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Paatal Lok Review: Jaideep Ahlawat shines in this gripping thriller produced by Anushka Sharma

Actor Jaideep Ahlawat in ‘Paatal Lok’


Web Series Producers ? Clean Slate Films


» Anushka Sharma


» Karnesh Sharma


» Sudip Sharma


Web Series Directors


» Avinash Arun


» Prosit Roy




» Sudip Sharma


Amazon Prime gets into the big fray and this time they club it bigger, higher and mightier. It lands where it intends to, as you can hear the sound of something getting hit through the sweetest of spot. As far the story and script goes there is nothing saccharine about it, though in the end it leaves a great taste to remember and savor. It goes from strength to strength. It purposefully lets you insatiate so that you have no choice but to ask for more -may be a second helping (Season 2).


It’s a dark netherworld with nefarious characters typical of NCR. The story begins with arrest of four suspects out to get to a morally ambivalent top ranked prime-time TV journalist, Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi). DCP Bhagat Singh (Vipin Sharma) plays more than an active role in unearthing the plot and takes it a notch above by apprehending them in broad daylight. The case gets handed over to an apology of a police-station and is given to a cop, Hathiram Choudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat) whose history in achieving any breakthroughs is nothing to write home about.


But the loser in Choudhary sees a lot of potential in the case: first being it’s a high profile busted plot of a hypothetical assassination of a media darling and second he has a point or two to prove to people around him – beginning with his son and wife ending with his out-of-turn promoted underling to whom he ignominiously reports. He is assisted by a young, suave, and smart police officer, Imran Ansari (Ishwak Singh) who aspires to be an IAS and is giving it all to have a crack at it.


The meta plots unravels the underbelly of the society: the four alleged conspirators have their own story to tell. Each one of it is mired in varied shades from gruesome to grotesque. They are treated as scums and the arc never changes right from birth to four walls of prison. There is utter disdain for these lowly creatures and that’s a quintessential Paatal Lok for you the netherworld of grime and gruel.


Also read: Complaint filed against Anushka Sharma over remarks on Gorkha community in Paatal Lok


The Swarglok is the cream which floats at the top and is integral part represented through the swish set of the society: they live in opulent houses; pop champagnes; moves in Audis and BMWs; wheels and deals; and rake in all the big moolah. This bunch of movers and shakers sneers the middle rung and has nothing but contempt for the lower strata – the denizens of netherworld. In the series, Swarglok is replete with – petty politicians, pliant police, malignant media moguls, crony capitalists and blatantly blasé builders.


Paatal Lok is a crime thriller with its hot head on shoulder and a bleeding heart in its soul. It’s a noir-crime drama with its own crooked twists and charismatic turns. The media star is an ambiguous soul with no compunction and is always on a lookout for breakthroughs whether this happens in professional or personal life; it’s just another show-time for him. And when he is speeding up on his ego trip, which he embarks on every now and then, he unabashedly refers to himself in third person.


Mehras wife Dolly (Swastika Mukherjee ) ? disturbed, caring, loving and subdued –  undergoes anxiety attacks and she finds solace more in the company of canines than in her canny husband, which is a blessing in disguise as it pans out. She is aware of the shenanigans of her husband with his junior, but ignores it in bargain to have Savitri (a stray dog) by her side. The junior in the fray is Sara Mathews (Niharika Lyra Dutt ? strutting with confidence and living it as it is), an intrepid new age media personnel with a confused conscience. She gives in easily to machinations of her boss but before it’s too late realizes her folly and make amends both personally (by walking out on Mehra) and professionally (by walking-the-talk and finding her journalistic moral compass).


