Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch the spy thrillers.
At the expense of paraphrasing one of the best spy thriller franchises, we can tell you it’s a golden age if you want to see a few spies walking around cracking codes, beating the bad guys at their own game and saving India. Like all good spies, our shows also wear disguises – they can score high on comedy, action or intrigue. It’s a rarity that combines all three and gives you a spy whose life you can invest in, as well as their espionage. Add in an nemesis really worth the hero’s time and you’ve got a winner at hand.
Yes, The Family Man, here’s looking at you. The Raj and DK series delivered a fantastic first season and quickly emerged as something of a pioneer. And as it always happens in these cases, it also inspired a few copies. Most of them were me-toos that sank instead of swimming. It was a rare exception that could go beyond these comparisons and have us on the edge of our seats.
Before we binge watch again with Srikant Tiwari and his team, let’s take a look back at the Hindi web series that tried to replicate the format but missed the mark, and maybe the ones that hit the mark.
Emran Hashmi in Bard of Blood.
Ribhu Dasgupta’s direction follows a typical spy template and tries to add a human touch to the story. Adapted from Bilal Siddiqi’s novel of the same name, Bard of Blood in major parts stars Emraan Hashmi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Shobhita Dhulipala. A former Indian secret service agent, Kabir Anand (Hashmi), has been roped into a secret mission by his former mentor, Sadiq Sir (Rajit Kapoor). He must cross the border and rescue four Indian agents captured by the Taliban. Despite an interesting plot at hand, the creators fail to translate it on the screen. Those seven episodes were a drag.
Crackdown: Voot Select Crackdown is streamed on Voot Select.
The web series Voot Select, directed by Apoorva Lakhia, stars Saqib Saleem, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Rajesh Talang, Iqbal Khan and Waluscha De Sousa. It ends up in the terrorism thriller template where an anti-terrorist squad is deployed to track down a dangerous group of terrorists. The writers keep us busy with constant plot twists, but despite a lively story, we fail to connect with the characters because we never learn the motivation behind their actions. Also, the background score is so shocking that sometimes you just want to watch the action scene on mute.
Kathmandu Connection streams on SonyLIV.
Amit Sial plays an overzealous cop who sets out to catch the mobsters responsible for the kidnapping of a hotelier. In another part of the country, a CBI officer Ritesh Agarwal (Gopal Dutt) investigates the murder of a colleague. A prime-time news anchor, Shivani Bhatnagar, is also being stalked and given blank calls. All three events find common ground in a Kathmandu casino run by Sunny, the assistant to Dawood Ibrahim’s accomplice and politician Mirza Baig. While the story is intriguing, the poor execution undoes it. In a six-episode run, three and a half episodes are spent setting up the premise before rushing to the conclusion.
London confidential: ZEE5
The lead role of Mouni Roy and Purab Kohli is directed by Kanwal Sethi and based on a concept by S Hussain Zaidi. Here India is attacked by a virus from China. As intriguing as the concept may look in theory (despite real-life parallels), it’s pure chaos on screen.
Special Ops will be streamed on Disney Plus Hotstar.
Created by Neeraj Pandey, Special Ops had everyone glued to their screens with its captivating plot and its compelling characters, the most interesting of whom is Kay Kay Menon’s Himmat Singh. He’s a show stealer here and perhaps the closest thing to Bajpayee’s Srikant Tiwari, spiritually. The series provided an ultimate experience and is probably the only one that we can say has given us as much value for money as The Family Man.