1. AASHRAM SEASON 3 REVIEW
In this season, however, despite no substantial changes, he falters to keep us hooked. Soon after the quick recap and joining of dots from the season before, Jha struggles to stay on one single track—we have the tribal rebellion, there’s a faint sense of restlessness in primary characters, and a certain someone climbing the ranks only to reveal later he/she is up to no good… yet again! Trigger warning: mild disappointment ahead.
The series had abandoned its caste-and-class sharpness, director Prakash Jha’s forte, by the second season. That’s what kept us watching in the first place, as it went about exploring the world of self-proclaimed godmen, the kind that wields so much power in spheres that affect us, without our knowledge. This time around, it’s just ten episodes of tedium.
2. KOFFEE WITH KARAN SEASON 7
One might love it, one might hate it, but one certainly cannot ignore the buzz around Koffee With Karan. After much waiting and excited anticipation, Karan Johar’s popular chat show Koffee With Karan S7 finally premiered tonight on an OTT platform. The very first celebs to grace this brand-new season are KJo’s very own ‘Rocky Aur Rani’ aka Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh. No brownie points for guessing! The two actors made it an interesting watch with all their juicy revelations.
The Koffee madness started with Alia and Ranveer receiving a warm welcome from the filmmaker host. As they settled down, the conversation took viewers in several directions from discussing the ‘vilification’ of Bollywood to Alia’s life with the Kapoors during the pandemic, to her dreamy proposal and wedding with Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh’s ‘Sindhiness’ to his friendship with ‘Sakhi’ Alia, and much, much more. There was a lot of laughter, coupled with drama, making it a good first episode. Ranveer’s impeccable energy and Alia’s candor are surely an enjoyable combo.
3. PANCHAYAT SEASON 2
Due to the solid footprint of the first season, I was anyway premeditated to like Panchayat 2. I was still surprised to see the sensibilities packed in the second season. And then there was this climax, which is probably the best for any Hindi web series in the last 365 days.
Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra) is still trapped in Phakouli as Panchayat Secretary, but he has definitely evolved as a human being. He is more expressive, concerned, and conflicted. The still afternoons and star-filled evenings have instilled a sense of responsibility in him. He is also subconsciously looking for love and companionship. The kind which happens spontaneously even if you don’t want to!
His inner circle is mostly about Pradhan Ji (Raghubir), Prahlad (Faisal), and Vikas (Chandan), and together they want to add some dimensions to their otherwise mundane lives.
The usual village rivalry, occasional roadblocks, and obvious obloquy are also there. What’s Panchayat without these anyway!
There’s a shift from the previous season though.
It’s more of an inward journey for the characters now. We get to understand them better, and in a way, are forced to accept them as they are. Comedy is more situational now, and the writers tend to deviate from giving life lessons in every scene. In short, the writing is absolutely on point.
Other characters, especially Prahlad and Vikas, have been given a chance to expand their horizon without taking the centre stage. Jitendra and Raghubir know the pitch and are not defensive anymore. They keep pushing themselves into complex situations and make their presence count in almost every sequence they appear in.
4. Rudra Edge of Darkness
Ajay Devgn may have taken his time to jump on the OTT bandwagon, but in his first attempt, the actor nails his character in Rudra: The Edge of Darkness. The Disney+ Hotstar series is an official adaptation of the acclaimed BBC show, Luther, immortalized by Idris Elba. While the show has been altered to match pan-India sensibilities, director Rajesh Mapuskar fails to keep viewers hooked.
The show revolves around DCP Rudraveer Singh, who is part of the Special Crimes Unit of the Mumbai Police, and the scrutiny he is under despite being the best in the field. Exploring a space he has often conquered with the Singham franchise and Gangaajal, Devgn still manages to showcase a new side of his cop character in the six-part series. Every episode revolves around a new case that puts the famed cop to the test. The first episode introduces Raashii Khanna’s Aliyah Choksi — a child prodigy, a genius in space research, and a suspect in a double homicide case. She is a recurring character in the series, typically seen affecting Rudra’s shaky personal and professional life. The sizzling chemistry between Rudra and Aliyah is the saving grace in the series. Khanna emulates the layered mind of a sociopath and her character’s complexities with ease. Rudra also marks the web debut of Esha Deol, who plays Devgn’s wife in the show. Although she struggles to perform convincingly, the writers have ensured to make her character seem relatable.
