Directors: Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy
Critic’s rating: 3.5 stars
Duration: Nine episodes, Streaming May 15 onwards
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Story: A disgruntled cop is assigned a high-profile case of a murder attempt, which leads him to a rabbit hole of hidden motives and deceit.
Review: Inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat) has given up on his dream of being a success story. Way past his prime, he now reports to an officer who was his junior. Unable to keep up with the laws of the world — sycophancy, moving with the times, command over English — he is happy to see his much younger colleague Ansari (Ishwak Singh) achieve what he couldn’t.
Mulling over his ordinary life, he tells Ansari, how he is a permanent member of the Paatal lok (underworld or netherworld according to ancient Hindu scriptures), and can only see Swarg lok (heaven where successful people reside) from a distance. Turns out, he gets what he asks for — a pass to the Swarg lok in the form of a high profile crime case. For the first time in his life, he is assigned something important, that could help him earn his family’s respect. But even the people who reside in heaven have a price to pay.
The cop lands an nvestigation of four criminals — Vishal Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee), Tope Singh (Jagjeet Sandhu), Kabir M. (Aasif Khan), and Cheeni (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh) — nabbed by Delhi Police for a failed assassination attempt of prominent TV journalist Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi). But things are not what they seem. Can Hathi Ram Chaudhary make this golden career opportunity count?
Produced by Anushka Sharma, Amazon Prime Video’s Paatal Lok, is an engaging
crime thriller-cum-police procedural set in and around Delhi. The investigative drama manages to hold your attention as the protagonist tries to solve the jigsaw puzzle. Meticulously crafted, Sudip Sharma‘s metaphorical writing, Avinash Arun’s cinematography and terrific performances by Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi and Ishwak Singh make you a part of the hunt. You are as persistent and curious to know the truth as the protagonist.
After the first few suspenseful episodes, the case spirals into social commentary on prime time media, power, politics, discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, dog love, anxiety issues and more. That’s where the makers start losing grip over their narrative as they try to bite off more than they can chew. Too many sub plots and backstories weigh down the pace and your patience.
Towards the end, the story gets fairly tedious, resulting in an over cluttered, over stretched, muddled mess. It tries to touch upon too many things and becomes too complicated to comprehend. “If you cannot convince them, confuse them”, is the end result.
To sum it up, Paatal Lok has a captivating and compelling buildup and it will keep you on your toes. But be prepared for a tiring climax that leaves you hanging. A bit tighter and this one would have been a better series. Watch it for the performances, buildup and great chase sequences, nonetheless.