur. However, the latest show from Amazon that is generating a lot of interest is Paatal Lok which has been getting rave reviews. In fact, many people have been considering it to be one of the greatest web series to have ever come from India.
Paatal Lok is based on a book titled The Story of My Assassins which was written by Tarun Tejpal. Strangely, the show’s producers decided to omit his name from the credits probably to avoid any controversy stemming from the fact that Tarun Tejpal is currently on trial for an alleged sexual misconduct. The general plot of the show is that four assassins are caught for attempting to assassinate a high profile journalist based in New Delhi. The show will specially strike a chord with those who reside in Delhi as it is a reflection of the different social structures in the capital of India. After the assassination attempt is foiled, the case is under investigation by a cynical police officer by the name of Hathi Ram Chaudhary who sets off a chain reaction of events. It’s almost similar to these kinds of chain reactions that people on the internet have set up except this involves a lot of politicians and corrupt individuals.
The web series has been produced by Bollywood star Anushka Sharma who is also the wife of India’s cricket team captain Virat Kohli. The directors of the show Avinash Aruna and Prosit Roy. Prosit Roy is a Bengali filmmaker who is known for his horror debut in Bollywood with a film called Pari. While the story of Paatal Lok has been loosely derived from Tarun Tejpal’s The Story of My Assassins, the series writer Sudip Sharma has added many contemporary issues to it like the rise of Hindu vs Muslim tensions in the country as well as discrimination against the transgender community. The transgender rights has been a highly debated issue with the Indian government recognising them as the third gender only in 2014 as pointed out in this article.
Paatal Lok has become a hugely controversial show with many different groups asking for a ban on the series. The ruling party BJP has raised an issue with the use of an image of one of their MLAs without permission. Several Hindu groups have also pointed out that the series wrongly portrays them as ruthless and evil. Some people have also pointed out that the show has used many racial slurs including some against Nepalis.
In India, web series are usually exempt for censorship rules so a lot of filmmakers are moving to this medium to exercise complete freedom. This is a very interesting space to watch out for new emerging voices in India.