5. Anupama Namaste America
Star Plus show Anupama has undertaken the huge task of sensitively, authentically, and sometimes preachily showing the everyday life of a homemaker living with a thankless husband, children, and parents-in-law. Its protagonist Anupama, played by Rupali Ganguly, is ever-sacrificing — her identity, her dreams, and also her jewelry, for her family. But then the makers of the show thought, ‘No, this is not enough’. We should dig deeper into Anupama’s miserable life. And, they made Anupama: Namaste America.
6. Mirzapur Season 2
Tripathi’s son Munna has now made new enemies after he goes on a killing spree at a wedding. The survivors are now baying for his blood. But Munna, who thinks he is immortal, continues to harbour dreams of ruling over ‘Mirzapur’, with or without the backing of his father.
Guns, goons, and lots of gaalis – welcome to ‘Mirzapur’, once again. Everyone’s packing heat, human life has no value and abject lawlessness is the accepted world order. Nothing has changed here. Except for the rising body count that has intensified the battle lines in this bloody badland. And as always, Munna (Divyendu Sharma) is at the center of all the killings that have become an all-familiar calling card for ‘Mirzapur’. Of course, a lot of these killings are as shocking as they are needless, making us wonder if they could have been avoided altogether. But what’s a UP hinterland if not high on political vendettas and pistols firing up a storm at every given opportunity or the lack of it?
Season 2 of ‘Mirzapur’ picks up from where the first one ended. It kickstarts with even more violence that instantly grabs your attention. Creator Puneet Krishna and his Directors Gurmeet Singh & Mihir Desai continue to take bold decisions, adding more shock value to this already grim revenge saga. And if you have seen season one and enjoyed its dark narrative then the new season certainly ups the ante. It does so with a more seasoned handling that injects adrenaline in spurts but the overall execution is a slow burn. Since there is a certain relatability with the characters, it’s easier to empathize with their pain, this time around. The plot has simmered to a point where revenge is inevitable and this time it’s a battle of equals.
The bustling bylanes of UP’s politically charged towns once again add their rustic flavor and realism that make for voyeuristic pleasures. They are effectively brought to life DOP by Sanjay Kapoor. The dialogues as usual laced with expletives are mouthed mostly by men, who seem to know no other way to communicate.
Pankaj Tripathi continues to lead the show with his stoic expressions, but the actor so subtly lets out witty one-liners at times that it squarely underlines the conflict within. A lesser actor would look repetitive, but Pankaj has an innate quality of owning his character with a natural charm, like no other. Ali Fazal in his beefed-up avatar is suitably cast as Guddu but doesn’t do a lot more than what we haven’t seen him do before. With a more subdued tone, Guddu’s track also tends to drag at times. Divyendu Sharma clearly seems to have the most fun playing the trigger-happy Munna – a spoilt brat and a loose cannon responsible for most of the ruckus in ‘Mirzapur’. At times, the excesses of his character seem quite unreal. The show’s stellar cast is well-lit with strong performers like Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Anjum Sharma, Rajesh Tailang, and veteran Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who plays the creepy Bauji with subtlety. Kharbanda is excellent as the family’s patriarch, who talks less but speaks more with his mere presence. This season gives its women more scope. Some are seething with anger while others are toeing the line. Rasika Dugal stands out with her restrained act as a woman, who is forever in the crosshairs of her household’s toxic male fiefdom. Sheeba Chaddha, Harshita Gaur, and Shweta Tripathi successfully manage to bring out the inner strength and vulnerability of their characters. The show’s overall casting by ‘Casting Bay’ is appropriate.
‘Mirzapur’ 2’ has that ‘killer’ combination of power and politics that largely works, but is not bulletproof to flaws. There are multiple subplots, umpteenth characters (some unwanted) each having their own issues but not necessarily a deeper subtext. While we have seen such revenge dramas in the same UP hinterland many times before (on big and small screens), ‘Mirzapur 2’ is a welcome addition. It fires in the right direction and hits the target in delivering a gritty and gruesome tale of intense rivalries.
7. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SEASON 3
The third season follows the story of Zara, a pre-teen TV star who mysteriously goes missing on a family trip and is then found dead. Zara has a teenage older brother in Mukul, who is apparently also suffering from an Oedipus-like sibling complex. Under the shadow of an illustrious sister Mukul feels unseen, and often underappreciated. Both children have doting parents in Niraj played by the decent Purab Kohli and Avantika played by Swastika Mukherjee. Like any elite family, the Ahujass are fairly resplendent on the eye and equally galling to witness behind the patina of morality. Zara’s death shakes the family, and all clues lead to Mukul, the angry, risible teenager who is trying hard not to help himself. As fate would have it the Ahujas don’t even have the money for a good lawyer, and so in steps our protagonist and the savior of mediocre material, Pankaj Tripathi.
