Until a couple of years back, when someone talked about Indian shows, they were most likely referring to the Saas-Bahu soap operas that played in Indian households and generated huge TRPs for all television channels. However, with the advent of streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hotstar, India has produced some phenomenal TV shows, a lot of which are on par with their global counterparts. The ever increasing demand for high-quality shows has been beneficial to consumers and companies alike. This revolution of online content has also brought some exceptional actors to the limelight. 2019 saw some high-budget productions which captivated both the audience and the critics.
Here’s a list of some of the best TV shows from this year that you can binge before the start of 2020.
Made in Heaven
Made in Heaven tells the story of a wedding planning company (named Made in Heaven) based in New Delhi, with the company organising a different wedding in every episode. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, the show has been directed by four different directors through its 9-episode run.
At the surface, it is a depiction of the problems faced by people wedding business with each episode showing the story of a different wedding. However, there is an overarching plot that revolves around the lives of Karan and Tara, the owners of Made in Heaven, and other employees in the company. Most of the characters in the show come from wealthy, privileged households and remain blissfully unaware of the problems that the lower strata of the society face. Through its extravagant weddings and theatrical displays of wealth and power, the show exposes the hypocrisy of the upper class in a way that has never been seen in Indian media before. It shows how the privileged elite continues to practice outdated and sexist traditions in the name of preserving culture while appearing modern and progressive to the outer world. The show’s biggest success is that it is one of the most realistic depictions of life as a gay man in India. It shies away from stereotypes, adds depth to its queer characters, and unapologetically criticises the inherent homophobia in our society.
Every year lakhs of Indian students write the IITJEE with the hopes of securing a seat in the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology. As the number of students writing the exam increases year by year, the IIT coaching industry has also progressed rapidly. It has grown to become a billion-dollar market. The success of Kota Factory can mostly be attributed to this Indian obsession with IITs. The show managed to outdo big-budget productions by global giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime and attracted millions of viewers across the country.
Kota Factory, created by The Viral Fever, follows the journey of Vaibhav, a 17-year-old from Madhya Pradesh who arrives at Kota with the dream of clearing the IITJEE. Kota has become a hub for IITJEE coaching in India – every year, thousands of students come to the city, hoping that it would be the portal to a secure future. The show depicts the everyday struggles of the students in the city – the homesickness, academic pressure, and the monotony of the preparation days. As the days pass by, Vaibhav manages to find solace amidst the chaos through his friendship with Meena and Uday, two other students in the same coaching institute. Vaibhav finds a mentor in Jeetu Bhaiya, a Physics teacher in the coaching institute, who guides him throughout the show and helps him with any problem that he faces. The show’s black-and-white setting reflects the dull and depressing years that the students spend there. Kota Factory makes for an entertaining watch through five episodes filled with love, drama, and companionship, but at the same time manages to show an incredibly realistic depiction of life in the city.
The Family Man
The Amazon Prime series transcends nationalities, religions, and focuses on one fundamental aspect of life—family. An entity that prods us to relinquish personal identity in lieu of a collective one, demanding commitment and submission. The show provides a refreshing comic touch to the conventional spy-thrillers, as we can see in several moments of the show. The Family Man walks a delicate tonal tightrope, successfully shrouding its lofty ideas under the middle-class sensibilities of its hero, Srikant, played by an in-on-the-joke Manoj Bajpayee. Employed at an intelligence agency in Mumbai, Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (TASC), Srikant’s regular day at work involves shooting, interrogating and capturing terrorists. The nature of his job – concerning national security – demands that it must remain a secret. Srikant complies, letting the professional overpower the personal. The comic bursts into the middle will keep the mood of the serious-plot series exciting. These light-hearted scenes are inspired by the most common of things, such as everyday traffic commute frustration, kids asking privacy from parents, kids rummaging through their parent’s stuff and man more.
The Family Man is a consistently engaging show, even when you find yourself disagreeing with it. The action, particularly a slum shootout made to appear as if it has been shot in a single take, is impressively staged; Manoj Bajpayee is, as he usually tends to be, effortlessly excellent; and Raj & DK, at long last, seem to be back in the game.
Sacred Games 2
The wait was worth it. One of the best Netflix releases of this year—Sacred Games’ second installation was bigger, mightier, and weirder than its counterpart. The making of Ganesh Gaitonde has everything you would expect from a classic Netflix tale and more.
The story starts with Gaitonde captive on a boat in the middle of the ocean. It’s here that he meets agent Yadav, who sends him to Kenya. Gaitonde becomes Vivian Shah and builds an empire in Mombasa smuggling drugs and weapons. But this time, he isn’t the dominant, swaggering gangster of old. He’s vulnerable, besieged by insecurity and an identity crisis. Gaitonde’s state of mind makes him easy prey for Guruji, who runs an ashram teeming with drugs and sex in Croatia. On the other hand, Sartaj has gained momentum in his career as he leads a case investigating terrorist groups. While the first season was an absolute Gaitonde riot, the second elevates some other major characters and introduces a new one—a terrific Pankaj Tripathi as Guruji.
We can see Anurag Kashyap’s trademark style of showing time-lapse—news clips, songs and unique props. He never lets you lose the temporal sense, not even for a minute. A barrage of political comments is unleashed at us right there, and you understand how political it could be if it is based on the people we think it is.
The tame end is somewhat mitigated by the performances that, given the cast, are naturally top-notch. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Gaitonde provides comic relief with his bossy dialogue delivery but also evokes sympathy as a vulnerable individual. Pankaj Tripathi is eerily calm as Guruji and brings to life a deceptively approachable character.
On the whole, the second season manages to hold the bar with fantastic performances and a plot that reaches beyond gangland rivalries to tackle relevant communal issues.
The name ‘Mirzapur’ traces its etymology back to the Persian words Emir (commander ) and Zad ( lineage) and translates to ‘place of a king’. It’s an apt title for Amazon Prime’s third made-in-India original, a crime series that ventures beyond familiar terrain.
Directed by Karan Anshuman, Mihir Desai, and Gurmeet Singh, Mirzapur boasts of an excellent ensemble cast and a story that on paper, has all the ingredients for another small town crime potboiler. Set in the hinterland of North India, Mirzapur traces the journey of two brothers, Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Bablu (Vikrant Massey), as they get enmeshed in the world of a local don, Kaleen Bhaiyya (Pankaj Tripathi). As we vicariously follow their new tale through all its twists and turns, it is hard not to get swept up by this stylish, rustic world where violence rules and shocks are aplenty. The violence in Mirzapur is gratuitously graphic and the language overly abhorrent.
The performances in Mirzapur are played at a high-scale that is comparable to traditional Hindi cinema; they are active across the board without being groundbreaking. Divyenndu and Vikrant Massey are commendable in their roles, each managing to earn some sympathy even though their characters are never up to any good. Pankaj Tripathi has played gangsters and criminals several times in his career, and it’s a testament to his talent that he brings new shades to the cliched figure of the ageing godfather trying to hold on to his accumulated spoils.
All in all, Mirzapur is a thoroughly exhilarating ride. With season 1 ending an episode too soon, we will be waiting for season 2 with bated breath.
Written By Alankriti Singh and Sudarshan Sivakumar for MTTN
Edited By Siri Rajanahally
Featured Image by Yash Saraf