The year 2020 will always be known as the year when hell was unleashed all over the world, in the form of Covid-19. Rendering the world virtually worthless, this disease ensured almost everyone on earth stays at home. The year 2020 will also be known as the year of the OTT. Due to Covid-19, all theatres were closed and every film, show, web series made a horde directly for the living room of the audience. But everything wasn’t so hunky-dory. The audience, who watched all these shows from the comfort of their houses, weren’t bothered about the high priced tickets or the popcorn buckets in the long queue. So, every substandard show was butchered by the keen-eyed viewer, who paid attention to each detail of the program. But there were shows which made the audience sit up and take a note for their brilliance, out of the world subjects and powerful performances. We, at The Cinemawala, took a note of those shows and ranked them in the order. Read on to know, which show made to the top of the list. 

15.’Masaba Masaba’ – Netflix

If being ‘Meta’ had a life, it would’ve been of Neena Gupta. An actor of reputed calibre and human par excellence is how everyone knows her. Masaba Gupta, her daughter is known for her design label ‘House Of Masaba’ and is equally famous for being a fashion designer. What nobody knew that the take on their lives, albeit fictional, will be so hilarious as well as rollicking. Directed by Sonam Nair, this is the story of a woman who is eager to come out from her the wings of her famous parents. Part fiction, part life, this show is oh-so-fun! Co-starring with Neena and Masaba are the very talented Neil Bhoopalam and a fantastic Rytasha Rathore, who brings the house down with her performance. Streaming on Netflix, the first season is of 6 episodes, each running between 20-30 mins.

14.’A Simple Murder’ – Sony Liv

A man, who mistakenly identified as a contract killer, is assigned to kill a woman. In a hilarious miscommunication, he ends up killing a different woman, who’s the girlfriend of another contract killer. Thus ensues a cat and mouse chase between the two men. Starring Mohd Zeeshan Ayub, Amit Sial, Sushant Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Dutt and Priya Anand in pivotal roles, ‘A Simple Murder’ streaming on Sony Liv, is a terrific black comedy. Directed by Sachin Pathak, the show scores brownie points for its crisp writing by Akhilesh Jaiswal and Pratik Payodhi. Running for 40-50 minutes each, the show gets into a serious zone towards its climax robbing its fun element, yet it manages to come out on the top, with its twist in the climax. 

13.’Mirzapur’ – Season 2 – Amazon Prime Video

After the great wedding massacre, the bloodied by-lanes of Mirzapur set the course for another show of strength, as Kaleen Bhaiya and Munna Tripathi lock their horns with a wounded Bablu Bhaiya and Golu. This time, the battle is personal, because it’s revenge on the cards. Amazon Prime’s flagship show ‘Mirzapur’ returns on the screen with its second season. With an enviable ensemble cast, ‘Mirzapur’ has its own devoted fan base. However, compared to the first season, the second season fizzles out. Yet the individual performances are superb. Streaming on Amazon Prime, the show is up for a third season. 

12.’Special Ops’ – Disney Hotstar

Based on certain real-life incidents that revolve around people working in the Indian Intelligence Agency, ‘Special Ops’ is a gripping show. Spanning across nineteen years, it’s the story about one man’s mission to find the mastermind behind many terrorist attacks in India. Directed by Neeraj Pandey and starring Kay Kay Menon in the leading role, ‘Special Ops’ is well-written and keeps the suspense intact throughout the show. Barring a few hiccups, the show is thoroughly enjoyable and Kay Kay Menon is the main reason behind it. His aura and charisma keep the show from drowning down. Shot in 8 episodes, it’s currently streaming on Disney Hotstar. 

11.’Aarya’ – Disney Hotstar

A woman is forced to lead her late husband’s drug business while fighting internal battles with her competitors as well as friends and families. Actor Sushmita Sen returns to screen with a bang starring the titular role in director Ram Madhwani’s drug drama ‘Aarya’. Co-starring Chandrachur Singh, Sikandar Kher, Namit Das, Manish Choudhury and Jayant Kripalani, the show starts superbly, goes down a little in the middle but comes back right into the game with the last 3 episodes, arguably the best in the series. Using old Hindi film songs as the running motif, the series scores heavily on acting as well as a show as a whole. 

