Paatal Lok touches nadir with a diabolic inciting storyline

Lalit Shastri

The Paatal Lok storyline, its apparently sinister motive and the crass use of symbols that rub the sensibilities of a vast section of the followers of the Sanatan Dharma could have been digested by a discerning Indian citizen, for whom national interest is supreme, only if this Amazon Prime Video series had been funded by Pakistan’s ISI or some operative of Dawood Ibrahim, who is the most wanted by India for the 1993 Mumbai blasts. But….what a travesty of circumstances, the Executive Producer of this serial is Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.

Major sections of Indian news media – both print and television – unfortunately have gone gaga about Paatal Lok. Incapable of reading between the lines and refusing to allow the diabolic part of the plot written in bold and not in fine ink to sink in, they are singing praises about it through their raving reviews.

Hindustan Times explores the series on the surface and throws light on the plot by talking of the corporatisation of the media industry and goes on to underscore how “delicately” religious bigotry has been addressed through the casual discrimination of a Muslim character by those belonging to the majority (Hindu) community.

India Today credits the series for depicting everything that India 2020 is dealing with – implying thereby that the Amazon Video series is dot on when it shows in poor light the working, professionalism and commitment of the CBI and Delhi Police as not only shallow but reprehensible.

As the story unfolds, from one episode to another, the clear message is driven home that not only the top functionaries of Delhi Police but also India’s prime investigating agency – the CBI – are working as stooges of the criminal cabal deeply entrenched in the politics of caste, religion and hate and in order to deflect people’s attention from this, the Amazon series makes a mockery of these agencies by showing them as hurling wild charges against the ISI of Pakistan and projecting hardened criminals as terrorists without an iota of proof.

Then there are religious symbols that have been used selectively, insidiously, and most diabolically to depict criminalisation of politics in India.

India Today talks of “a bloodthirsty saffron mob that kills a Muslim boy” pointing towards a scene showing a Muslim boy being lynched to death by a saffron clad mob.

Also mocked in this controversial video series and in good measure are the Brahmins and their sacred thread – the ultimate symbol of their religious faith. Through a particular character, a Brahmin politician, has been shown presiding over a gang, which is depicted as a well oiled system or combination of crony capitalism and crime that funds electoral politics.

This video series shows Chitrakoot as the epicentre of crime or Badland. Chitrakoot is a sacred temple town associated with the 14 years of banishment of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and his brother Lakshman in the Bundelkhand region in Central India. The Chitrakloot area falls within Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The use of the term “Nepali Randi” in the Amazon Web seriesis also is being described as highly misleading, insensitive, and irresponsible.

Sikhs are Saviours of women. The whole world recognises Sikhs for their Sewa and Humanity but shame on Anushka Sharma and Prime Video for showing Sikhs as Rapists – Manjinder S Sirsa, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management committee and National Spokesman, Akali Dal

Here is a window to the raving reviews by a section of the media:

It’s an ambitious show, both in terms of its narrative and its themes. The corporatisation of the media industry is an idea that is explored through a subplot involving the targeted top journalist, played by Neeraj Kabi, while religious bigotry is delicately addressed through the casual discrimination that Imran routinely faces inside the police force. The concept of the three realms, meanwhile, serves as a neat metaphor for caste politics. – Hindustan Times

In these nine episodes, the directors of Paatal Lok Avinash Arun Dhawre and Prosit Roy (Pari) and writer Sudip Sharma (NH10, Udta Punjab) take you through everything that India 2020 is dealing with. Well, everything minus the coronavirus because, well, the series was shot before this virus hit. But that apart, the politics of the country is interwoven into the narrative so deftly that not for one moment do you feel glutted.

There is a bloodthirsty saffron mob that kills a Muslim boy, but it is not pushed into your face. There are digs taken at the series’s only ‘minority’ lead character as an off-hand remark, an objectionable word, or how people from ‘his community’ are increasingly getting into the Services these days.The idea of India as a secular country is torn apart, yes, but it is a neat cut. A jhatka and not halaal, if you will. – India Today

If you are a Muslim, you could end up dead on a railway station platform, lynched by cow vigilantes. If you are a Dalit boy in a village, you could end up being a sitting duck for upper-caste bullies. And if you are a woman trapped in a man’s body, you are doomed to end up under a heap of indignities.

In Paatal Lok, the police force and the nation’s central investigating agencies, too, are putty in the hands of the powers that be.

The treatment, texture and sweep lend Paatal Lok, produced by Anushka Sharma and created by Sudip Sharma (writer of NH10, Udta Punjab and Sonchiriya), striking depth of detailing even when it treads known terrain. – NDTV

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