[VoxSpace Selects] Year End Round Up 2019 : Best Indian Web Shows And What Makes Them Outstanding

Catering To The Demand For Content

The entertainment industry in our country plays a major part in shaping our lifestyle and expanding our social groups. Hence, the demand for more and more content keeps increasing quite regularly. This is being very well catered to by the various OTT platforms across the nation and from the outside as well. Now, this year, in particular, has given us some truly incredible shows filled with great storylines, a mix of young and raw talent of actors, the experienced crop of actors looking to explore and experiment, and some immensely promising technicians. Along with some of the popular names who stepped into the OTT space, we have seen many new and talented artists who have come into the limelight and reckoning. As the year comes to an end, we at VoxSpace have come up with a series called ‘Year End Round Up 2019’ where we would be discussing and embracing the best of the entertainment industry that has given us some gems this year. Following is the list of the web shows which we found outstanding…

Delhi Crime (Netflix)

Delhi Crime is a crime drama series that is based on the Nirbhaya gang-rape case that took place in Delhi in 2012. The series which was released on Netflix in March 2019, follows the story in the aftermath of the gang rape, where Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Vartika Chaturvedi (played by Shefali Shah) is tasked to find the culprits, responsible for the assaults and death of the female victim.

Dealing with a sensitive subject, the series is written and made very well and is bound to keep you hooked throughout the show. Almost all the actors involved in the show like Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, Adil Hussain, Rasika Dugal, Gopal Dutt, and others, put in an honest and a nuanced performance which makes the character look real and their emotions authentic. Credits to the writer and director Richie Mehta, who put together a brilliant team that brought his vision out with utmost care which transformed into a product full of class.

Available on Netflix

TVF’s Kota Factory (YouTube)

TVF’s Kota Factory, a drama and comedy series is India’s first black and white web series, created by Saurabh Khanna, which released in April on YouTube and TVF Play. The show follows the life of the 17-year-old Vaibhav (played by Mayur More) who moves to Kota from Itarsi. The show shows the life of students in the city, and Vaibhav’s efforts to get into IIT.

Directed by Raghav Subbu, Kota Factory is a brilliantly made show which tells you a deeply rooted story with an amazing narrative in a unique and effective manner. A tightly written story, Kota Factory is elevated by some incredible performances by Mayur More, Ranjan Raj, and Jitendra Kumar. The music, composed by Karthik Rao and Simran Hora is another factor that stands out in Kota Factory. Special mention to the cinematographer, Jerin Paul, and the editor Gourav Gopal Jha who together create scenes that are very simple, yet so beautiful that you will be fascinated by what’s panning out in the series.

Available on YouTube and TVF Play

Out Of Love (HotStar)

Out of Love is a thriller drama series based on Doctor Foster by Mike Bartlett, adapted by Hotstar. The story is about Meera (played by Rasika Dugal) who begins to suspect every female associate of her husband Akarsh (played by Purab Kohli), after she finds a stray hair that is not hers. Out of Love was released on Hotstar in November 2019.

Out of Love is a fast-paced drama series that keeps unraveling as you keep on watching the story unfold. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Aijaz Khan, the USP of this series is that it makes the audience a part of the narrative and makes them ponder along with the characters about what’s panning out. This story has a strong, independent and urban Indian woman as its nucleus and Rasika Dugal portrays the character in a very realistic manner, hence driving the story forward with an incredible performance.

Available on Hotstar

Little Things Season 3 (Netflix)

Kavya and Dhruv (played by Mithila Palkar and Dhruv Sehgal) have come a long way. From popcorn munching meet-cute four years back in Season One, the couple have graduated into world-bearing conflicted adults in Season Three. Initially streamed on Dice Media’s YouTube channel, the show starting from Season Two has become a Netflix presentation. Perhaps one of internet’s most adored couple, Kavya-Dhruv have found resonance with the current generation of audience, with their palpable moral conundrums and unwavering ambitions. This season of Little Things operates within the framework of personal lifegoals, and far-fetched accommodations as their relationship is tested to the core both by passage of time and separation of distance.

The aspirational couple goals as set by Kavya-Dhruv over the period of their relationship, that of almost four years, has always been speckled with keenly observed nuances, whimsical ramblings, lazy banters and thoughtful gazes. This season however notches up the nuances of the leads, when they are pushed to deal with their families and their past relationships, and come to terms with their individualistic priorities. Pangs of nostalgia effect the couple as they start observing life from perspectives beyond themselves. This season specifically stands out for its stellar casting as the characters, old and new start to effect Kavya-Dhruv in ways they never imagined. A poignant character study, Little Things thus remains one of the best written shows to come out online this year.

