By Maithili Bisne :
CRIME suspense thrillers are fast becoming a favourite with the online binge-watchers and they can now add one more to the list - Paatal Lok. Amazon PrimeVideo has doled out this racy new story about a failed cop’s struggle to shine in his mundane workplace and about how he uncovers facts but also discovers pathos of human living. There is a new man in Outer Jamnapaar Police Station and his senior, Police Inspector Hathi Ram Choudhary (JaideepAhlawat), gives him a dose of his own Whatsapp gyan. Calling his jurisdiction a ‘Paatal Lok’, he explains how a cop’s life is listless and his duty inconsequential in that netherworld. Throughout the nine episodes of the show, on many occasions, it becomes the story of Hathi Ram’s personal failures and his desperation to rise above the tedium while the crime and investigation take a backseat. But that only draws one more into the narrative.
Amid drudgery, a high profile case suddenly drops into Hathi Ram’s lap. Delhi Police nab four accused and ask him to investigate the attempt to murder celebrity journalist Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi). It is his first big case and knowing that it could be his last, Hathi Ram suits up to make the most of it. However, with every two steps forward in the investigation, errors push him three steps back until he gets suspended. But too involved in the case by now, Hathi Ram continues to dig deeper, hinging precariously between the apparent and the inherent truth.
With every fresh peel he discovers the tart realities of society. While there are umpteen scenes where director Sudip Sharma makes one delve into the dark and demonic secrets that society’s underbelly hides, one is impelled to mention the one where a villager, in a property dispute with his brother, bargains with another man the rate to get his three nieces raped and pleads for a ‘bulk discount’. There is another blood-curdling scene in which mother of a ‘lower caste’ youth is gangraped in front of the family for hitting ‘upper caste’ youths. While most of the cast has taken the cue right, one feels Gul Panag is the only misfit. Her persona is too refined to be a convincing Renu behenji.
On the other hand, Neeraj Kabi as the snooty, glossy TV journalist Sanjeev Mehra, Ishwak Singh as Hathi Ram’s dependable assistant Ansari and Abhishek Banerejee as the menacing Hathoda Tyagi are most impactful. But only after the brilliant Jaideep Ahlawat. He is a failed cop and a frustrated father who keeps toiling on with the mediocrities of personal and professional life, and in fact goes beyond the template, so what if he is still the unsung hero.
The craggy-faced Ahlawat brings a fresh earnestness into his character where almost never does he get to play the nasty policeman we are so accustomed to. Sudip Mishra deserves accolades for packing the urban and rural, rich and poor divide with such fine nuance that we fail to even notice it, much like in real life. There are ample pointers towards present day political and news media scenario as well. However, the part about Hathi Ram’s son is completely predictable and appears like a rerun of something you have seen before. The twists and turns also lose their course at times. All in all, Paatal Lok from Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films may not be a masterpiece but is still binge-worthy. Happy binge-watching