Many in India believe that streaming platforms have helped bring out the best in the world of films and television for the audiences. This perhaps explains why Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and other OTT platforms are continuously gaining subscribers in the country. Among them, the Indian shows on Netflix have perhaps created an exclusive fan base for themselves because of the uniqueness of the stories, which go into greater depths of political and societal realities.
There are quite a few excellent choices among the Netflix shows created in India, and three factors — story, performance and direction — stand out in all of them. These shows are different from the usual dramas seen previously on the Indian TV screens.
Stories that connect
A major reason behind the popularity of the shows in India is that they essentially tell stories that are closer to the lives of the people and deep-rooted concerns of Indian society. For those who wish to see India and its spectrum of realities from an outsider’s perspective, the shows on Netflix offer the perfect window to do so.
From stories of the infamous Mumbai underworld through the eyes of an ordinary cop to the struggles of a teenager who wants to crack one of the country’s toughest examinations, Netflix’s Indian offerings take viewers on a ride through quintessential experiences of everyday citizens.
Moreover, with lighter stories such as that of a cohabiting couple in a society that looks down upon live-in relationships and those set on graver themes, including the one based on the world of cyber crime a few young people create in the country’s hinterland, the streaming platform offers a good mix of shows that one shouldn’t miss.
Sacred Games (2018–19)
Sacred Games is Netflix’s first Indian original series and one of the country’s most critically acclaimed TV shows in recent years. The series is based on the 2006 book of the same name by Vikram Chandra and is a look into the Mumbai’s underworld.
The series revolves around an upright Mumbai cop, Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), who embarks on a quest to find a missing gangster, Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), after a tip-off about a dangerous conspiracy threatening the country. In the process, he gathers clues that connect his past to that of Gaitonde’s.
Produced and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan, Sacred Games has two seasons. Gaitonde’s story is explored through flashbacks in each episode before it aligns with the present in the last episode of season 2.
Besides Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, both of whom are illustrious names in the world of Hindi cinema, other prominent cast members are Radhika Apte, Pankaj Tripathi, Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Jatin Sarna, Jitendra Joshi, Kubra Sait and Luke Kenny.
Delhi Crime (2019– )
Widely considered as one of the best Indian shows on Netflix, Delhi Crime is based on a horrific gang rape that happened in India’s national capital, New Delhi, in 2012.
The fictionalised crime drama follows the Delhi Police investigation of the case amidst mounting pressure to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. The lens is on DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah) as the officer leading the probe and her team as they leave no stone unturned to find the culprits.
Directed by Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime won the Drama Series award at the 2020 International Emmy Awards, becoming the first Indian TV series to do so.
Besides Shah, the cast includes Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal, Jaya Bhattacharya, Vinod Sherawat, Gopal Dutt, Anurag Arora, Denzil Smith and Yashaswini Dayama in important roles.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths (2021)
Created and directed by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra, this three-part series studies the mysterious deaths of 11 members of a family in Delhi’s Burari area in 2018.
The sensational case was a headline grabber across India. Ten of the members of the Chundawat family, including two 15-year-olds, were found hanging while the body of one, an octogenarian grandmother, was found strangled in another room. The absolute perplexity of the case gave birth to conspiracy theories, including the involvement of the supernatural.
After a three-year investigation, the police filed a closure report, saying that the deaths resulted from a suicide pact among the family members.
The makers of the true-crime docuseries go deep into the case with the help of the police, journalists, friends, neighbours and other members of the family to unearth what led the 11, who were described as normal middle-class people by their neighbours, to end their lives.
Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega (2020– )
Set in the district of the same name in Jharkhand, this crime drama is about a bunch of village boys who run a phishing racket from their village.
As they rise in the world of crime, their exploits catch the eyes of a corrupt politician wanting a share and an honest police officer working to thwart their operations.
Upon release, Jamtara received rave reviews from critics, with particular praise reserved for director Soumendra Padhi and the crop of actors — Sparsh Shrivastava, Anshumaan Pushkar, Amit Sial, Aksha Pardasany and Monika Panwar.
Netflix announced in March 2021 that it would renew the series for a second season.
