All hell breaks loose

Amazon Original Series, Paatal Lok, which marks the digital debut of renowned Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, is getting rave reviews for casting a spotlight on the darker side of humanity

Anushka Sharma might have been missing from the silver screen for over a year now, but she is not out of action. The lady recently ventured into the digital world with Amazon Prime's new web series 'Pataal Lok'- a crime thriller featuring Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee, Gul Panag, Lyra Dutt among others. The much-anticipated series was finally released on May 15 and since then, is getting rave reviews from the audience as well as critics. Millennium Post interviewed its maker and actors to talk more about the show.

Excerpts from the conversation with actors Jaideep Ahlawat, actor Abhishek Banerjee and creator Sudip Sharma

What is web series all about?

Sudip: As shown in the trailer, the story of 'Paatal Lok' revolves around a cop Hathi Ram Chaudhary, who lands the case of a lifetime when four suspects are nabbed in the assassination attempt of a prime time journalist. Hathi Ram (played by Jaideep Ahlawat) is told that it is an open-and-shut case but on investigating he realises that there is much more to it. The case is nothing as it looks like. The cop delves further into the mystery of the 'dark world' i.e. the 'paatal lok' of lies, crime and violence, and discover the shocking past of the four criminals.

What do you love the most about your character. How was the experience playing it?

Jaideep: The best thing about Hathi Ram Chaudhary is that he is truly a vulnerable character, which is what makes him so relatable to the general public. As a cop, he has some extra responsibility and he fights and struggles with everything to prove his worth. Like any other common man, he wants to do everything in his capacity and emerge glorious.

Being born and brought up in Haryana helped me a lot in playing Hathiram. I come from a middle-class family and I have seen people like him around me or I had heard about people like him while growing up. The difference is just that he is in the police. Otherwise, the struggle is the same. I have an understanding of the small nuances of society because I have seen them around. I have lived with them and it helped me a lot.

Abhishek, was it a challenge for you to play a serial killer?

Abhishek: Yes it was. In fact, every character is challenging in some way or the other. An actor needs to channel a lot of energy to portray the character in the best way. To understand my character, who later got a nickname 'Hathoda' and hence the name Vishal 'Hathoda' Tyagi, I needed to get into the skin and understand how and why things changed for Vishal that turned him into a criminal. So, I started unfolding the many layers – how he finds himself in a society with problems and complications and how he copes up them.

Considering the brutality of crimes that happen in India, do you think our 'dharti lok' has completely turned into 'paatal lok'?

Jaideep: You can say that 'paatal lok' is what is been going on over here in the present times. You can find each of the characters from the series 'Paatal Lok' in the news. It is just that the people, in general, tend to ignore these things or events that take place in today's world. But that does not mean that it does not happen. It just means that people are unaware of. So yes, one can say that 'paatal lok' is real and a reflection of us and our society.

The trailer of the series has been in news for its action sequences ever since its release...

Abhishek: Trailer gives you a glimpse of the story but doesn't show the depth of all those characters in the show. There is a story behind every character and every scene, which will unfold with every episode.

I feel it will be fun, especially for me to see the reaction of the audience after watching the whole series because people will be able to understand the new dimensions of every character. 'Paatal Lok' is a crime drama which showcases some of the burning issues of our society; family loss; human interpersonal relationship and the usual drama. It is not entirely about guns and bullets.

What is the relevance of terms like 'swarg lok' 'dharti lok' and 'paatal lok' in the series?

Sudip: The relevance of such elements is at the contextual level. For example, the idea of having 'dharti lok', 'swarg lok' and 'paatal lok' is important to show the three class divisions. There is a higher world, known as the so-called upper world or 'swarg lok'. Then you have the middle world, i.e. the Earth, with middle classes. And finally, we have the 'paatal lok', from where a vast population of poor comes. We also wanted to explore the three layers from the eyes of the investigator; i.e. the protagonist of the show, who represents the earth, the victim represents the heaven, and the suspects come from Paatal Lok.

The series shows that shedding blood is the only means to attain justice. Do you believe so?

Sudip: I don't think so. In this particular story, we are talking about very specific instances in the life of these fictional characters. These characters are pushed hard so much so, that they start believing violence is the only way out. The series is completely a fictionalised account of certain extreme cases in which people were pushed against the wall. For instance, if you put a cat in a room and you try to attack it after shutting the door, the cat will definitely fight back. The criminals in the series behave similarly.

Do you feel OTT platforms are becoming the new future?

Abhishek: They are definitely the future. During the lockdown, people are getting to see engaging content on web, which is giving good competition to the film and theatre business. This competition is about content, acting and overall film-making and hence everyone will have to be on their toes to survive.

Does 'Paatal Lok' promise to show the twisted ugly lies, crime and violence embedded in the society?

Jaideep: Yes of course. 'Paatal Lok' is the story of our society. It is about police, media, crime, and various social issues. We as society would easily connect to every character in the series because each one of us deals with similar external and internal conflicts on a day-to-day basis. The show brings to light some of the important issues that we all are familiar with.

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