Best of OTT: From Ghar Waapsi to Rocket Boys

Here are our top five from all the Hindi streaming shows of 2022
Best of OTT: From Ghar Waapsi to Rocket Boys

It’s been a middling year (at best) for streaming, with platforms remaining largely preoccupied with continuing the trends they set rolling into action in the years prior. No wonder, then, that two of 2022’s best shows were follow-up seasons of much loved shows. Trends, like yesteryear actresses making a comeback on streaming continued with Madhuri Dixit Nene in The Fame Game and Sonali Bendre in The Broken News; the move to regional languages blossoming into the stylised but empty Suzhal, and the frenzied but blunt Tamilrockerz; stories with burning female protagonists gave us Mai, Delhi Crime 2, Maharani, The Broken News; the preoccupation with small towns continuing with shows like Humble Politician Nograj, Khakee: The Bihar Chapter, Gullak, Jamtara 2, and Dr. Arora. Too often, shows had interesting premises and started well, before scattering their promise and delivering disappointing conclusions.

Still, shows like The Broken News, Delhi Crime 2, Jamtara 2 were brimming with compelling craft and an eye for prescient politics. Many others, like Dr Arora, were so odd, so tiring, and yet unexpectedly thought-provoking and memorable. As the year closes, we are still thinking of its characters, their erotic emptiness, their decades long fixation. Here’s a list of shows — arranged in alphabetical order, in case you were wondering — that we loved because their craft, ideas, writing and aesthetic moved us; shows that fulfilled the promises they made.

Ghar Waapsi (Disney+ Hotstar)

When Shekhar (Vishal Vashishtha) is laid off, he has no option but to return to his hometown Indore. Back in his childhood room and surrounded by all the things that he thought he’d left behind, Shekhar struggles to feel any sense of belonging. Ultimately, he realises the life he’d envisioned for himself in the city is actually a distraction from the man he really is. An excellent cast, good writing and clever direction made this one of the most heartwarming stories of the year. That the final episode upends our notion of success, after showcasing all its ingredients, is a testament to some perceptive performances.

Guilty Minds (Prime Video)

The legal drama Guilty Minds, which followed two talented Delhi lawyers – an idealistic litigator named Kashaf Quaze (Shriya Pilgaonkar) and a flamboyant attorney named Deepak Rana (Varun Mitra) – raised the bar for streaming shows.It's one thing to be intelligent; it's another altogether to be engaging and accessible. Guilty Minds succeeded on both fronts. It found a balance between textural authenticity and human dynamics; between the specific and universal; between fact and fiction. There were a few false notes, but the show’s writing was both brave and sensitive, presenting a portrait of contemporary India full of both contradictions and possibilities.

Masaba Masaba, Season 2 (Netflix)

In its second season, Masaba Masaba brought back its charming set of main characters, including the inimitable Neena and Masaba Gupta, playing fictionalised versions of themselves. The point of the show was to tell a story of women, where men were peripheral to the imagination. Gupta's arc saw her navigating the workspace when she’s cast in a show with an ex-flame (Ram Kapoor). Masaba had her edgy, girl-boss show, giving her fashion label an origin story and finding a genuinely emotional anchor in both her ode to “Wendell sir” and her friendship with Gia (Rytasha Rathore). Even though it was uneven, Masaba Masaba was a sweet, smart rom-com that may have been hamstrung by the tropes of the genre, but it worked because the story felt rooted in lives lived.

Panchayat, Season 2 (Prime Video)

Another follow-up, but the sophomore season of Panchayat did something rare: It reclaimed the identity of its setting. The first season looked at life through the lens of its protagonist, Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar). In the second, it suggested the lens of life may be bigger than Abhishek and his evolving perspective. A political rival to the Dubeys emerges. A road needs to be built. An election is on the horizon. Along with Abhishek, all the villagers – the inimitable Raghubir Yadav, Chandan Roy, Neena Gupta and especially Faisal Malik as Prahlad – are perfectly pitched at the intersection of complacency and simplicity. The climax gave us some of the most powerful Indian television in recent memory.

Rocket Boys (SonyLIV)

A lot of science, a few slices of history, some masala jugaad — Rocket Boys, written and directed by Abhay Pannu, was a feast of emotions. At its finest, the show is a soaring, engaging drama of two friends, Homi Bhabha (Jim Sarbh) and Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh), busy making their personal missions into a national cause. Sarbh’s electric presence and Singh’s sensitivity powered this show and brought to life these legendary figures, letting us listen in on long conversations on science and ethics. A few of its narrative decisions are questionable, like the characterisation of Mrinalini Sarabhai (Regina Cassandra), the decision to include fictional villains and the weight the show puts behind conspiracy theories that involve America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Still, it’s an ambitious show that realised much of its potential.

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