10.’Asur : Welcome To The Dark Side’ – Voot

Indian mythology heavily features Asurs and Rakshasas in their tales. Voot’s original show ‘Asur’ explores this myth vigorously and weaves a story about the hidden demons that reside inside human beings. Starring Arshad Warsi, Barun Sobti, Sharib Hashmi, Shubh Joshi, Ridhi Dogra and Anupriya Goenka, ‘Asur’ keeps you right on the edge of the seat with its topsy turvy turns in the tale. The unexpected climax is the cherry on the cake, although there will be several naysayers of the same. Running within a span of eight episodes, with great performances, ‘Asur’ is one of the most under-hyped shows of the year.

9.’Undekhi’ – Sony Liv

‘Undekhi’ is more than just another show. It’s a tale about misplaced morality. It’s about power-hungry dynasties and their recklessness about laws and regulations. A story that begins in the deep jungles of the Sunderbans, stretches up to the hills of Uttarakhand where a police officer and a dancer, both dead under different circumstances talk about patriarchal indifference across the strata. Starring Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Surya Sharma, Harsh Chhaya, Apeksha Porwal, Ankur Rathee and Aanchal Singh, this is a morbid tale of corruption and power. Directed by Sidharth Sengupta, the show spans across 10 episodes, and currently is streaming on Sony Liv.

8.’Tajmahal 1989′ – Netflix 

Set in an era where internet and cellphone were yet to invade privacy, Tinder and Bumble meant flammable and confused and people were well..still people, ‘Tajmahal:1989’ is a simple tale of love in a different time. The story revolves around four couples who fall in and then fall out of love and in the process, find the true meaning of love. The series is a whiff of nostalgia where the characters remind you of a bygone era. Written and directed by Pushpendra Nath Sharma and starring Neeraj Kabi, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Danish Hussain, Sheeba Chaddha and Anud Singh Dhaka, this show is a must-watch.

7.’Pushpavalli’ – Season 2 – Amazon Prime Video

The Amazon Prime Original show – ‘Pushpavalli’ talks about a woman, who moves mountains for her infatuation for a guy, who she meets in a conference. If the first season gave an idea about a woman’s undying tryst to win her beloved’s trust, the second season goes a step ahead and gives this phrase a whole new meaning – ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!’The season takes us through her antics, her desperation and eventually her entire world crumbling down on her, with her plans not being able to take the shape that she had originally intended them to. Created and starring the titular role, Sumukhi Suresh is the star of the show with Naveen Andrews powering her as the fabulous Pankaj. Directed by Debbie Rao, the show has some terrific performances by Shraddha who plays Vasu the PG landlady and Lata Venkatraman as Pushpavalli’s mother. The show is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

6.’Afsos’ – Amazon Prime Video

A man, fed up from his mundane life, decides to end it. After multiple failures, he pays up to have a contract killer to shoot him dead. As life would have it, even this fails. Now the man wants to live, but to honour the contract, the killer wants him dead! Terrific performances and brilliant writing are how the show can be perfectly summed up. Based on the Bengali story ‘Golper Goru Chaande’ and directed by Anubhuti Kashyap, this is a show that talks about a man’s depression about the choices that he makes and then blames himself for them. Starring Gulshan Devaiah, Heeba Shah, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Robin Das and Anjali Patil, this is a show about a man’s regret about not being dead! Running across eight episodes, the show is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

5.’Bandish Bandits’ – Amazon Prime Video

‘Bandish Bandits’ is based on the age-old conflict between tradition and modernity, only here it becomes the clash of classical music and contemporary music. The biggest twist in the tale is a discord that will loosely remind the viewer about the greatest musical rift of Indian Classical Music, the bitter feud between the two stalwarts Pandit Ravi Shankar and his first wife Annapurna Devi. Directed by Anand Tiwari and starring Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Sheeba Chaddha, Ritwik Bhowmik and Shriya Chaudhury, the show’s music needs a separate discussion altogether. The makers Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Singh Bindra need to be lauded about the authentic research that has been put into the show. Credit also must go to the inimitable team of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendosa who infuse each creation with love and affection. Spanning across 10 episodes, the show is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

