By Joginder Tuteja
Paatal Lok has arrived, it has found all around appreciation coming its way and critics as well as audiences can’t get enough of it. I have watched it too, and that too in one go.
That said, first things first, this is not a review, but a confession. So, here I go.
Confession #1 – Paatal Lok came on 15th May. It has been more than 10 days since I watched it. However, such was a stunning impact that the series had on me that I didn’t have the heart to sit down and pen a review. It shook me up for many days at stretch. It set me thinking. It required me to build courage before actually writing what was going on in my mind.
Confession #2 – The last time I was so much shaken up by a series was when that superb Delhi Crime was unveiled. Based on Nirbhaya incident, the Shefali Shah led series was a realistic account of the underbelly of crime that shook the conscience of the entire nation. That was an inside-out account. Paatal Lok is an outside-in account. The impact has just been the same.
Confession #3 – Jaideep Ahlawat is a man who deserves a lot more acknowledgment than he has actually got in Bollywood. I remember meeting him 8 years back at a small private get together at a mutual friend’s place. ‘Oh, so you are the same guy who was the villain in Akshay Kumar’s Khatta Meetha, right?’. He nodded. We never stayed in touch. I should have tried.
Confession #4 – In India, a lot more credit needs to be given to the show creators. We lay a lot of emphasis on the actor, followed by the director(s) of the series. Outside India, anywhere in the world, be it the American or the Arabic series, credit is due for the show creators. We should do that too. On that note, tremendously well done Sudip Sharma. What a superb show!
Confession #5 – Paatal Lok forces you to look at the minority community in an altogether different light. The camaraderie that Jaideep Ahlawat and the rookie cop, a Muslim (played by Ishwak Singh) is done in as realistic and sensitive manner as possible. There is nothing forced there; it is all organic. Watch out for the way the two have their back and you would know.
Confession #6 – With Gul Panag in there, and mostly relegated as a bored housewife who tried to distribute those shady Chinese soda machines to her equally bored neighborhood aunties, I wondered if she had something substantial to add, especially after her good presence in The Family Man & Rangbaaz Phir Se. That one tight slap she gave to Jaideep changed my opinion.
Confession #7 – While I was glued into the series right through, somewhere in the middle of it I wondered whether the back stories of the four suspects, especially that Punjabi villager Tope Singh [Jagjeet Sandhu] and the Muslim simpleton Kabir M [Aasif Khan] was a bit too much. By the end of it, I realized the whole idea was to bring audience closer to the caste divide.
Confession #8 – I first noticed Neeraj Kabi in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! and then Talvar. He fascinated me, especially in the latter. I haven’t caught up with his debut flick Ship of Theseus yet. I will do that now. After all, the flawless performance that he has given in Paatal Lok, where he brings in varied shades as the man in the office and the man in the house, is relatable.
Confession #9 – Abhishek Banerjee is clearly a lot more than Jena, that possessed simpleton from Stree, who ran around the town wondering what ill luck Rajkummar Rao had brought to him. Watch him in Paatal Lok and you would know the next time he comes face to face, it would be you who could possibly thinking of running away. No, he is more than just being a funny man.
Confession #10 – Paatal Lok is a lot more than what’s on the surface. Anushka Sharma has done a couple of dark films in the past [NH10, Pari] but this is her bravest rendezvous. It may seem like yet another hard hitting crime tale but there is a lot more to it. It takes guts to refer ‘puranas’, bring out a dog story from there and spin an entire series. Hail the makers for that!