2020 wasn’t anyone’s year. However, it was the year of riveting and compelling blockbusters. It is not on the silver screen, but right within the ever-growing over-the-top platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sony LIV, and Voot, amongst others!
While the nation went under a complete lockdown, our sanity was intact, thanks to tons of content that entertained and ignited much-required conversations on sexuality, caste, politics, and gender.
Let’s go down the lane and ponder the best of the OTT’s that 2020 had to offer?
An incredible crime-thriller, produced by Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Filmz starring gems like Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, and Abhishek Banerjee, Paatal Lok had us binge-watching the entire series in a single setting. Though, it brought about a much-needed conversation on caste, lack of trigger warning, and use of obsolete words targeting a community; it came packed with its fair share of outstanding reviews, classifying the show as, ‘India’s best crime thriller!’
Where: Amazon Prime Videos
Considered the underdog and underhyped web-series of 2020, Scam 1992 was a relief from the constant violence, bloodshed, and sex that popular OTT’s sell-off as ‘real India’. The infamous Harshad Mehta case turned over the Indian stock market and was even considered the desi ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. Hands-down, definitely a must-watch!
Where: Sony LIV
After decades of penance, Sushmita Sen finally adorns the screen with her impeccable performance in Aarya, which also won her the Filmfare. With a stunning star cast of Chandrachur Singh and Namit Das, Aarya leads the crime genre with its story, background score, and writing.
Where: Disney+ Hotstar
Jitendra Kumar aka Jeetu after his applause-worthy performance in TVF’s Kota Factory returns to Amazon Prime Videos’ Panchayat to play a defeated Engineer stuck in rural India. The show, supported by the ever-glowing Neena Gupta and hilarious Raghubir Yadav delivers a comedy of errors battling stereotypes with logic.
However, the show was criticised for portraying rural India from an urban upper-caste lens but garnered tons of love and appreciation for its story, set, and soundtrack.
Where: Amazon Prime Videos
Coming from a totally biased position, I enjoyed Ludo for its non-sensical, crazy, and humorous storyline, star cast, writing, and of course, the beautiful soundtrack! With names such as Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Bachchan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, amongst others, Ludo guarantees a roller-coaster ride for two and a half hours. Coupled with juxtapositions, analogies, comparisons, and witty liners, Ludo is a must-watch for a light-hearted comic viewing, after a long day at work.
A never-seen-before sci-fi and comedy film, Cargo was initially premiered in 2019 at 2019 MAMI Film Festival but hit Netflix in September 2020. Starring Shweta Tripathi and Vikrant Massey, Cargo was a breath of fresh air. It feels like a different genre/cult which deserves an entire fandom of its own! Cargo wasn’t appreciated much in the Indian audience but garnered tons of international appreciation. With a story and star cast like that, Cargo is bound to have a monumental impact on India’s OTT content!
Raat Akeli Hai is a crime/thriller-based story with ample twists and turns and no trigger warning! It comes with a star cast comprising of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shweta Tripathi, and Tigmanshu Dhulia, amongst others, the movie runs for too long. However, the ending is not predictable and keeps the viewers hanging till the very last minute. Raat Akeli Hai with its background score, mystery, and storyline, keeps you hooked.
With intertwined tales of crime and Hindu mythology, Asur surpasses all expectations by creating an out of the world experience with mystery, crime, mythology, and thriller, coupled with an excellent star cast of Arshad Warsi, Anupriya Goenka, amongst others. While Asur failed to garner enough audience appreciation and create a stir in the OTT world, it surely garnered tons of appreciation from critics and IMDB’s 8.2 ratings.
A story on sex and feminism, Bhumi Pednekar and Konkona Sen Sharma own up to their sexuality and are not afraid to do so. Dolly Kitty Aur Vo Chamakte Sitare also throws light on the saffron brigade, communalism, exploring identity, sex, virginity, and a lot of other themes. While the makers tried to make it more about feminism, it somehow lost its charm with the long run-time of two hours and 10 minutes. However, it is surely a great way to bring sex, sexuality, gender, and identity into the common man’s drawing-room.
The most-anticipated show of 2020, Mirzapur 2 lived up to its hype with tons of gore, sex, violence, and language! Since its initial release, Mirzapur has been a popular watch amongst India’s youth and continues to garner tons of viewers. While I personally disliked the lack of trigger warning to blood and gore, Mirzapur’s USP has always been to show India’s “reality”, and they stick by it. Again, with impeccable performances by Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Divyenndu, Rasika Dugal, Shweta Tripathi, amongst others, remain the highlight of the show.
Where: Amazon Prime Videos
While film-makers tried to integrate politically correct and important themes on one-hand, disastrous movies like Coolie No. 1, Pati Patni Aur Panga, and Laxmii continue to be made. Laden with sexism, transphobia, 1930’s writing, and problematic songs, probably, the dream of responsible cinema is still far-fetched.
Nevertheless, one can always hope that responsible content continues to be made and question society’s evils. After all, social-learning theory by Bandura is a reminder that we learn from what we see.
For where credit is due, 2020 has been a hard ride, and these are some of the shows and movies made in India, which helped us survive this long, long year. Here’s to hoping that 2021 brings about no masks, tons of vaccines, and a lot more entertaining content!