Hathirams history is of a loser and that’s how everyone, including himself, sees it. He is aware that -this case was handed over to him because of his track record (lack of it) ? it can be a game changer and he throws everything at it, including the kitchen sink. His son, Siddharth (Bodhisattva Sharma) is rebellious and his wife, Renu (Gul Panag) is industrious and dotes on her kid. In one scene when bluntly asked ?why you love him (the son) so much?? she counters ?one of us has to. It’s not a great family space to be in. The son goes to a school with high and mighty that makes him feel low and puny. He embarrasses himself and his family on umpteen occasions. This continues till his father loses it one day and depicts his muscle and mettle with small time goons and low brow gangsters to save his sons skin and his own spirit.


Out of four suspects, the spotlight is trained more on Hathoda Tyagi (Abhijit Banerjee ? playing a staid focused maniac with utmost conviction and proving that one do not have to shout out ones lungs to depict a deranged psychopath), a dog-loving serial murderer. He gets his name by his murder weapon – a hammer. He is prone to unruly rage against humans and at the same time unconditional love for dogs. He is a fanatic if there existed one. He is so fond of his Masterji? that one day when asked he just makes mincemeat of his own thumb, a modern merciless Eklavyaa in making.


The other three suspects have their own sad tales, which one is more poignant is a matter of debate. All are wronged by the system which extorts andexploitsin more ways than one. In one scene, father of one of them quips – ?Saheb, jisko maine musalmaan nahin banne diya, use aapne jihadi banadiya. The manipulations begin right from their childhood and continue to amp-up through their arrest, torture, interrogation, frame-ups and last but not the least when they find out, to their utter dismay and surprise, that they were part of an International Conspiracy plotted with ISI. From being new? to crime they morph into crime news. There is a Dalit with a sordid past, there is an uncircumcised Muslim with a forgetful communal lesson and then there is a man’s soul trapped in woman’s structure. All again are integral part of netherworld.


The story moves in and out of Delhi and takes us to putrid villages of Punjab, the hinterlands of UP and many other dark netherworlds. The drama unfolds like a taut thriller and maintains its energy and inertia simply through its script and storyline. Nothing gets overlooked ? the camerawork is marvelous and it’s non-intrusive to say the least. Kudos to the producer, writer, director and all the actors for creating this in-your-face crime drama with a socio-political hue.


Jaideep Ahlawat breathes life into Hathiram, his interpretation of the character will be remembered for a long time to come. Hathiram is fallible, vulnerable and is given to self-doubts and he portrays each and every emotion with conviction. And once he sniffs the scope and expanse of the botched up case, he comes into his own and in collaboration with Sara, Ansari, local journalist, and some unexpected saviors he pursues it with deadly doggedness and sprightful spirit. He has a thing to prove to the world and he proves it to the series characters around him and he hits right buttons with the series watchers as well. He may stumble in his duty but he performs his role without a single hitch or stumble. May be this lead will catapult him to an artistic league of Irrfan Khan, PankajTripathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Hathiram definitely hits the nail on the head (and unlike HathodaTyagi, he does it with his acting chops).


Neeraj Kabi (Mehra) as primetime star brings in gravitas and holds on to his own with flair. He balances his aggression with soft undertones and keeps it at surface without going overboard. He never misses the pulse of his character and fleshes it with loads of chutzpah. Ishwak Singh (Ansari) portrays the confusion if being a minority in majority very well, he has an angst but is all forgiving. He keeps hearing the subtle remarks, quips, jibes and loaded comment from almost every strata of the society. He comes out at top of his game throughout, its sheer belief in his own abilities as well as his trust in a deeper system that keeps him going. He is few of the calming influence in the dastardly narrative, and he never falters.


In one of the early episodes, DCP Bhagat tells Hathiram about the innards of the system which looks rotten from outside but actually works like a supremely well-oiled machine and any part or component, which does not fit-in gets replaced and is thrown in junkyard of scrap. Paatal Lok is a bold narrative which is fearless and fearsome at the same time, it musters upenough guts to call spade a bloody shovel. It does not merely scratch the surface; it digs deep and tears in the wounds deep and dirty. It uses sledgehammer with surgeons scalpel and its broad as well as its nuanced. It paints picture with thick brush strokes but fills them in with utmost care. It’s a brave take on our systemic rotten social, economic and political system. It exposes the rut but do not hesitate to put it across with a tight slap on our collective conscience.


