Disney+ Hotstar’s new outing in the crime drama genre in Telugu has ventured into regional cinema. The Telugu-speaking audience, along with viewers across the country, are introduced to the crime saga set amidst Naxal conflicts in the state of Andhra Pradesh. With this, we get to understand the regional politics and power plays involved in controlling the Naxals and eradicating them. Apart from Shaitan, which is set in the rural heartlands of India, we have seen many shows in the past that showcase stories from different parts of the country centered around conflicts between criminal groups. Here is a list of shows you can watch in this genre:
Suzhal: The Vortex (2022)
Released in 2022, this Tamil-language Prime Video original investigative crime drama is set during a 10-day temple festival happening in a small hillside town in Tamil Nadu. Suzhal: The Vortex not only lets us understand the impact of sexual assault, but the storyteller connects the crime with the subject of divinity. Every woman is a goddess that emerges to fight against the people who have wronged her. The screenplay and the narrative are elevated because of the exquisite cinematography, which projects the imagery of gods and goddesses filled with plenty of symbolism. Despite its flaws, Suzhal: The Vortex works only because of the nuanced manner in which the female characters were crafted and the writer’s ability to keep the story engaging till the end to find out who the killer is. It showcases how female writers use a different approach to develop roles meant for their gender. The complex layers of the male gaze on women and the dysfunctional family dynamics are dealt with sensitivity. The show was released to rave reviews and is, to date, considered the best crime drama.
This SonyLIV Original released in the year 2021. Tabbar, written and created by Harman Wadala, can be considered as an Indian version of the Coen brothers’ cult classic film Fargo because of the snowballing of one event leading to another in the wake of a crime. The makers have executed the story with such finesse that it leaves one horrorstuck to comprehend the things human beings are capable of to save their kin in the wake of an actual emergency. The show only works because of the strong screenplay coupled with extraordinary performances by the lead actors, and not to forget the narrative laced with dark humor. This is probably one of the very first times we get to see veteran actors leading the show, and their performances will haunt the viewers for a long time.
Delhi Crime (2019-2022)
It would be a crime in itself not to include season one (2019) and season two (2022) of Delhi Crime in this list because the show has changed the way any police investigation is portrayed on screen. This is a deep dive into the personal lives of the police officers who are a part of the investigation team, which is a rare sight to watch on screen. The officers are considered humans, unlike the portrayal of the police forces in other shows and films, where there is always a negative undercurrent to it. Varthika Chaturvedi is probably one of the best female characters written for the screen; where she and the female cops in the team are portrayed as a no-nonsense cop treated as a regular investigating team. They are here to do a job, and it is the nonchalant way in which all high-profile cases are solved that makes the show worth every bit of your time. Season one won many accolades, including an International Emmy.
Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo (2023)
This 2023 show, is in the run to make another Narcos-like television saga based in the fictional state of Rann Pradesh, which everyone knows is a dig on Rajasthan. Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo, is a wild west series dominated by rebellious women running a drug cartel that produces and supplies top-quality narcotics around the world. This Disney+ Hotstar original by Homi Adajania had its flaws in presenting a villain, certain characters, and the screenplay. What gets the show going is the original concept, some brilliant performances by the ladies, especially the veteran actress Dimple Kapadia, and the well-executed, power-packed action choreography, most of which featured women.
This 2021 Netflix Original created by Charudutta Acharya and Rohan Sippy takes the audience through the hills of Himachal Pradesh, where the police are investigating the murder of a minor foreign national and at the same time, the town is indulging in the stories of age-old mythical creatures living in the forest that surround it. The show had many flaws, including a convoluted screenplay. The valid presentation of a small-town crime story coupled with the dirty politics of the state, the dynamics of the cops working in these towns, and a familial clash still made the show an interesting watch.
Rana Naidu (2023)
This 2023 Netflix Original is the official remake of Ray Donovan, and what worked about this show is the casting of actual Telugu-speaking actors to play characters who are originally from Hyderabad. The show released to plenty of polarizing reviews, but what stood out was the casting of Venkatesh Daggubati as the patriarch running after his family to set things right. It was a hoot to watch a Telugu superstar hurl Hyderabadi expletives. The engaging factor and the crackling animosity between the lead father-son characters make the show a great guilty pleasure.
Sacred Games (2018)
Released in 2018, this crime thriller show was one of a kind in this genre, for it was the first time that Netflix India had released an original. It was headlined by creators and directors, Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, and the cast included Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, and Neeraj Kabi. Season one was a hit only because it was the first time a crime thriller drama was presented in a manner that was different from the usual stories we watched on television, and this one had an international touch to it. The screenplay of the first season was a winner because it presented two timelines seamlessly. Even though the narrative fizzled out in the second season, the performances stood out. Sacred Games’ successfully laid the foundation for many shows later created and released in this genre.
Paatal Lok (2020)
We saved the best for last. Released in 2020 during peak lockdown, Sudip Sharma’s Prime Video original, Pataal Lok is possibly one of the best television shows ever made across genres. The makers nailed the political and social commentary and executed it with absolute finesse. That the events in the show actually took place for real should not come as a surprise. The megalomaniac media was too preoccupied to give them any coverage. Paatal Lok stands apart from others because of its excellent storytelling, arresting performances, and world-building. This show has great rewatch value.
Disney+ Hotstar is all set to release another regional crime drama, Kerala Crime Files, set in the heartland of the god’s own country. This is the first time a Malayalam language series will be made available for the country at large. The above-mentioned is my list of shows in this genre that you can watch. Readers can let us know their favorite crime thrillers that they think are set apart from the usual stories.