4.’High’ – MX Player

The biggest regret that the makers of ‘High’ should have is that they didn’t release this on an OTT platform such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. The reach of these platforms would’ve ensured the show the superb ratings it truly deserves. ‘High’ is a drama that deals around an addict who stumbles upon the strangest drug – the one which removes every addiction from the body! Directed by Nikhil Rao and starring Akshay Oberoi, Shweta Basu Prasad, Ranvir Shorey, Prakash Belawadi, Nakul Bhalla and Mrinmayee Godbole in pivotal roles, ‘High’ is a show equally high on concept and brilliant writing by Nishant Goyal and Emil Thomas. Spanning across nine episodes, the show is streaming on MX Player and highly binge-able!

3.’Paatal Lok’ – Amazon Prime Video

Loosely based on the journalist Tarun Tejpal’s ‘The Story Of My Assassins’, ‘Paatal Lok’ is about a cop disillusioned about the corrupt society that he’s also a part of. When a case presents itself as an opportunity for him to break the glass ceiling, he gets going, only to unearth sinister motives, conspiracies that go beyond the very definition of law. The show broaches over various topics such as casteism, religion, prejudices and the age-old battle of the rich and the poor. Powerful performances and equally powerful writing, ‘Paatal Lok’ is a stunning reflection of the society that we live in. Backed by Anushka Sharma and created by Sudip Sharma, the show is helmed by two directors – Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy. Starring Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Ishwak Singh, Abhishek Banerjee, Swastika Mukherjee and Gul Panag, this is a show that brings tremors inside the room and the heart. 

2.’Panchayat’ – Amazon Prime Video

TVF has been churning out stellar stories for some time now. It has made itself into a solid brand whose core competency is strong storytelling. Their new show, pitched as a ‘Mohan Bhargav yet to meet Swades’ kind of a show, ‘Panchayat’ promises you just enough quirk, a dollop full of smile and a little sprinkling of life lessons. Spread among eight episodes, is a man bred in a city, and his tryst with life in a quaint village, its people, their problems and his own effort to score in the CAT exam, for getting into a top-ranked IIM college. There are eight episodes and each one of them talks about a situation in which the principal characters get embroiled, irrespective of the social issues. Director Deepak Kumar Mishra, who also cameos as village electrician, ensures none of these problems shows up as preachy. His take on rural life politics, the superstitions and the stereotypes are unique and fresh in nature. Led by the able shoulders of Jitendra Kumar, ‘Panchayat’ hits the ball out of the park by roping in stalwarts like Raghuvir Yadav and Neena Gupta. One of the very best shows of the year 2020, ‘Panchayat’ is all set for its second season.

1.’Scam 1992 : The Harshad Mehta Story’ – Sony Liv

As I write these lines, I am constantly reminded of the neon visuals of a man, climbing step by step on the ladder, by the virtue of his hard work and hoodwinking the regulations and then a sudden fall from the grace. By this time, if you’re not humming the now-famous tune composed by Achint Thakkar, I’ll say, you’re lying! One of the finest shows of this year and perhaps years to come, ‘Scam 1992 – The Harshad Mehta Story’ had the whole of the country swaying with its tale of the mother of all scams.  Based on the book by journalists Sucheta Dalaal and Debashish Basu who unearthed the scam, the show is headlined by a sublime Pratik Gandhi and an ethereal Shreya Dhanwanthary who imbibe their respective characters in themselves. Boasting of one of the best ensemble cast of all time that includes KK Raina, Rajat Kapoor, Anant Mahadevan and Satish Kaushik, the show is a riveting watch of one man’s meteoric rise and fall of fortunes. The credit goes to Hansal Mehta and Jay Mehta, the dynamic father and son duo for this epic show that would remain one of the very best in history. 

So which shows you feel deserved to be on the list? Do share in the comments section.

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