Web Series 2023: Eleven for Excellence!

Sonakshi Sinhas was outstanding in Dahaad. Photo: Publicity Photo 

The Web was one of the best entertainers of 2023 and it was fairly easy to choose the best from the web series we got to watch. In fact, many a film producer has attributed the OTT platforms for ruining their business prospects, which is completely illogical. What is definite is that we viewers got a parallel avenue of entertainment at home that regaled us.

Here are the 11 web series that denoted excellence, in alphabetical order in each category.

The cream of the crème-de-la-crème

Dahaad  / Amazon Prime Video / Directors: Reema Kagti & Ruchika Oberoi

The Sonakshi Sinha-Vijay Varma series on a determined cop who belonged to a backward caste and a psychopath professor gave us shivers as well as thrills. It looked into social inequalities as much as, more importantly, investigative deduction rather than bullets or chases in a cop drama. And both Sonakshi and Vijay were phenomenal.

Never Have I Ever / Netflix / Directed by: Kabir Akhtar & Erica Oyama

Technically a series made in the US about Indians and by a lot of Indians, this one had a Season 4 finale that was like a solid icing on a very delicious 3-earlier-seasons cake. The coming-of-age drama was as full of human emotions and humor as it was of a humongous level of performances. Yes, it was in English, a language that is frequently used, often without subtitles, in Hindi series, and created by an Indian—Mindy Kaling! Maithreyi Ramakrishnan matched the ascending graph of the series by getting better and better with each season.

The Railway Men  / Netflix / Directed by: Shiv Rawail

Yash Raj Films’ magnificent entry into the web domain had us trapped in the sheer power of its retelling of a horrendous real-life tragedy. Shiv Rawail could be termed the best newbie web director of the year and the writing honors were of high standards indeed. And let us not forget the electric performances by all—led by Kay Kay Menon, Divvyendu, Babil Khan and R. Madhavan.

The crème-de-la-crème

Jimmy Sheirgill was superb as the manipulative politician in Choona. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Choona / Netflix / Directed by: Pushpendra Nath Misra

Pushpendra Nath Misra’s wickedly dark heist comedy was a sizzling mix of black humor and white values. A manipulative politician (Jimmy Sheirgill at his best) earns everyone’s anger in his quest for self-glorification and growth and the series took us on a rollercoaster of all the conspiracies to punish him!

City of Dreams Season 3 / Disney+Hotstar / Directed by: Nagesh Kukunoor

This was a chilling culmination to one of the very best political dramas seen on the web. Nagesh Kukunoor and team mastered the Marathi ethos as the brilliant script was about political machinations in Maharashtra. Three seasoned actors—Priya Bapat, Atul Kulkarni and Sachin—gave it all they had, which was truly formidable, to deliver a magnificent saga of ambition and betrayal.

Scoop / Jio Cinema / Directed by: Hansal Mehta

Another ‘evidence’ after Scam 1992 that Hansal Mehta and his sensibilities are best suited for web series inspired by reality rather than feature films, this real-life-inspired story was scary in the way it was disturbingly relevant. As the protagonist, Karishma V. Tannaa proved that she was more than just eye-candy.

Wamiqa Gabbi played the ambition-driven actress in Jubilee. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

…And the rest of the cream!

Jubilee / Amazon Prime Video / Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane

Another director who should mainly restrict his work to web series, Vikramaditya Motwane did his career-best work here, taking off from a true story of romance of superstar Devika Rani in the earliest days of the Indian talkie and moving to an original and absorbing drama of human beings caught in a vortex of ambitions, aspirations and love. A lovely music score (Amit Trivedi) and superb performances by Prosenjit Chatterjee, Ram Kapoor, Aparshakti Khurana and Wamiqa Gabbi added to the allure.

Mithya / ZEE5 / Directed by: Rohan Sippy

The performances of Huma Qureshi and especially Avantika Dassani imbued this masterful social thriller with solid substance. Rohan Sippy extracted some amazing work from them as well as from his scripting team to fashion an extraordinary narrative of conflict and twists in the tale.

Rocket Boys 2 / Sony LIV / Directed by: Abhay Pannu

Abhay Pannu directed and co-wrote the terrific sequel to the real story (Rocket Boys) as it highlighted two of our finest atomic scientists for whom their work was their very life—Homi Wadia and Vikram Sarabhai. The very human story was obviously lifted by Jim Sarbh and Ishwak Singh as Homi and Vikram, but the entire supporting cast lent very able…support!

Scam 2003 / Sony LIV / Directed by: Tushar Hiranandani & Hansal Mehta

Another real saga, about Abdul Karim Telgi and India’s 300-crore stamp-paper scam, Scam 2003 was one of the three worthwhile series (see the others below) that were needlessly split into two brief seasons. The series created by Hansal Mehta again (he also co-directed the final episode) was also ‘edu-taining’ as it also gave the viewer insights into something hitherto unknown in common circles—the stamp paper ‘industry’. However, apart from the writing and direction, I would say that it was topped by an award-deserving performance of the year from Gagan Dev Riar in the role of Telgi.

The Freelancer / Disney+Hotstar / Directed by: Bhav Dhulia

Again a series wherein Part 1 was tepid vis-à-vis the Neeraj Pandey-presented Special Ops franchise because the action was concentrated in Part 2, which was aired only after a needlessly agonizing gap of three months. Taken as a whole, therefore, the series consolidated the fact that writer and ‘overseer’ Neeraj Pandey remains a master of espionage in the Hindi entertainment industry. And a little bird tells us that Special Ops 2 is on the way in 2024!

The Night Manager / Disney+Hotstar / Directed by: Sandeep Modi & Priyanka Ghose

Adapted from a British TV series based on a John Le Carre thriller, The Night Manager too was split into two seasons. Thankfully, the second season was even more gripping than the first. Anil Kapoor seems to have the knack to choose the right Indian adaptations (24 was his first!) and Aditya Roy Kapur, one of Hindi cinema’s most underrated lead artistes, too was outstanding in the title-role.





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