Web series on OTT platforms are here to stay and so are its sequels aka seasons, which would keep us busy every weekend for a pretty long time. In 2021, some of them worked wonders, others sank without a trace and yet others made one wonder whether the viewer could stand another season.
There were a select few that made you go, “Yeh Dil Maange More”. Alas, Sacred Games, the first Indian web series from Netflix and the earliest to circumvent India’s rigid movie censorship guidelines, appears to have run out of steam. At least, that’s what Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the protagonist, said early in 2021.
This list has 10 web series that are crying for sequels across streaming platforms.
A crime thriller that dared to take a nuanced look at criminals and their relations with the cops. One that moved away from the stereotypes of good and bad and explored the grey areas that often saw crime and punishment tango together. The series received kudos from both critics and fans with Jaideep Ahlawat excelling as Hathiram Choudhary, a Delhi cop who waits a lifetime to solve a case but finds himself a puppet in the politician-cop nexus. The series juxtaposed the worlds of street criminals and their powerful handlers as well as the star anchors of television news. It spared none, nor did it elevate anyone. Besides Ahlawat, the series had some surprises such as Abhishek Banerjee, Swastika Mukherjee and the always reliable Neeraj Kabi and Rajesh Sharma.
The Family Man
The adventures of an intelligence officer who kept his work life a secret from his family caught the imagination of an entire nation. The first season released in 2019 tracked Shrikant Tiwari and his comrade-in-arms JK Talpade as they chased terror suspects in a race-against-time till the final episode ended with a possible chemical attack on India’s national capital Delhi. The second season picked up from that point and this delectable duo once again busted a plot by erstwhile Tamil Tigers to assassinate the Indian premier. In doing so, they left us with a hint of the third season shifting towards the northeast of India and possible Chinese threats.
The first season followed the lives of a police team that is under fire over a horrific rape of a medical student in India’s national capital. The series depicted the challenges faced by a senior police officer who finds herself battling her daughter’s perception of women’s safety in Indian cities while fighting corruption, misogyny and political expediency. Though the story itself was dark, audiences connected with the characters essayed by Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang and Rasika Dugal who play cops with varying degrees of dissolution. The first season opened to rave reviews in 2019 and won an Emmy Award, the first Indian web series to do so. Nothing much is known about Season 2 though there is a hint at crimes against senior citizens in the national capital.
The series starts from two different corners of the country, the first in Sunderbans (Bengal) where some villagers find a cop’s corpse and the other in Himachal Pradesh where a drunk man shoots a dancer dead. What connects these two and the tribulations of those involved and their loyalties form the rest of the series. The series itself is dark and intense, leaving us with little respite between episodes, the two characters providing comic relief are actually the least likely ones in the form of a murderer and a cop chasing a different mystery. The makers had ended the 10th episode of the first season with the scope for more. And we believe that the tale will pick up from that point where the cop outwits others.
The first season of Asur went by largely unnoticed for a couple of reasons. For starters, it appeared on the less popular Voot, a platform owned and operated by Viacom in India. The second was the rather obvious crowding out of Asur by a multitude of web series that hit OTT platforms in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. The series charts the life of a forensic scientist-turned teacher who returns to work with his former boss at the CBI. The series marked Arshad Warsi’s debut on OTT and his relations with his former protege. The story is set in modern-day Varanasi where the serial killer’s expertise in mythology guides him towards these crimes. It had some good performances from Warsi, Barun Sobti and Anupriya Goenka among others.
When an engineering graduate fails to secure entry into a management program, what does he do? He decides to take up a government job as secretary to a panchayat that is located between two state borders. What follows once Abhishek Tripathi takes his position at the Panchayat office of the fictitious Phulera village of Uttar Pradesh is funny but for the fact that it also exposes the way, democratic institutions work at the grass-root levels. The story has precedents in Indian politics and is therefore eminently believable. Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta have a hoot playing a deposed Panchayat President and the incumbent, who just happens to be his wife. Into this mix lands Jitendra Kumar faces up to these two veterans and gives a good account of himself.
