In India, cricket, Bollywood, and sex sells. There is no contesting that truth. And, Amazon Prime’s first show, made especially for the Indian audience - Inside Edge, has all the three success elements by the bucket loads. Produced by Farhan Akhtar’s production house Excel Entertainment, Inside Edge has a smattering of has-been Bollywood stars who are immediately recognisable and are generally competent actors. The list includes Vivek Oberoi, Richa Chadha, Angad Bedi, Sanjay Suri, Sarah-Jane Dias, and Manu Rishi Chadha. With such a fairly strong star cast, the backing of a fairly big production house, and promotions everywhere you turn (even the IMDB page is all jazzed up), I was expecting a good show, if not a great one.
Well, to cut the long story short, Inside Edge is mediocre at best.
Inside Edge’s story revolves around a fictional T20 cricket league - yes, like the IPL - called the PowerPlay League (PPL), and the controversies around one of the teams, the Mumbai Mavericks. The story involves sexual encounters, a fake pregnancy, lots and lots of drugs, a loosely-scripted betting scam, match fixing, a gay scandal, and some good old-fashioned Bollywood-style dirty politics.
Instead of going into the details of the story, which can spoil the plot of the the show, I’ll talk about the important characters, their character arcs, and how it affects the story overall.
— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeAMZN)
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Essentially, Richa Chadha’s plays Zarina Malik, who owns the team and due to certain circumstances Vivek Oberoi’s Vikrant Dhawan comes on board as a co-owner. Both Chadha and Oberoi stick out like sore thumbs amongst the other actors. While Oberoi is completely cringe-inducing as the megalomaniac villain Vikrant Dhawan, Chadha does no justice to her acting talent either. Chadha’s poor acting is especially surprising considering she did a stellar job in movies like Masaan and Gangs of Wasseypur.
The Mavericks’ team is captained by Arvind Vashsisht, played by Angad Bedi, and the coach is Niranjan Suri (Sanjay Suri). Both, Bedi and Suri coast thought their roles but they could’ve been much better. Their character arcs, however, do have a lot of meat. Vashsisht struggles to keep his marriage with his alcoholic wife alive and play cricket at the same time. Without giving away much, I can tell you that he is the level-headed player in the team who steers clear of most controversies. In fact, in the show itself he is once referred to as “Mr. Dependable” by Vikrant Dhawan, alluding to the fact that Vashsisht is actually Rahul Dravid in fictional form. There are many easter eggs like these that you can find if you've actually followed IPL inside out. Suri on the other hand has the respect of most of his team players but an incident from the past haunts him, and eventually leads to his downfall.
The star player of the Mavericks is Vayu Raghavan (Tanuj Virvani). Virvani acts well and he has a range of emotions that he brings out when necessary. Virvani’s Raghavan is your quintessential bad boy of cricket, who is great at scoring the big runs, and doing lines of coke while having sex with a cheerleader all at the same time. At the outset, he definitely seems like a typical a-hole misogynist but he loves the game of cricket too much to let anything affect it. Now, Raghavan is very important to move the plot forward. Unfortunately, the character falls victim to a script that is a bit too predictable as the season comes to an end.
The other important player in the show is the budding young fast bowler who comes from the hinterlands of India - Prashant Kanaujia. Kanaujia’s role is essayed by a particularly efficient Siddhant Chaturvedi. Chaturvedi lends the right amount of innocence needed for the role. Manu Rishi Chadda plays Handa, the owner of Haryana’s PPL team. His understated acting is several notches above the rest of the actors’. That said, his role is very limited and not really etched out well. There are certain situations, which look completely out of place in the whole scheme of the show. For example, there is a scene where Handa refuses to bail out his players - from a local police station - who’ve partied way too hard after a victory. It is needless and could’ve easily been avoided. Coming to my favourite character in the show, by far - Rohini Raghavan, Vayu Raghavan’s sister. Rohini, played by the wonderfully effervescent Sayani Gupta, is the team’s data analyst. She crunches through the numbers and stats of each player, and efficiently helps out in the team selection. It is commendable that Gupta, who doesn’t really follow cricket, is genuinely convincing in her role, more than some players even. Gupta’s side role is the strongest among the lot of actors because it has a singular focus from start to finish.
As for the script, it includes some super cheesy dialogues (especially for Vivek Oberoi’s) character, but there is one particular story arc that I particularly enjoyed. The makers have handled the whole religion and caste politics, that plays out between Devendra Mishra (played by Amit Sial) and Prashant Kanaujia, within the dressing room, pretty deftly. The outcome of this tension is pretty explosive and convincing too. Moreover, the script itself flows in such a way that each episode ends on a cliff-hanger making the show perfect for binge-watching. Oh before I forget, I think the writers could have also easily done away with the forced usage of the choicest of Hindi expletives, and of course, the F-word.
But, here’s the thing, if we were to compare Inside Edge to the trash that Indian television generally produces in the form of saas-bahu sagas, then it is leagues (no pun intended) ahead in terms of production quality, script, and general story-telling. However, we should actually be raising the standards to the level of international originals on streaming services Netflix and Prime Video. Case in point: Transparent, Man in the High Casle, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and many others. Instead, we are still pandering to the same mediocre standard already set by Bollywood. At the end of the day, I don’t see any difference between an Inside Edge, and a hammy, preachy Madhur Bhandarkar movie. However, if such content is right up your alley then by all means go watch Inside Edge.
All in all, I think that Inside Edge aims for a six but gets caught in the deep instead. The show is a strictly forgettable “one-time watch” affair. If there is a season 2 - because season 1 actually ends with several unfinished/unexplained threads - I am going to be skipping it.
Watch the show on Amazon Prime.