Amazon Prime Video is slowly making a name for creating top-notch Indian content. The flip side of having crafted such excellent shows, Made in Heaven, Mirzapur and The Family Man to name a few, is that the bar is raised exponentially. Produced by Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Filmz, Paatal Lok is solid proof that the platform can deliver consistently or even go beyond.
The investigative thriller web series is based on the concept of the three realms: Heaven (Swarga Lok), Earth (Dharti Lok) and Hell (Paatal Lok). These realms are shown from a societal view. The rich and powerful, the commoners and the downtrodden world which sees the worst of humanity.
Vishal Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee), Tope Singh (Jagjeet Sindhu), Mary Lyngdoh (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh) and Kabir M (Aasif Khan) get arrested on charges of attempting to murder prominent journalist Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi).
Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat) is a washed-up cop who’s put in charge of the case. As Chaudhary begins to investigate, he realises there’s a whole world beyond what meets the eye. A Paatal Lok from where these four emerge.
He delves into their past as part of his investigation, ending up uncovering the hellish conditions they’ve been subjected to. The viewers are given an eagle-eye view of the creation of devils.
The casting for Paatal Lok is an inspiration. Every actor seems tailor-made for their character. Ahlawat, who’s at the centre of the narrative as the senior inspector, is tremendous as the common-man protagonist and resident of Dharti Lok. You know exactly how he’s feeling at every point through his expressions.
Kabi, as the entitled journalist, is completely convincing. His character resides in the upper section of the society, a contrast which makes his and Haathi Ram’s conversations even more interesting as the two worlds collide.
Banerjee, even with fewer dialogues than some of his colleagues, stands out with his haunting portrayal of Tyagi. That frightening stare he pulls off could unnerve anybody and the conviction with which he performs is astounding.
Ishwak Singh also impresses as the righteous new inspector Imran Ansari who aids Hathi Ram through the case.
The narrative is expertly crafted for an investigative thriller. Little hints are divulged gradually and you cannot predict the exact details until the very end. While the investigation is central to the plot, it’s also a medium to show the viewers the very worst of mankind.
The sheer atrocities committed in some parts of the society will baffle those who’ve never seen this world. Creator Sudip Sharma and directors Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy are committed to showing ‘the depths of hell’, and they do so without holding back.
Every scene in Paatal Lok feels authentic and every location is perfectly blended into the narrative. As someone who has grown up in Delhi, I can vouch that this is as realistic as it gets.
There are some fascinating references to Indian mythology which elevate simple scenes. You can tell how much thought has gone into creating this web series.
Every character has layers. We’re only introduced to them as faces and it’s amazing how much they develop through the episodes. We’re shown why they do what they do, how they think and what drives them to commit crimes.
None of the criminals are redeemed, not even in the slightest. We’re just told that there’s more to them. It’s a scathing assessment of how not everybody is inherently evil, some are created by society. Not all demons and devils were born in hell, some fell into the abyss.
Paatak Lok also deals with issues such as cast, communal violence and rape. It’s a grim portrayal of the sad state of our country, if only it weren’t true.
I might be nitpicking, but the violence could have been toned down a bit. I’m not sure how important it is to show open skulls. Everybody needs to watch Paatal Lok but not everyone will be able to get through it with such graphic brutality.
If you can handle the blood and gore, then Paatal Lok is a show you definitely need to watch. It’s the pinnacle of native storytelling.
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