18 May 2020
'Paatal Lok' review: An engrossing and pertinent crime thriller
Written bySagar Malik ·
For an audience fed uninspired content for far too long, Paatal Lok comes as a breath of fresh air. Streaming now on Amazon Prime Video, the nine-episode show created by Sudip Sharma is a commentary on the class divide, the minds of a criminal, and the hero-worshipping nature the society has fallen into.
Here is our review of the show that has perplexed India.
A world where the good, the bad, the ugly collide
As the title clarifies, Paatal Lok draws inspiration from the concepts of Svarga, Dharti and Paatal (the heaven, earth and hell).
Put simply, it brings together the good, the bad, and the ugly of humankind and our society.
But as mysteries unfurl, it strikes you with the realization that perhaps nobody and nothing is sacred to the fullest or corrupted to the core.
Cops, criminals, and an utterly tangled cobweb
Four accused are nabbed by the Delhi police for conspiring to murder a prominent prime time journalist, Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi).
Hathi Ram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat), a down and out cop is unexpectedly handed over the reins of the investigation.
With the accused having a proven criminal history, it seems like an open-and-shut case.
But the cobweb is way more tangled than it appears.
Nothing is as it seems on the surface
In Paatal Lok, nothing is as it seems, thanks to the layered and complex narrative.
The so-called "heroes" are the ones shamelessly peddling the biggest of lies. And, they can go to extreme lengths to meet their vile and vested interests.
On the other hand, those labeled as criminals reveal far more traces of humanity than those who look down upon them.
The show holds your attention and... doesn't let go
Paatal Lok first makes an impression on you and then makes you stick.
It's engrossing, that too, in a deeper sense, meaning that one feels compelled to move to the next episode, not because the cars run too fast or criminals are constantly chased through the city, but because you are invested in these characters, their marred histories, broken ambitions, and endless dilemmas.
And then, it proves to be much more than that
Of course, making a series that doesn't lose its flow throughout the 6-hour narrative is an achievement in itself.
But then, the greater victory of Paatal Lok lies somewhere else.
Just when you think you have pretty much guessed where the story is going, the show turns around in your face, by offering a scathing commentary on the state of affairs in our far-from-perfect society.
It isn't a pleasant sight, but it's real and true
By way of diving into the histories of the four accused, the show touches upon harrowing issues of child abuse, poverty, domestic violence, and lynchings. Of course, it isn't a pleasant sight. It isn't supposed to be. But it's real and true.
Jaideep Ahlawat soaks the character and becomes one with it
Jaideep Ahlawat as a cop, who lands a big case in ages and is downright desperate to crack it, is vulnerable and real.
Sporting loose shirts, sports shoes, and spot-on Haryanvi accent, he carries this show on his shoulders.
He soaks the character's dilemmas and desperation and brings them out in his expressions and speech.
We have ignored his talents for far too long.
Neeraj Kabi gives his best to a rather thin character
There can hardly be any doubt surrounding Neeraj Kabi's acting acumen. But in this case, he was challenged to play a rather thin character.
Even as he remains the central focus of the show, there just isn't enough depth to his character. The character is as short of layers as he is full of wealth and fame.
Anyway, Kabi gives it all he could.
To watch or not to watch?
It's rather inevitable if you're wondering whether it's Prime Video's answer to Netflix's Sacred Games.
Obviously not! Because it is way above, way better.
Paatal Lok exposes to us the India that we mostly just read or listen about. It's right in front of us, but we choose to ignore it. It's black-hearted, but it's real.
Paatal Lok is a must-watch.
Rating: 4/5 stars.