We revisit the Hindi fiction series that made a splash (for better or worse) on OTT platforms in 2022.
Last Updated: 09.17 AM, Dec 27, 2022
We're recapping a year in entertainment with a series of '2022: The Year In...' essays. Join us on the journey!
THE HINDI STREAMING WORLD showed some signs of lethargy in 2022, a kind of monotony that has prevented new material from gaining the sort of leverage or elusive recall value that returning shows continue to command. Let’s run through the talking points shall we?
The second season of Amazon Prime Video’s Panchayat, probably over-delivered by taking a last-minute creative risk that could have proven to be boom and bust. Thankfully, it was the former. Sony LIV’s plucky but consistent Maharani continued to be this eerily well-performed analysis of Bihar’s politics, even as the third season of Gullak re-established itself as the quaint little cousin of the heartland family story. Netflix’s Delhi Crime S2 wasn’t as gut-wrenching as its first instalment, but it was breathless and unmissable — possibly the best performance of the year by an ensemble. Established shows largely carried the baton of consistency, while a few new ones made a somewhat modest dent.
Disney+ Hotstar’s Ghar Waapsi was surprisingly effective as a slice-of-life drama about an engineer who returns home after losing his job. It felt mercurially simple and relatable in an age where the onus — unjustifiably? — is on creators to push the envelope. Sometimes, sweet and simple works. At the opposite end of this mood spectrum there were shows that while discomfiting to watch, zeroed in on grittier grammar. The Shefali Shah-led Human was a chilling expose of an industry obscured by bureaucratic red-tape. Anu Kapoor’s Crash Course was a loud but serviceable exploration of the dark side of the Kota success story.
Netflix’s Mai possibly offered the standout performance in the year, and the fact that it was a performance against type, made it all the more staggering. Sakshi Tanwar was quietly exceptional in the role of an indignant mother who exacts revenge not with a hammer, but with the methodical coldness of a knitting needle.
Madhuri Dixit impressed, but was ultimately let down by a poor script in The Fame Game. However, that the actress played two unconventional characters across platforms (she was in the Amazon Prime Video India original film, Maja Ma), is an encouraging sign for a landscape that is gradually becoming the playpen for those who are being underused by the mainstream.
This was a year when loud, brash and pulpy material struggled to find the echelons of cult that the likes of Mirzapur enjoyed as a precursor. Netflix’s Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen was hit and miss despite a promising setup. Escaype Live, Hotstar’s eclectic study of the ills of technology had good ideas — some of them akin to Black Mirror actually — but had neither the execution nor the aesthetic grace to pull them off with conviction. The creators can still be given credit for trying though, because sci-fi dystopias are the kind of creative frontier few in the country would want to touch.
There were some genuine surprises thrown into the mix: Zee5’s The Broken News was all pomp, glamour and high-decibel fun. Of course, it had terrific actors led by the maverick Jaideep Ahlawat. Jamtara’s second season wasn’t as novel as the first but it continued to plug away admirably and aspired to become more than the sum of its minor parts. Tripling returned for an unwarranted third season after a sorry sequel, and surprisingly, left a mark by redoing the basics that had made it so popular among loyalists. Sony LIV’s Faadu: A Love Story, wasn’t exactly eye-popping but it was set in a specific milieu and attempted to own the dogged language of the big screen. At least it was ambitious enough to try.
There were a fair share of disappointments: shows or performances that sounded promising in principle but simply failed to live up to collective expectations. A Sudhir Mishra-directed espionage thriller, Tanaav should have been the toast of the year. However, the series felt too insipid and uninspired despite the prospectively charged setting of Kashmir. Randeep Hooda was exceptional in Netflix’s CAT, but simply couldn’t lift a tepid story from the floor of its own tomb. Abhishek Bachchan continued to plug away at a neat role in Breathe: Into The Shadows, although — does anyone even care anymore? Suniel Shetty’s dhoti-clad debut on streaming, in Dharavi Bank, was interesting if not terribly substantial. The biggest disappointment of the year? The latest season of Criminal Justice. Because it takes a village to undermine yet oversell an on-form Pankaj Tripathi.
That leaves us with the headliners, the two shows that raised the bar this year in Hindi fiction streaming. They might not have earned the clout of more illustrious ancestors, but they underlined the importance of working inside a laboratory of untried ideas. Rocket Boys, for all its second-half stutters, was majestic in how effortlessly it recreated a bygone era and turned it into a human story of friendship and ideas. Disney+ Hotstar’s Dahan, on the other hand, ventured where no Indian series has by attempting to merge mythology and science in a show that simply hasn’t been spoken about enough. It might have eventually packed in too many ideas, but the fact that someone tried to create an Indian Stranger Things and localise it with the caveats of religion, caste and poverty, is worthy of recognition if not the prize outright.
An A-Z Directory of Hindi OTT Notables:
Breathe: Into The Shadows — Amazon Prime Video — S2
Crash Course — Amazon Prime Video
CAT — Netflix
Criminal Justice: Adhura Sach — Disney+ Hotstar — S3
Delhi Crime — Netflix — S2
Dharavi Bank — MX Player
Dahan: Raakan Ka Rahasya — Disney+ Hotstar
Escaype Live — Disney+ Hotstar
Faadu: A Love Story — Sony LIV
Gullak — Sony LIV — S3
Ghar Waapsi — Disney+ Hotstar
Human — Disney+ Hotstar
Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega — Netflix — S2
Maharani — Sony LIV — S2
Mai — Netflix
Panchayat — Amazon Prime Video
Rocket Boys — Sony LIV
The Fame Game — Netflix (Madhuri)
The Broken News — Zee5 — S2
TVF’s Tripling — Zee5 — S3
Tanaav — Sony LIV
Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein — Netflix