Little Things (2016–21)
Lead actors Mithila Palkar and Dhruv Sehgal play Kavya Kulkarni and Dhruv Vats, respectively, in Little Things.
The drama is about a couple who are in a live-in relationship. Throughout the four seasons of the show, viewers see them face the daily challenges at work and their personal lives in an Indian megacity as they age from 20s to 30s.
Created by Sehgal, the first season of the series premiered on Dice Media’s YouTube channel in 2016. Netflix began airing it in 2018 with the second season. The fourth and final season was released in 2021.
Little Things garnered an overall positive critical response for presenting a love story grounded in reality and the fantastic performances of the cast, especially Navni Parihar who plays Kavya’s mother Ila Kulkarni.
Kota Factory (2019– )
Created for The Viral Fever (TVF) by Saurabh Khanna, Arunabh Kumar and Raghav Subbu, Kota Factory is one of the most-watched Indian shows on Netflix.
The series, which is marketed as India’s first ‘Black and White’ web series, follows the lives of young IIT-JEE aspirants at a coaching institute in Kota, Rajasthan. It is based on the real lives of teachers and students in the city, which is both famous and notorious for its coaching centres and produces candidates who crack the tough IIT-JEE examinations.
Kota Factory focusses on Vaibhav Pandey (Mayur More), one of the many young minds ignited with a dream to secure entrance in any of the prestigious IITs, and his experience within the grinding system of coaching centres in Kota. Among other prominent leads is Jitendra Kumar, who plays Jeetu Bhaiya.
Two seasons have been aired so far, with the most recent one in 2021.
Masaba Masaba (2020– )
Masaba Gupta and her mother Neena Gupta play themselves in this semi-fictional biographical drama.
Masaba Masaba, which has been renewed for a second season, is directed by Sonam Nair and marks Masaba’s digital debut. The show is centred on her life and career as a fashion designer.
Masaba balances issues that arise at work and her personal life involving her husband Vinay (Satyadeep Misra) from whom she is separating and a mother who keeps pestering her.
The light-hearted moments of this Indian shows on Netflix, besides Masaba’s genius as a designer and her inspiring personal life, have endeared Masaba Masaba to fans.
Mismatched (2020– )
The sweet romantic drama is adapted from the 2017 New York Times bestseller, When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon. While the story of the book is set in the US, the series changes the setting to Jaipur in India.
The principal protagonists — Dimple (Prajakta Koli) and Rishi (Rohit Saraf) — are young students who have their respective ways of looking at life.
While Dimple wants to make it big as an app developer and is not interested in falling in love, Rishi lives in his make-believe romantic world. Their families try setting them up but that fails. However, Rishi falls in love with Dimple.
How things change for the two seemingly different people, who have struck a friendship, is what Mismatched is all about.
The show has been renewed for a second season by Netflix.
Leila (2019– )
Hailed by critics for its story, direction, and performances, Leila is set in a dystopian future where an authoritarian regime controls the lives of people along religious lines. The series, which has had only one season so far, is based on Prayaag Akbar’s 2017 novel of the same name.
The series focusses on Shalini (Huma Qureshi), who married a Muslim, Rizwan (Rahul Khanna), and gave birth to a daughter, Leila. When Leila is taken away from her, Shalini goes on a personal mission to find her, pulling out all the stops to remain under the radar of the totalitarian forces.
Created by Urmi Juvekar, Leila has had only one season consisting of six episodes. Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman and Pawan Kumar are credited as directors. Brilliant performances by actors such as Siddharth, Adarsh Gourav, Seema Biswas and Arif Zakaria make Leila a must-watch.
The well-made supernatural horror is one of the most-watched Indian shows on Netflix because of the stunning manner in which it presented important political issues within its scope.
Set in a distant future, the three-part miniseries introduces audiences to a new military recruit Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) at a detention camp. Her superiors task Rahim with interrogating a new prisoner Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj).
Rahim discovers that Saeed is possessed by a ghoul, a mythical entity from Arabic folklore, and then begins a horror that is as much otherworldly for everyone as is intensely personal for her.
Written and directed by Patrick Graham, Ghoul features Manav Kaul as Colonel Sunil Dacunha and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Major Laxmi Das, among other characters.
(Main and Featured images: Netflix)