Paatal Lok is a one-of-a-kind web-series. It takes you through hell, literally, uncovering all the lives and characters and stories around, through an investigation in the assassination attempt on journalist Sanjeev Mehra. Reviews for the shows have been unanimously great. What makes it tick? I tried exploring some of the themes that went into making this web-series a monumental effort.
- The Well-defined Characters
However small a character, Paatal Lok gave them the story and life, and a definition in itself. Take, for example, Hathi Ram Chaudhary’s son Siddharth Chaudhary has a comparatively very small role. There’s a clear definition, though, of why he is the way he is, and there’s also a resolution to his character. The same goes for the wife Renu. Renu’s brother, in fact, has a minuscule role, but it never feels undefined.
- The Layers – Breathtakingly Deep
The story runs deep. 4 convicts – different backgrounds, and different backstory. Then, the policemen. Then, the politicians. The journalists. Their families. If you were to simply create a character web – where you relate characters to places and to each other, it will take you days. And the creators managed it, yet not overpowering the story. In fact, how naturally everything fits in the story is breathtakingly beautiful to observe, after you’ve been drawn into it and watched it thoroughly.
- The Accents – Lost Count
The accents in this film are so varied and different. It brings so much authenticity to the characters that it is almost unbelievable. Take for example the usual Delhi liberal’s accent of both Hindi and English and high usage of English in Sanjeev Mehra, to his wife Dolly’s smooth shift from a true Bengali to English, from Jatts to Majars, from Bihari to Purvanchali, from Nepali to Gujjar, there’s so much more variety to the accents. Yes, you have to read the subtitles at times, but that’s the power of the medium. It also showcases some of the powerful actors in different regions.
- It Attacks Liberals (quite literally)
While it is normal for strong series to be left-leaning and whatnot, it is rare to see a web series that attacks liberalism right at the base. Today’s liberals, as is rightly shown (never said), are a convenient bunch. Dialogues like ‘it’s easy for liberals – to find someone from minority or LGBTQ to look for human story’ attack right at the base. Or the extra-marital affair and ‘I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me’ explanation. It has exposed the bare roots of modern-day liberalism, and I, a supposed liberal, stand in awe.
- It Shows the Good and the Bad Side of both the Villians and Heroes – Merging them into One
‘Masterji’ may be evil, but he is not pure evil. The four convicts have a story each. None of the policemen are clean – except one perhaps. Which is another part of the goodness of paatal lok to be discussed. Even the kids aren’t as clean – of either side. Politicians are, for the first time, truly shown as both good and evil. Their drama, as well as good work.
- Idealism and Romanticism
When Hathi Ram Chaudhary gets the case, he gives in his everything to the case. The idealism and romanticism, as shown, aren’t limited to the fresh policeman Imran Ansari. The idea, portrayed, is everyone is so true whenever they start something that some form of idealism comes in. This, despite the knowledge of the realities. And it is true in real life too. Imagine voters putting trust in someone new after being duped again and again.
- It Gives us a Path
Through everything that is all dark and gloomy, the web series ends up providing us a pathway. A pathway to truth. Years later, it is the only thing that remains, isn’t it? Be it in love for animals, or in love for the ethics of our profession. Giving in more detail will lead to spoilers, but it is so expertly done, that you know the right and the wrong in your heart. You somehow side by the right, you cheer Hathi Ram’s quest, you want the evil to be punished, and so on.
- The Performances are Beyond Ordinary
Putting one name here will be an insult to the entire cast. It is so beautifully done that you can simply assume that there’s no actor. It is real life going on, and you are just an audience. In a way, it helps immerse into the world of Paatal Lok.