We are two seasons into the life of Akhandanand Tripathi, a.k.a. Kaleen Bhaiyya, who rules the town of Mirzapur where he runs a profitable carpet business alongside an even more lucrative indigenous firearms trade. In the first season, he faces up to a pair of locals who want to get rich quick and take up work with the don. The fallout between them and the don’s successor Munna Tripathi results in mayhem that ends with the death of one of the brothers in the first season and Munna in the second during a shootout. An injured Kaleen Bhaiyya is given shelter by a rival as one of the two aspirants to his throne — Guddu Pandit gets his hands on the position alongside his widowed sister-in-law. As for the audience, we are left waiting for a sequel to figure out who eventually wins this war. Pankaj Tripathi and Ali Fazal made this series their own with riveting performances as did Divyendu Sharma as Munna Tripathi.
At a time where the Forces are synonymous with nationalism, this was one web series that explored army encounters. Army lawyer Monica Mehra is called in to probe a case involving the death of an officer and two terrorists. It’s described as an open-and-shut case for the junior lawyer, but early investigations indicate that the truth may lie elsewhere. Initially, she gets into a tangle with the army’s legal counsel Angad Sandhu, who later turns friend and helps her unravel the mystery. What begins as an encounter, is questioned as a fake one and ends up becoming something else as it winds down. Credible performances from Jennifer Winget, Tanuj Virani, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas and Madhurima Roy add to the chutzpah.
Made in Heaven
Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti for Excel Entertainment, it was almost as if this web series was only meant to break stereotypes. Everything from marital rape to same-sex love and adultery get a mention as two wedding planners Tara Khanna and Karan Mehra struggle to get their business going first and then to keep it afloat in the wake of the enemies they make en route. The story, written by Akhtar and Kagti along with Alankrita Srivastava does not believe in keeping out any holy cows from the plot. They delve deep into the personalities of even the supporting cast as the owner of the premises where the protagonist stays who instals a camera in the premises to prove that he’s gay. Shobhita and Karan are in their elements though it was Kalki who surprised us with her spunky performance in season-1. The season also boasts of a bevvy of guest stars such as Deepti Naval and Neena Gupta.
The first season starts with a new intern joining the staff of the fictitious Bombay General Hospital and her baptism by fire as all hell breaks out on that day. For, it is the day Mumbai went under siege on that fateful night in November 2008. The series dwells on the conditions prevailing in government hospitals and the price that some of the conscientious professionals end up paying to save human lives. As a by-play, we have cops playing spoilsport as do some doctors who play by the book. A second season is round the corner with the makers indicating that it would narrate stories from another disaster that the city of Mumbai has witnessed and withstood. Mohit Raina and Konkana Sen Sharma make an unlikely lead pair as one seeks to break all rules and the other is attempting to find them.
Sequels that have already arrived
Inside Edge Season 3
If you happen to be a cricket lover, especially if it be of the IPL kind, this sports drama is a must-watch. The audience came in touch with Vayu Raghavan, Arvind Vashishth, Prashant Kanaujia and Devender Mishra when the first season arrived in July 2017. These players had their task cut out as they battled opponents both on and off the field in the form of match-fixers, unscrupulous politicians, over-the-hill movie stars and administrators of the cricket board. Vivek Oberoi, Amir Basheer, Richa Chadha make the vortex of evil while the players included Tanuj Virani, Angad Bedi, Amit Sial and Siddhant Chaturvedi. The third season remains as gripping as the earlier two. The series is currently on Amazon Prime.
Aarya Season 2
Based on the Dutch web series Penoza, the first season saw the daughter of a drug lord getting sucked into her family business, just when she and her husband were all set to turn whistleblowers. A family that doesn’t think twice before eliminating one of its own if they were found to be charting a diverse course. Aarya manages to battle it all and with the help of a cop flees the country. The second season begins with her return as a key witness in murder and drug peddling cases against her family and those of their arch-rivals. What happens thereafter forms the crux of Season-2. In addition to Sushmita Sen, others that reprise their roles include Sikander Kher, Jayant Kripalani, Ankur Bhatia, and Vikas Kumar. The series is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.