What is the story about?
The third season picks up from the events of Season 2, where Bhaisaab and Vikrant Dhawan are at loggerheads, Zarina and Mantra are trying to clear their names in the spot-ficing scandal, and Vayu harbours dreams of Test captaincy, with Pakistan's tour of India looming on the horizon.
I'll be the first one to admit. There are far better shows on Indian OTT platforms than Inside Edge, and yet there is a strange pleasure in devouring the contents of creator Karan Anshuman's lurid take on cricket scandals on and off the field. Or, at least, it used to be fun until this third season came along. It almost seems as if Anshuman and his team wanted to go out with a bang, unsure of whether this show will last beyond Season 3, and that is why the writers and director Kanishk Verma go hammer-and-tongs at the narrative. If the first two seasons were grounded in the franchise politics of T20 cricket, there is no clear-cut theme in Season 3, which seems to pack in every possible headline from the world of scandals in cricket over the last four decades. A Dawood Ibrahim-like figure fixing matches in Sharjah in the 1990s, the Lodha Committee reforms, the Hansie Cronje saga, the inclusion of Kashmiri players and the legalizing of betting in sports are all referenced in a heavily-bloated screenplay that also includes themes of step-brothers at war with each other, backroom politics and even the battle of the sexes. There are just too many sub-plots tha are left half-explored and make you care little about them.
It's not until Episode 5 that proceedings really kick off in the series, but for the first time in the series, you actually look forward to enjoying the cricket more than the off-field drama. The cricket sequences are better choreographed this time around as compared to the previous seasons, and there are moments during the three-test series where you get reminded of the real-life Indian team's famous wins. However, the rest of the show is so drab and full of self-importance that it ultimately drags down the entire experience. Logic goes for a toss in many sequences. If I'm not mistaken, a key character who I thought was killed in Season 2 is miraculously alive here. The season ends on a surprising note, with a cliffhanger that may not be one. Sensationalism trumps common sense in much of the narrative, and it ultimately makes this season an average one.
Vivek Oberoi keeps things engaging as the scenery-chewing Vikrant, and we get glimpses into his "villain origin" story. Aamir Bashir is in form as usual as Bhaisaab. For half the season, Richa Chadha does not have much to do as Zarina, but she shines in the last couple of episodes. Tanuj Virwani is aggressive as usual as Vayu, but Sayani Gupta is underwhelming as Rohini this time around. Akshay Oberoi makes an impression as Rohit Shanbagh, the ex-captain of the Test team. Sunny Hinduja is affable as the Pakistani captain Sultan. Sidhant Gupta is decent as the uncapped Kashmiri off-spinner Imaad Akbar. Amit Sial is all right as Devender, and he is just too good in Episode 9. And then there's Renuka Shahane, who puts in a delightful cameo as the astute Prime Minister.
If there's one actor to single out in this ensemble, it has to be Sapna Pabbi. This is her growing-up story, and Pabbi beautifully showcases how Mantra goes from dejection to strength over the course of the narrative, as she becomes the master of her own turf.
Music & Other Departments
Vivek Shah's cinematography and the production design are decent. Atul Wassan, Maninder Singh and Gautam Bhimani are lovely to watch in their commentary stints during the Indo-Pak series.
Sapna Pabbi as Mantra
Aamir Bashir as Bhaisaab
The Indo-Pak cricket sequences
Too many sub-plots, culled from various headlines, spoil the screenplay and render it flat and boring at times.
Did I enjoy it?
I found the season average.
Do I recommend it?
You can watch this season once if you're an Inside Edge loyalist. That's all I'll say.