Best Hindi shows of 2021: Tabbar, The Family Man 2, Kota Factory make the cut

India’s Hindi web series space saw makers experimenting with newer formats and genres, providing viewers with several options to choose from.

The Family Man 2, starring Manoj Bajpayee, presented an engaging thriller with Samantha Ruth Prabhu capturing attention with her layered performance. (Amazon Prime Video/IE)
The Family Man 2, starring Manoj Bajpayee, presented an engaging thriller with Samantha Ruth Prabhu capturing attention with her layered performance. (Amazon Prime Video/IE)

Streaming platforms had a stellar 2021 as the likes of Netflix, Sony LIV, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar providing entertainment for a second consecutive year, distracting viewers from the real-world horrors.

India’s Hindi web series space saw makers experimenting with newer formats and genres, providing viewers with several options to choose from. While Sony LIV’s Tabbar offered an emotional family drama dressed as a curious thriller, the second season of Gullak 2 also raised the bar for Internet content.

The Family Man 2, starring Manoj Bajpayee, presented an engaging thriller with Samantha Ruth Prabhu capturing attention with her layered performance. Netflix’s Geeli Pucchi saw Konkona Sensharma take over as a lower-caste woman whose ambitions and desires are dismissed due to her place in society.

Tabbar (SonyLIV)
The series started off as the tale of a middle-class family that lands up in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, the show soon transforms into a heart wrenching family tale that will go to extreme levels to protect each other, despite the repercussions. Excellent in moments, Tabbar sees Omkar (Pavan Malhotra) and Sargun (Supriya Pathak) stuck with the moral dilemma of whether to take Lucky (Paramvir Cheema) to the hospital or leave him to die. Omkar’s dark turn makes the audience wonder if he had already lost everything already and was fighting a losing battle. The show ends on a poignant note to deliver one of the best endings to a Hindi series.

Gullak (SonyLIV)
The story of a simple middle-class family in a nondescript town, living a mundane but satisfying existence. The second season offered some wholesome moments — be it mummy’s (Geetanjali Kulkarni) anger that made the family take note of her worsening health or Annu’s (Vaibhav Raj Gupta) frustration at not being successful – Gullak felt like a reprised version of an early 1990s show that brings a smile to the audience face but can just as easily make them tear up.

The Family Man 2 (Amazon Prime Video)
The show’s ‘family man’ has to save the nation and also look after his family. This season, the two overlap. The show found great performers in Bajpayee and Samantha as the makers pushed the execution to the next level. The police station shootout, captured in a single shot, was among many in the series but its orchestration was so precise that viewers marvel at the dedication and preparation it required.

Geeli Pucchi, Ajeeb Daastaans (Netflix)
A short in the Ajeeb Daastaans anthology explores caste’s deep entrenchment in Indian society and how it trumps friendship, love, and humanity. Handled delicately by director Neeraj Ghaywan, Geeli Pucchi narrates the tale of a woman who begins the race from way behind the line and has to go out of her way at every juncture just to exist. When she finally meets someone who could mean something to her, society puts her back in her place. Konkona is the soul of Geeli Pucchi and excels particularly in the scene where she tells Priya (Aditi Rao Hydari) to have a baby.

Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa, Ray (Netflix)
A part of Netflix’s Ray, the short struck the right chord. Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa, starring Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao, takes audiences through a surrealist world that feels like a joyride. The two characters, connected by a lucky pocket watch, are aware of their kleptomaniac tendencies but the game of stealing, and later putting it back, keeps viewers on the adge. The nostalgia shop element that saves everyone’s secrets was the cherry on top of the cake.

Mumbai Diaries 26/11 (Amazon Prime Video)
Set during one of India’s most terrorising episodes in the 21st century, the show delivered on its promise. While it could have done away with some unnecessary backstories, the show delivered an exciting thriller that mixes reality and fiction in a way that the Hindi content space should experiment with more. Mohit Raina was in the star and was ably supported by the cast members.

Aspirants (YouTube)
The TVF show rolled out weekly episodes on YouTube and soon each episode raised the standard for emotionally satisfying content. Aspirants spoke to a generation of students who believe hard work is the key to success and are ready to sacrifice their youth to secure a bright future. The show stood out amid content that repeatedly tells the youth to follow their unconventional dreams and, surprisingly, connected with a large audience. While Aspirants became indulgent at times, it still had an impact.

Spotlight, Ray (Netflix)
Another short in Ray that thoroughly impressed was Vasan Bala’s Spotlight. The tale of a narcissistic film star fighting a lost battle against a god-woman was surreal. The short takes on fandom as a theme and how it translates differently for a film star and a god-woman. Radhika Madan starred and demands attention every time she is on the screen and it’s easy to see why Harshvardhan Kapoor’s character is mesmerised by her.

Grahan (Disney+ Hotstar)
An admirable attempt to present a love story amid the riots of 1984 in Bokaro. Grahan’s execution of a forbidden love story was classy. It needs to be noted that much of its success was down to the right casting. The present-day timeline, which unfolded like an investigation, recalled the stories of those who lost everything in the riots. The political angle needed more heft, but Grahan is a pensive tale with gut-punching moments.

Kota Factory 2 (Netflix)
One of the most popular shows when originally released, there was a lot of expectation from the second season. While the show bit off more than it could chew, it was an admirable attempt at telling the story of Indian teenagers without exploiting their weaknesses. Kota Factory could have also explored systemic problems even more but it never wanted to start a revolution. Instead, it tells the story of everyone who follows the herd.

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