My list of the five best web series of 2021 on OTT that you must watch, if you haven't

The OTT proved to be the chosen medium of entertainment when the joy of cinema halls was eclipsed by coronavirus. Five of the web series stood out, writes Subhash K Jha

Representative image
Representative image

Subhash K Jha

Here is my list of five best entertainers streamed on OTT (over-the-top) media this year:

1. City of Dreams 2: (Disney + Hotstar): City of Dreams produced by Applause Entertainment is about power, politics and personal losses, not strictly in that order. Nagesh Kukunoor and his co-writer Rohit Banawilkar weave in and out of fact and fiction creating a riveting political pastiche that proves what we already know: absolute power corrupts absolutely. The line dividing the world of politics and crime in City of Dreams is so thin, it is almost non-existent. One of this season’s great joys is to watch the amazing Priya Bapat play the estranged wife to a political activist Mahesh Aravale (Addinath M. Kothare, well played). And before we shout Aandhi, Kothare himself describes himself as Sanjeev Kumar in Gulzar’s film and even hums Tere bina zindagi se koi... to his estranged wife.

2. Bombay Begums: (Netflix) The five women in Bombay Begums (one of them just entering puberty) leave a lasting impression. This is a series like no other, replete with plot twists that will keep you watching until the very end. And when the ‘end’ comes, you want to know what these ladies will do with their lives after we leave them. Would they continue to so fabulously flawed? Or would they… ummm… mend their ways become faithful to their spouses? Would they stop thinking of good sex being preferable to a good marriage? Yup, women in Alankrita Shrivastava’s universe do stray from a solid marriage in search of solid sex. The everdependable Shahana Goswami is bang-on as the just a teensy-weensy guilty unfaithful wife (but why the symbolic cracked mirror in her bedroom?). And little Aadhya Anand as the girl who can’t wait for her periods to start is a delightfully young but wise narrator in a series that defies the norms of gender stereotyping but doesn’t make a brouhaha about being “bold” and “bindaas”. These women are what they are. Like them or not, you can’t ignore them.

3. The Family Man Season 2: (Amazon Prime) The new season of Family Man escapes The Curse of The Second Season. I mean, gawd, look at what happened to Mirzapur 2. The Family Man 2 is a lean, mean, sinewy, sexy, dramatic, and topical piece of work that shows a natural organic growth, from season 1. Though it runs into 10 episodes there is not an ounce of flab, as the sprawling yet taut narrative moves across a luscious labyrinth of global terrorism (helmed by the chilling presence of Samantha Akkineni) and domestic warfare. Ah, domestic strife! Our unlikely hero Srikant Tiwari is still at it. Super-skilled writing and an alert narration that catches the drama even as it falls, make this a constantly watchable sequel with actors from every generation pitching in with performances that sweep the storytelling forward into a sinfully engaging swoop of adventure and drama.

4. The Last Hour: (Amazon Prime) Although the plot may seem dense and unnecessarily cryptic to begin with, there is plenty to be admired in The Last Hour. In a market cluttered with serials of every hue, it dares to venture into the nevernever world of North Eastern mysticism, cracking the code of a gripping crime thriller while it moves along at a pace that is never too urgent but always heedful of the brisk momentum required by the thriller genre. The writing (by Anupama Minz and director Amit Kumar) secretes a kind of primeval wisdom that could be taken as borderline mumbo jumbo.

Set in an imaginary North Eastern state called Mangchen (which looks uncannily like Sikkim), this series is a visual treat, with cinematographer Jayesh Nair capturing the local flavours and rituals with more integrity than a touristic curiosity. The mountains, meadows lakes and streams are omnipresent. But they never overpower the characters. The Last Hour might not qualify as great entertainment, but it opens up a window into a world where we seldom dare to venture.

5. Decoupled: (Netflix) Ariot of marital discord, a carnival of profanities and a fiesta of frank speak. Decoupled is a year-end whammy, the kind never seen before on the Indian OTT platform. The extremely talented Madhavan plays a wickedly unfiltered pulp fiction writer who speaks his mind even if it means offending everyone around, and that includes us the audience and his pissed-off wife (Surveen Chawla). Manu Joseph's writing is sharp, witty, sarcastic and acerbic. The series is not everyone's cup of tea. It's more like black unfiltered coffee.

This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.

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