Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch the spy thrillers.
At the cost of paraphrasing one of the best espionage thrillers franchises, we can tell you that it is a golden time if you want to see a couple of spies going around cracking codes, beating the bad guys at their own game and saving India. Like all good spies, our shows wear disguises too — they can be high on comedy, or action, or intrigue. It is a rare that combines all three and give you a spy whose life you can get invested in, as well as their spycraft. Add a nemesis who is truly worthy of the hero’s time and you have a winner at hand.
Yes, The Family Man, here’s looking at you. The Raj and DK series delivered a fantastic first season, soon emerging as a trailblazer of sorts. And like it always happens in these cases, it also inspired a few copies. Most of them were anodyne me-toos that sank instead of swimming. It was a rare exception that could rise beyond these comparisons and deliver thrill that brought us to the edge of our seats.
Before we sit down for a binge-watch with Srikant Tiwari and his team again, we look back at the Hindi web series which tried to replicate the format but missed the mark, and perhaps those who hit bulls’ eye.
The Ribhu Dasgupta directorial follows a typical espionage template while trying to add a human angle to the story. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Bilal Siddiqi, Bard of Blood stars Emraan Hashmi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Shobhita Dhulipala in significant parts. A former agent of the Indian secret service, Kabir Anand (Hashmi) has been roped in for a secret mission by his former mentor, Sadiq Sir (Rajit Kapoor). He has to cross the border and rescue four Indian operatives who have been captured by the Taliban. Despite an interesting plot at hand, the makers fail to translate it on the screen. Those seven episodes were a drag.
Crackdown: Voot Select
The Voot Select web series, directed by Apoorva Lakhia, stars Saqib Saleem, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Rajesh Tailang, Iqbal Khan and Waluscha De Sousa. It gets into the terrorism thriller template where an anti-terrorist squad is deployed to track a dangerous nexus of terrorists. The writers keep us engaged with constant plot twists but despite a brisk narrative, we fail to connect with the characters as we never get to know the motivation behind their actions. Also, the background score is so jarring that you sometimes wish to just watch the action sequence on mute.
Amit Sial plays an overzealous police officer who goes out to nab the gangsters responsible for a hotelier’s kidnapping. In another part of the country, a CBI officer Ritesh Agarwal (Gopal Dutt) investigates the murder of a colleague. Also, a primetime news anchor, Shivani Bhatnagar is being stalked and getting blank calls. All three events find a common connection in a casino in Kathmandu, which is run by Sunny, who is the aide of Dawood Ibrahim’s henchman and politician Mirza Baig. Though the narrative is intriguing, poor execution is its undoing. In a six-episode series, three and a half episodes are spent just setting up the premise before rushing along to the conclusion.
London Confidential: ZEE5
The Mouni Roy and Purab Kohli starrer is directed by Kanwal Sethi and is based on a concept by S Hussain Zaidi. Here India is under attack by a virus from China. As much as the concept looks intriguing in theory (real life parallels notwithstanding), it is pure chaos on the screen.
Created by Neeraj Pandey, Special Ops had everyone glued to their screens with its engaging plot and its compelling characters, the most interesting of whom is Kay Kay Menon’s Himmat Singh. A show-stealer here, he is perhaps the closest to Bajpayee’s Srikant Tiwari, spiritually. The series gave an edge-of-the-seat experience and is probably the only one that we can say gave as much bang for our buck as The Family Man.