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From Call My Agent: Bollywood to Ray, the most overrated Hindi series of 2021

Be it sci-fi shows like Ok Computer or relationship comedies like Hiccups & Hookups, 2021 had a diverse range of Hindi shows on offer. Alas, the best thing about quite a few of them were their trailers.

  • Pratishruti Ganguly

  • OTTplay

Last Updated: 03.46 PM, Dec 28, 2021

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There has undeniably been a tectonic shift in how we consume content in recent years, even so after the pandemic-enforced lockdown. Binge-watching has become the norm for most, guzzling one show after another during the weekends. This year has been the year of the underdog, with shows like Sony LIV’s Tabbar and Gullak 2 garnering praise from both critics and audiences. Further, the second seasons of The Family Man and Kota Factory proved to be even better than the firsts, impressing even the staunchest of critics. However, there were also many a-shows that displayed immense promise with their premise or rigorous promotions, but could not live up to its potential. Here is a look at some of them.

1
OK Computer
5.3
Ok Computer is one of those shows that may prove to be a masterpiece in posterity. But this writer reserves her judgement until it does. Released on Disney+ Hotstar, the show, set in 2031, is centred on a murder purportedly carried out by a self-driving car. A retired Cyber Crime specialist is called to action to solve this impossible murder in a world that has been taken over by holograms and drone superhighways. But this ambitious project, created and directed by Pooja Shetty and Neil Pagedar, juggles too many genres to commit to a specific one. In a bid to balance the show’s profound themes about the imminent machine takeover with a comedic tone, the show becomes too frivolous to be taken seriously. The gags become tedious after a while. Even aesthetically, the series may have tried to highlight the ubiquity of technology in the recent future with its use of primitive gadgets. However, the end product resembles something akin to a rudimentary school project that leaves much to be desired.
2
Call My Agent: Bollywood
7
Adapted from the whipsmart French show surrounding a talent management agency, Netflix India’s Call My Agent: Bollywood is a vacuous and unfunny remake. The show, directed by Shaad Ali and led by Rajat Kapoor, Aahana Kumra, Ayush Mehra and Soni Razdan, revolves around a fictional talent agency whose owner’s sudden death propels the company into utter chaos. The remake replicates the primary plot of the French original but forgets to add insights that are unique to the Hindi film industry. There are quite a few cameos by noted celebs like Dia Mirza and Tigmangshu Dhulia, who play parodied versions of their real-life personas. The industry’s regressive aspects like obsession with younger actors and its impossible beauty standards forcing more and more women to feel the need to change their appearance are alluded to, but no discourse on the same takes place. However, perhaps the biggest problem of the show is how superficial the primary characters appear. The narrative arcs are stupendously dull to keep the audience invested, and the roster of cameo appearances do nothing to elevate the show. If you haven’t watched this show yet, opt for the French original.
3
Mumbai Diaries 26/11
8.6
Mumbai Diaries 26/11, co-directed by Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, is a show that persistently disappoints. Not because it does not have important things to say, or isn’t particularly good, but because at every juncture, you are forced to think what it would have been like had the writers not slipped into laziness and taken enough time to develop the interpersonal dynamic between characters trapped in a torture chamber with little or no means to control the situation. As the title suggests, the show recreates the horrors of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks from the perspective of the medical practitioners saddled with the responsibility of saving as many lives with dwindling resources at their disposal. But the show oscillates between hard-hitting scenes of mass tragedy and on-the-nose drama that uncomfortably sticks out like a sore thumb. It is heartbreaking, because the show’s technical departments, including production design and action, as well as the acting by Mohit Raina and Konkona Sharma, are brilliant. But beyond that, the show is just another morality tale repackaged as an insider’s look.
4
Hiccups And Hookups
8.8
Lara Dutta and Prateik Babbar’s unconventional sibling bond forms the crux of Hiccups & Hookups, a show that appeared to tackle conversations around sex. In our society where discourses around sex with family are rare, if not non-existent, Hiccups & Hookups felt like it couldd finally break new ground. Instead, what we get is a highly tone-deaf, insensitive and frivolous look on sex, that equates casual sex with coolth. Concepts like commitment phobia are injected into the narrative for effect, without delving deep into it. The could have still worked had the screenplay been unapologetically silly, like the Hangover movies. But neither is the story gripping, nor the characters developed enough to connect with the viewers. Further, the series also does not bother with explaining its characters’ conundrums in key sequences, always opting instead for a quick resolution.
5
Ray
6.9
Ray, Netflix’s highly awaited reimagination of Satyajit Ray’s classic short stories divided critics and audiences alike. Two of the shorts, Hungama Kyon Hai Barpai and Spotlight, were praised for pushing the boundaries of their source material and delivering films that were inspired by Ray, but were squarely original pieces of work. In Hungama Kyon Hai Barpa, Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao play co-passengers travelling together in a first-class train in this absurdist tale. In Spotlight, Harshvardhan Kapoor plays a superstar grappling with an identity crisis and Radhika Madan portrays the role of an unwilling godwoman. The film is peppered with pop culture and Satyajit Ray references, and much like Vasan Bala’s earlier directorial Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, is eccentric in the best possible way. On the other hand, both Srijit Mukherjee directorials, Forget Me Not and Bahrupiya, are cringe-worthy regurgitations of Ray’s stories with tacky cinematography and even tackier makeup. For a film about prosthetics, Bahrupiya’s prosthetics are criminally bad.
6
The Empire
3.7
Credit should be given where due. The Empire, the Disney+ Hotstar centuries-spanning saga based on Alex Rutherford’s novel series Empire of the Moghul, is ambitious alright. The show looks stunning, with lavish indoor sets decorated with a keen, observant eye by production designer Priya Suhass. However, where it falters is the screenplay itself. For anyone who has not read the source text, the show becomes very convoluted with not much historical background provided for context. Moreover, the show suffers from a Sanjay Leela Bhansali hangover, as is evident from the over-the-top treatment of its characters. The characters’ antiquated, synthetic dialogue delivery robs the show of any authenticity, and many of the episodes feel like a drag. It isn’t the worst show of the year, but if you were expecting it to be India’s answer to Game of Thrones, you would have to wait longer.


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