Paatal Lok Review: A fairly engaging walk through the bloody underworld

Siddarth Srinivas -

Paatal Lok Review: A fairly engaging walk through the bloody underworld

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Format: Web Series
Platform: Prime Video
Movie Rated: 18+
Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Language: Hindi
Digital Premiere Date: 15 May 2020

Amazon Prime has just dropped its new series Paatal Lok, which comes from Sudip Sharma, the brain behind films such as NH10, Sonchiriya and Udta Punjab. With Anushka Sharma’s name as executive producer bringing in the project to the limelight, Paatal Lok surely did get a lot of attention after the release of its riveting trailer, which did make it seem like a quality outing was on its way. Over the course of nine episodes, the makers attempt to tell a story that is spread over a vast area, involving a truckload of characters.

What’s the story about?
The story of Paatal Lok takes off with an exciting incident on a bridge, where a group of thugs are pinned down by the police and arrested. The three sides of the show then open up – with the police, the thugs and a famous journalist getting intertwined. In the midst of it all is Hathi Ram Chaudhary, an honest cop who tries his best to put things back in place at the earliest, but still ends up failing as the leads keep getting out of reach. Despite Hathi Ram giving in his all to solve the case while simultaneously fighting tension at home, things go kaput, leading to his suspension. The rest of the story is how the cop proves himself cracking down the case that has got increasingly personal, with revelations coming up every now and then.
 
Performances
Jaideep Ahlawat has indeed waited for a long time to get himself a role this thick, and he expectedly pulls it off very well. Though he doesn’t bring anything special to the fore, he makes sure that he doesn’t look out of place in all shades of the show. On the other side is Neeraj Kabi, who is getting stronger day by day when it comes to the portrayal of characters with grey shades. This is yet another establishment of promise when it comes to the versatility that these two actors possess. Abhishek Banerjee is obviously the next name in the list, and though he simply breathes fire whenever he’s on-screen, one would have loved to see more of his involvement in the show's proceedings, rather than just being a character that offers weight but never shows up in full. The rest of the cast including Gul Panag, Jagjeet Sandhu, Niharika Lyra Dutt and Ishwak Singh fit the bill well, and it would have been even better if any other actor would have come in place of the Swastika Mukherjee, who is a turn off to the show’s otherwise top casting list.
 
Analysis
Paatal Lok’s plot definitely offers loads of space for chaos, confusion, drama and emotions. But after the first three episodes of the show, the proceedings start losing steam except for the occasional stretches which stand up strong due to the dialogues or the plain brutalism. This issue mainly occurs because the trailer revealed a little too much, making it easy for the viewer to guess the path that the show is going to take, but for a couple of instances where it manages to surprise. While the flashbacks of the four ‘Paatal Lok’ and the journalism angle are explored well, the in-house drama that comes with a lot of deja-vu is a downer. The show does try hard to spring up a surprise at the end of every episode, but the reveals lack the wow factor, which in turn act against the overall weight that is possessed.
 
Music and Other Departments
Paatal Lok largely believes in its writing and staging, with only a little attention paid to what is around. The music finds its groove in the flashback episodes, while the cinematography does the needful with a few startling frames done right. The episodes run-up to a maximum of 45-50 minutes, which makes it just the right time for an Indian series of this scale.
 
Highlights
Amazon Prime has once again delivered a series that cannot be written off so easily. Though there are setbacks here and there, Paatal Lok qualifies as a watchable fare with superb performances from three of the main names. It’s great to see Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi and Abhishek Banerjee bag roles worth their potential, and do a good job at it.
 
Drawbacks
Paatal Lok’s disability to throw off big surprises is its biggest flaw, and the series could have done with some more foreshadowing which would have helped the intensity and the intrigue set in with the right speed. It is quite disappointing that the series moves away from its main intent, which it sets up superbly in the first few episodes.
 
Do I recommend it?
Paatal Lok definitely can’t match up to the best Indian series out there, but this is something that can be watched if you are a fan of raw, rural dramas that intertwine themselves pretty nicely.
 

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