Available on Netflix

Pandu (MXPlayer)

MXPlayer’s Pandu, created and directed by Sarang Sathaye and Anusha Nandakumar, (for a Bharatiya Digital Party production) takes up a slice of life viewing of Mumbai Police. The series tells the story of Mumbai Police, through its lead protagonist Sri Prasad Kamble (played by Suhas Sirsat) in all its unassuming regularity and in doing so makes you wonder not just about a rapidly changing world but also the people inhabiting it. Sidestepping from the chest-pumping police procedurals, Pandu’s magic lies in its keen observations of a regular life, decorated with sweet nothings and region-specific quirks. True to the saying – What is the most personal, is the most general, Pandu never tries to overachieve its narrative. Rather it takes pride in its circumstantial humor, a perfect middle-class antidote to an ever-existing pathos often colored by financial constraints.

The series finds its protagonist, Sri Prasad Kamble, dabbling with mundane objectives and absurd cases which require tact and a beating heart to overcome. The makers refrain from unnecessarily glorifying the Police Department, but rather resort to patiently sitting on a wooden bench, having a cup of chai and just happily observe it. The makers are interested in speaking about issues like Class Divide, Fatigue, Ambitions, Relationships and more, in a tone which is casual yet effective. Almost like a friend, than like a professor. Pandu also works wonders because of its stellar cast which includes – Deepak Shirke (as Hawaldar Gaikwad), Prajakta Salbarde (as Constable Choudary), Trupti Khamkar (as Pandu’s optimistic wife) and Abish Mathew (as DCP George Fernandes). Pandu’s episodes are little packets of joy and remains one of the most delightful shows to come out this year.

Available on MXPlayer

TVF’s Gullak (SonyLIV)

TVF’s Gullak is a treasure trove of moments happening within the Mishra residence located in the throwaway lanes of heartland India. The show written by Nikhil Vijay and directed by Amrit Raj Gupta, talks about vignettes of life encompassed within a crumbling ancestral house and a regular dreamy eyed household, constituted by a lazed up father, Santosh Mishra (Jameel Khan), his nose tip tempered motor mouthed but gold-hearted wife, Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni), rounded up by the couple’s eldest show-off yet adorable son, Annu (Vaibhav Raj Gupta) and the younger school going son, Aman (Harsh Mayar). Between them, the family faces simplistic tasks of dreaming about an unforeseeable future of repairing the weary house, repairing a broken water motor, fighting for aloo parathas, planning to buy a vehicle and going into a frenzy over inviting a guest. Gullak is about eccentric nothings within the framework of a beating heart and beautiful optimism.

Gullak works best when it is seen from a point of a view of a middle-class upbringing. There is so much to be observed in terms of finer details and artwork, which is bound to take the average urban viewer on a momentary nostalgic trip back to their hometown. From pretentiously poking neighbors, to judgmental colleagues to competitive parents, and to rounding up dinners with a single brick of chocolate ice-cream. Devoid of overhyped narrative structures, conflicts or high stakes, Gullak is a breath of fresh rustic air to live in a moment, perhaps reminiscing times of family gatherings, talking about random topics under clear skies, whilst munching on raw mangoes. Thus, Gullak becomes an essential viewing this year, for its honest and loving heart.

Available on SonyLIV

Kaafir (Zee5)

Set in the war-sensitive landscapes of Kashmir, and told at a time of Indo-Pak political upheaval back in 1998, Kaafir tells the true story of Shainaz, an innocent Pakistani girl who was wrongfully imprisoned in India for a period of seven years on the pretext of her being a militant. Within the series, the titular role now changed to Kainaaz Akhtar (played by Dia Mirza), the political timestamps of interstate agendas is spreadout with broad details. However, what works rather brilliantly for the series is the manner in which it deals with these rather tentative socio-political conundrums, through its victimized protagonist. Kainaaz is an optimistic prisoner who slowly understands the way of life within the prison and without it. In dealing with her present tragedy, she maintains a stern and unwavering sense of optimism, which unnerves the governments pitted against her. In due course, her hope is rewarded in terms of Vedanth Rathod (Mohit Raina) a brooding cynical lawyer turned journalist, who finds Kainaaz’s case to be a means to achieve an emotional catharsis, for the sudden and cruel personal tragedy he’s faced.

Kaafir written by Bhavani Iyer (of Raazi) and Directed by Sonam Nair, is a measuredly detailed handling of a sensitive issue. Never taking political standpoints, Bhavani and Sonam ensure that Kaafir remains a detached commentary on the wrong doings of failing administrations. They acutely focus on Kainaaz’s grit and courage in dealing with men around her, a prison pregnancy and an eventual fight against establishment. Dia Mirza infuses her natural innocence to the character, making Kainaaz highly relatable and yet equally aspirational. She is ably supported by Mohit Raina, who puts his incredible screen-presence and brooding aura to best use, whilst pushing skeptical viewpoints in a senseless world. Kaafir thus becomes an important time-relevant series which celebrates the victory of survival.

Available on Zee5

Made In Heaven (Amazon Prime Video) 

Boasting a stellar ensemble cast and magnificent production design, Made In Heaven is an Amazon show, produced by Excel Entertainment and written by Zoya Akhtar, Alankrita Shrivastava, and Reema Kagti. The show consists of 10 hour- long episodes, directed by 4 different directors – Zoya Akhtar, Alankrita Shrivastava, Prashant Nair, and Nitya Mehra. The thematic overview of the show is – the bridging of traditionalism and modernism, against the backdrop of big fat Indian weddings.

