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While 2020 was perhaps the most difficult year of our lives, there were several South Asian web series that were so good, they kept us distracted from everything that was happening all around us. Here are just some of the many impressive titles:

1.

Scam 1992 — The Harshad Mehta Story


SonyLIV

Scam 1992 is the story of stockbroker Harshad Mehta, the “Amitabh Bachchan of BSE”, and the person behind the biggest financial scam to have come out of India. It is directed by the celebrated Hansal Mehta and has the dazzling Pratik Gandhi playing its titular character.

Where do I watch it?: SonyLIV

2.

Paatal Lok


Prime Video

An incredulous Delhi Police officer Hathi Ram Chaudhary’s life changes when he is tasked with investigating a high-profile case—an assassination attempt on journalist Sanjeev Mehra—and is dragged into the murky underbelly of India’s heartland.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video.

3.

Mirzapur (Season 2)


Prime Video

Deeply entrenched in blood, guns, drugs, deceit, and power politics, Mirzapur documents the life of Akhandanand Tripathi, or Kaleen Bhaiya, who will stop at nothing to hold on to his position as the mafia lord of Mirzapur, despite the recklessness of his unworthy son, Munna. The second season came with more drama, bloodshed, and…memes.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

4.

Churails


Zindagi / ZEE5

A fabulously feminist web series from Pakistan, Churails follows the lives of four women who get together to form a detective agency that exposes the many rich and unfaithful husbands of Karachi. Every single performance is rock solid and so is the title track.

Where do I watch it?: ZEE5

5.

Panchayat


Prime Video

Panchayat is a truly heart-warming show that revolves around the life of Abhishek Tripathi, a recent engineering graduate, who moves to the tiny village of Phulera as a Panchayat secretary and adapts to the place and its rather simple people. The cast is stellar with names like Neena Gupta, Raghuvir Yadav, and Jitendra Kumar. Watch out for Chandan Roy, who plays the adorable Vikas.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

6.

Bad Boy Billionaires: India


Netflix

In just three episodes (the fourth is unreleased because of legal reasons), Bad Boy Billionaires spills all the tea on disgraced business tycoons Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Subrata Roy, and their many antics that earned them the moniker ‘bad boys’.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

7.

Aarya


Disney+ Hotstar

To a layperson, Aarya Sareen lives the ideal life with her perfect family. The reality, however, is a case of “all that glitters is not gold”. With Sushmita Sen in the titular role, Aarya is a thriller replete with plot-twists and back-stabbing relatives. It will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat.

Where do I watch it?: Disney+ Hotstar

8.

Asur


Voot

The Hindi adaptation of HBO’s True Detective, Asur is essentially a gripping cat and mouse game that has two forensic experts, played by Barun Sobti and Arshad Warsi, on one side, and an incredibly dangerous serial killer on the other.

Where do I watch it?: Voot

9.

Bandish Bandits


Prime Video

A love story at its heart, Bandish Bandits is also the story of opposites—Radhe, a student of classical music and Tamanna, a pop star—as they traverse through a musical journey. Ritwik Bhowmik is a treat to watch!

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

10.

Special Ops


Disney+ Hotstar

A Hotstar special created by Neeraj Pandey, Special Ops is the story of RAW Agent Himmat Singh, played by the fantastic Kay Kay Menon, who is an expert at identifying similar patterns behind terrorist attacks, such as the 2001 Parliament Attack, and is on the hunt for the mastermind.

Where do I watch it?: Disney+ Hotstar

2020 was also the year when we skipped theatres and watched (most) movie premieres from the comfort of our homes. Here are some of the best ones:

11.

Ludo


Netflix / T-Series

Ludo is a collection of deliciously wicked stories that involve a sex tape, a kidnapped child, a suitcase full of money, and a murder case. At the centre of it all is a notorious criminal who is obsessed with one particular Kishore Kumar song. You’ll probably fall (back) in love with Abhishek Bachchan after watching this movie.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

12.

Cargo


Netflix / Fundamental Pictures

Easily the most novel and inventive title on this list, Cargo—with its setting in a spaceship in which deceased souls are prepared for reincarnation—beautifully marries science fiction with mythology. Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi are marvellous as Prahastha and Yuvishka, respectively.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

13.

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl


Netflix / Dharma Productions

Based on the life of the first female Indian Air Force pilot of the same name, Gunjan Saxena is a deeply emotional film about women shattering the glass ceiling after heaps of struggle. While Janhvi Kapoor was excellent as the titular character, Pankaj Tripathi was the heart and soul of the movie.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

14.

Gulabo Sitabo


Rising Sun Films

Gulabo Sitabo is, at its core, a satire that revolves around the lives of a snippety septuagenarian Mirza, his obstinate tenant Baankey Rastogi, and a mansion that is 100 years old. Yet another one of Shoojit Sircar’s slice-of-life stories, this one is quite enjoyable.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

15.

Bulbbul


Netflix / Clean Slate Filmz

A dark yet beautiful fairy tale that will surely remind you of Rabindranath Tagore’s works, Bulbbul is the bewitchingly feminist horror movie India desperately needed. While it certainly is flawed, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the immensely talented Tripti Dimri.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

16.

Axone


Netflix / Saregama India

A compelling satire, Axone, with its quintessential West Delhi setting, is about a day in the life of a group of friends—who hail from the North-East—as they make an effort to cook a traditional meal for their friend who is getting married. In the process, they encounter various hurdles, a lot of which throw light upon how people can be victims of racism in their own country.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

17.

Ghost Stories


Netflix / RSVP Movies

An anthology of four short horror films, directed by Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap, and Karan Johar, Ghost Stories wasn’t necessarily the best film of 2020, but it definitely was the most ambitious. Banerjee’s dystopian take was perhaps the most chilling because it was eerily reflective of the current times.

Where do I watch it?: Netflix

18.

Thappad


Benaras Media Works

A woman (Taapse Pannu) decides to file for divorce after her husband slaps her during a party. At the outset, this would seem like a drastic step to take over a one-off incident. However, Thappad justifies her decision by efficiently revealing the many sacrifices that a woman is expected to make and the many burdens she is supposed to silently bear, while constantly being treated like property. It is a movie that will stay with you for a long time.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

19.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan


T-Series

The delightfully entertaining Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan traces the journey of lovebirds Kartik and Aman as they struggle to get their conservative families to accept their relationship. The movie serves as a reminder that we need more queer narratives in Bollywood.

Where do I watch it?: Prime Video

20.

Chhapaak


Fox Star Studios

The haunting yet effective Chhapaak is based on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal and wonderfully encapsulates her invincible spirit and her incessant fight for justice. Deepika Padukone delivered a performance of a lifetime. So did Vikrant Massey.

Where do I watch it?: Disney+ Hotstar



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