Just one aspect which needs a special mention is that – the whole narrative is based on Tarun Tejpals novel The Story of My Assassins.  And I just wonder, just because he was in jail and now is out on bail for an alleged heinous act – his name has been taken off the credits. Is it the case? That begs the ethical question ? Is it right thing to do? It will be downright paradoxical to relate then with the human angles of the all the criminals incarcerated, rightly or wrongly ? dealt in Paatal Lok. Are the producers (Clean Slate Production) and the team not representing the same swish sets which they keep berating in the web series What the author Tejpal got to do with the Tarun who is in the dock So in the end, the conclusion is that the makers of Paatal Lok acted as any other member of the Swarglok they kept berating. Sad but true.


But all in all, a stupendous effort from Team PaatalLok, a must watch? on every ones list.


Stars: 4 on 5

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‘Parineeta,’ ‘Mardaani’ director Pradeep Sarkar passes away at 67




Radhika Dhawad | Mumbai
Renowned filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar, best known for films like Parineeta, Mardaani, etc., passed away at the age of 67.

Pradeep Sarkar

Renowned filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar, best known for films like Parineeta, Mardaani, etc., passed away at the age of 67 on Friday morning in Mumbai.  Sharing the news, director Hansal Mehta wrote, “Pradeep Sarkar. Dada. RIP.” Sarkar had been unwell for a while and was undergoing dialysis. His potassium levels had dropped drastically so had to be rushed to a hospital at 3 am on Friday.

Actor Ajay Devgn, on his Twitter, wrote, “The news of Pradeep Sarkar’s demise, ‘Dada’ to some of us is still hard to digest. My deepest condolences. My prayers are with the departed and his family. RIP Dada.”

Actor Manoj Bajpayee retweeted Hansal Mehta’s tweet and he wrote, “Ohh! That’s so shocking! Rest in peace Dada.” Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, in his tribute, wrote, “Sad to know that well known brilliant filmmaker of our country Pradeep Sarkar ji passes away. A great loss to the film industry. Heartfelt condolences to his family and near ones.”

Sarkar, who first worked as an editor on Munna Bhai MBBS, had directed several evergreen music videos that went on to define excellence in visual appeal and storytelling in the 90’s including Euphoria’s ‘Dhoom Pichak Dhoom,’ ‘Maaeri’ and Sultan Khan’s ‘Piya Basanti’ and Bhupen Hazarika’s ‘Ganga.’ 

Sarkar’s funeral will take place at 4 pm at Santacruz Hindu Crematorium in Mumbai. “It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that Pradeep Sarkar has departed for his heavenly abode. Please join us at 4pm for his funeral at Santacruz Hindu Crematorium to say goodbye to him,” read an official statement.

Also read: 900 accidents, 31 deaths in 100 days: Samruddhi Mahamarg still a road to prosperity?

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Inside the famous ₹1.3 crore worth gift bag given to Oscar nominees this year…




Radhika Dhawad | Los Angeles

Oscar gift bag: The gift bag worth ₹1.3 crore is given to nominees who don’t go home with the Oscar award this year.

Oscars is giving out gift bags worth ₹1.3 crore to nominees who don’t go home with the Oscar award this year. Such is the value of the gift bag that brands pay an exorbitant fee just to be included in the hope that celebrities will promote them.

According to a report by Marketing Brew, brands pay a $4,000 (approximately ₹3.28 lakh) to have their product/service in the bag.

What is in the gift bag this time?