Though this current season shifts its focus to the juvenile justice system, it feels, more or less an echo of the first season. Templated similar to the original, there is a seemingly indefensible accused, who undergoes some sort of hairy transformation behind bars, while on the outside, a pesky, street-smart lawyer goes about fighting his case from the insides of a multi-purpose omni van. Even though it feels like a pale imitation of its own previous trajectory, this third season drags, as most things are done for the sake of stretching a worn franchise. The performances are rubbery, almost ineffective. Even assured actors like Kohli and Mukherjee are given precious little to work with. There are structural complexities, like both siblings having different fathers, thrown into the mixer but they hardly earn their reckoning
8. THE NIGHT MANAGER
The Night Manager is a sincere and ambitious adaptation of the popular BBC series of the same name that tries to match the standards of the original version but falls short. That said, it is not a wasted effort by any stretch of the imagination.
The Night Manager revolves around Shaan Senguta (Aditya Roy Kapur), an ex-navy Lieutenant, who works as the night manager of a hotel. His world is turned upside down when he learns a dark secret about Shelly (Anil Kapoor), an influential business tycoon. This sets the stage for a twisted and dangerous game of cat and mouse as he vows to bring down his seemingly invincible foe. The storyline is inherently quite compelling as it revolves around an underdog. Moreover, it has been adapted well to suit Indian sensibilities. References to ‘Raavan’ and ‘Lanka’ give The Night manager a distinct desi flavor.
The series sadly does not reach its potential as the execution is middling, to say the least. The Night Manager opens with a well-shot fight scene, which tries to build an aura around Aditya’s character. The show then moves at its own pace. The sequence depicting the death of an innocent character has also been executed well. It works mainly because of its haunting silences. The scene focuses on Shaan and Shelly’s first meeting, too well as the silences again do the talking.
9. Family Man Season 2
The Family Man S2 is buoyed by an as-magnetic-as-ever central performance by Manoj Bajpayee and a sharp-as-a-needle star turn by Samantha Akkineni in the role of an unwavering Sri Lankan Tamil liberation fighter on a suicide mission. The show, however, takes a while – in fact, quite a while – to lay all its key pieces out on the table. The build-up to the business end of the show is slow and deliberate. But if you hang in there long enough, you’ll do yourself a favor. The final act and the run-up to it do pack quite a punch.
When the nine-episode series (written by Suman Kumar, Suparn S. Varma, and Raj & DK) explodes in the sixth chapter, it does so in style and sustains the momentum right until the very end. The last four episodes are as riveting and well-paced as anything that the outstanding first season had to offer.
A quick postscript encompasses the timeline of the pandemic era right down to the onset of the second wave in India and provides a pointer to what lies ahead for Srikant Tiwari, the intrepid secret agent, and the constantly struggling family man. What transpires until this point has enough voltage to whet the appetite of the audience. The Family Man isn’t done yet. Nobody is complaining.
10. Hostel Daze Season 3
Hostel Daze Season 3 finds our favorite gang of misfits in the third year of engineering college, with new problems and their Ludicrous solutions. The new season is divided into six episodes and is directed by Abhinav Anand (Engineering Girls, TSP’s Zeroes). Moreover, it stars Nikhil Vijay Jatin Kishor, Shubham Gaur as Jaat, Luv Vispute as Chirag, and Utsav Sarkar as Ankit.
The third season starts with our all-time favorite hostelers Chirag, Jatin, Jaat, and Ankit finding their way through creative problems. This time around, they have the pressure to beat Hostel Wing 3 in cultural competitions, deal with economic tangents, and solve the mystery of the face wash thief, all while strengthening the bond of friendship.
The newest season follows the trajectory of the previous installments. Each episode has an anthological theme, and a fourth-wall-breaking narrator (including a special cameo from the late comedian Raju Srivastava), followed by the usual comical happenstances. Notably, Utsav Sarkar has replaced Adarsh Gaurav in the role of love-struck Ankit.
The new season of TVF’s much-loved miniseries is equally funny and brilliant, in almost every aspect of the genre. In fact, the bar of engineering nuances and rib-crackling one-liners has only increased and grown in numbers. Moreover, the frequency of the humorous anecdotes ensures minimum moments of silence and fillers and makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch.
One of my favorite episodes is where Chirag becomes the desi Sherlock Holmes, and communicates both in English and Haryanvi accents. The entire setup of the parody, including the soundtrack, is absolutely hilarious. The seasoned team of TVF deserves a pat on their shoulders for mastering the art of Indianization of content.