It traces the journey of two wedding planners, Karan (Arjun Mathur) and Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) who jointly own the wedding planning agency named Made in Heaven. The show explores the various dynamics involved in Indian weddings, unusual and complicated events that depict the innate human core values through the eyes of the two protagonists. The show also stars Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Shashank Arora, Vijay Raaz and Shivani Raghuvanshi in lead roles. The fast-paced writing and brilliant performances enable the show to feel like a perfect cruise you’d love to binge on a Sunday. One of the highlights of the show is the re-watchability, which is rarely found in today’s Indian shows. The show is primarily based in Delhi and the various plotlines within serve as an abstract commentary on contemporary issues like LGBTQ community, class divide, traditional customs, patriarchal mindset and the complexities of Indian society, in general.

Available on Amazon Prime Video

Laakhon Mein Ek Season 2 (Amazon Prime Video)

Season 2 of Laakhon Mein Ek released in April this year, which revolved around medical practice and government healthcare in India. Starring Shweta Tripathi and Sandeep Mehta as protagonists, the show focuses on the healthcare provision in a rural Indian village called Sitlapur, wherein a medical (cataract) camp is set up, medical supplies fall short due to unstable political scenarios and medical practitioners are not great team players.

Even though this season received mixed critical feedback, the detailing in the rural setup and real depiction of the medical climate helped the show stand out. Written by stand-up comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath, Abhishek Sengupta, and Hussain Haidry, with a total of 8 episodes directed by Abhishek Sengupta, it is a promising show which thrives on its performances but falls short in terms of writing. The show is available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Available on Amazon Prime Video

The Family Man (Amazon Prime India)

The Family Man tells the story of a Seemingly boring middle-aged dad Srikant Tiwari. Little does his family know he is an intelligence officer working for T.A.S.C, a fictitious branch of the National Investigation Agency. This Amazon original is brought to us by the duo Raj & D.K, who are known for their slick and stylish entertainers like 99, Shor in the City, and Go Goa Gone.

They bring the same sense of pacing over to the show, which makes it move at a super-fast pace. While there are issues with the factual accuracy of some of the politics they touch on, but these can easily be looked over due to the amazing wit of the show. Added to this the brilliant performances from Manoj Bajpayee and Priyamani make this one of the most entertaining delights OTT platforms have to offer this year.

Available on Amazon Prime Video

TVF’s Girls Hostel (YouTube)

Girls Hostel is another innovative and uber-cool sitcom coming out of the talent pool that is TVF. They have been really upping their game on making really qualitative content while also staying relevant, and Girls Hostel is my personal favorite of the lot. The show tells the story of a group of students staying at a girls hostel and the hilarious hijinks they get into. We are introduced to this world through the eyes Richa (played by the always radiant Ahsaas Channa) who seems very meek when we first meet her.

Over the course of the next five episodes, we see her evolve and fit into the crazy world of the hostel. The rest of the quirky cast is filled with some of the best female talent coming out of TVF from Shrishti Shrivastava to Parul Gulati to Simran Natekar and so on. What makes the show really stand out is the beautifully written dialogue and sharp direction from Chaitanya Kumbakonum, which is elevated by the beautifully staged yet unobtrusive cinematography by Ashwin Kadamboor. Hence this spot on our list.

Available on TVF Play & YouTube

The Verdict – State Vs Nanavati (ALTBalaji)

The Verdict, a crime thriller series directed by Shashant Shah & Raminder Singh Suri, is based on the infamous K M Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case, where an Indian Naval Command Officer, Kawas Nanavati is accused of the murder of a businessman, Prem Ahuja. The story is about Nanavati (played by Manav Kaul) who returns home after a successful mission and finds out that his wife Slyvia Nanavati (Elli AvrRam) is having an extra-marital affair with Prem Ahuja (Viraf Patel). The web show which has 10 episodes and stays true to the actual events that panned out, while even using real names of the people who were involved in this infamous case.

The Verdict, a courtroom drama has a fast-paced narrative and many intriguing subplots that will keep the audience hooked to the series. The murder mystery deals with various issues and problems existing in high-class society in a well crafted manner while subtly commenting upon the political situations and Indian Judiciary system during that time. The series is elevated by the pool of talented ensemble cast which includes the likes of Manav Kaul, Elli AvrRam, Sumeet Vyas, Viraf Patel, Makrand Deshpande, Soni Razdan, Saurabh Shukla, Angad Bedi, and Kubbra Sait among others. The series, a rare court-room drama to come out in Indian webspace, deals with the controversial case with utmost understanding of the characters. Balancing sensationalism with acute drama The Verdict is a pacy thriller with enough to make you binge watch it.

Available on ALTBalaji and ZEE5

Thus, we hope the list never ends at the turn of the year and extend our congratulations to those wonderful stories which occupied our imagination.