  • Luxurious skincare products
  • Bath ritual sets
  • Celebrity-founded tequila
  • Luxury vacations to Italy and Canada
  • Art Lipo body sculpting
  • High-tech meditation orb
  • Flip flops
  • Various luxury food items such as honey, biscuits and more
  • One-square metre plot of land in Queensland, Australia 
  • Cosmetic surgery vouchers
  • Inside are skincare products from Miage
  • Silk pillowcase from Blush Silks
  • Travel pillow from PETA

Premium products from…

  • Ariadne Athens Skin Wellness
  • All Better Co., 
  • Bored Rebel, 
  • Daily Energy Cards, 
  • Effecti-cal, 
  • Kind Reason Co., 
  • KnowingLabs, 
  • Maison Construction, 
  • NaturGeeks, 
  • Rareté Studios, 
  • ReFa, 
  • Proflexa, 
  • Oxygenetix,
  • Millions-Billions-Trillions Brand, among others

Featuring over 60 items, the gift bag this year has several premium beauty and lifestyle gifts, luxury vacations including a $40,000  (over ₹32 lakhs) getaway to a Canadian estate called The Lifestyle, a stay for eight people in a restored Italian lighthouse and ‘a symbolic souvenir’ of a piece of land in Queensland in Australia!

Those wanting to renovate their homes can use the $25,000 (over ₹20 lakhs) worth project management fees for home restoration from Maison Construction apart from lipo-arm sculpting, hair restoration services and a facelift.

While over 50% of the products reportedly come from companies that are women and minority-owned, the gifts will be delivered in Havaianas suitcases this year. The least expensive gifts include a pack of Clif Thins priced at $13.56, and an $18 loaf of Japanese milk bread from Ginza Nishikawa.

Who receives this coveted gift?

The Oscar gift bags are given to the hosts and the nominees for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Howevr, the recipients also have the right to refuse to accept gifts. Last year, actor Denzel Washington reportedly declined his gift and actor JK Simmons donated it to a charity auction, as did George Clooney in 2006. Moreover, the products and services in the bag are a gift, the recipient does need to pay taxes on it, as it is considered an income.

Also read: Oscars 2023: ‘Naatu Naatu’ from ‘RRR’ wins Best Original Song

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Oscars 2023: ‘Naatu Naatu’ from ‘RRR’ wins Best Original Song




Radhika Dhawad | Los Angeles

A still from ‘Natu Natu’

‘Natu Natu’ song from SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus movie RRR created history be becoming first Indian film ever to win an Oscar for the Best Original Song at Oscars 2023 on Sunday at Los Angeles. 

Keeravaani, music composer of the song, accepted the award in a musical fashion, describing the song as ‘the pride of India’ and greeting Oscar audiences with a ‘namaste.’ RRR is the first Indian film in over two decades to be nominated for the Academy Awards while ‘Naatu Naatu‘ was the first Indian song to be nominated at the Oscars.

In the category, the Telugu song was nominated alongside ‘Applause’ from from “Tell It Like a Woman”, ‘Hold My Hand’ from “Top Gun: Maverick,” ‘Lift Me Up’ from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and ‘This Is a Life’ from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Last week, legendary music composer AR Rahman had told ANI, “I want Natu Natu to win awards, I want them to win the Grammy also because any award for any of us will lift India up and the concentration of our culture will become higher.”

He added, “I thought it (India getting a nomination) would start ten years back. It’s 12 years late. This should happen every year from India because we are a country of 1.3 billion people and there are amazing geniuses in every aspect of filmmaking. Most of the movies don’t enter the competition. At least they (makers of RRR) had the thing to put it out there. If nobody knows your movie, who is going to vote for it? I wish them the very best and I want them to win.”

As of 2022, apart from Mother India, only two Indian films have been nominated for the Oscars are Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Lagaan (2001). however, both the movies couldn’t bag the prestigious award.

In 2008, AR Rahman won two awards at the Oscars for his work on the Hollywood production Slumdog Millionaire, set in India, with an all-Indian cast however it was not India’s entry.

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