Inside Edge season 2 review: Quintessential bad TV powered by Richa Chadha, Aamir Bashir's performances
Let's all agree that Inside Edge falls more in the 'so-bad-it's-bingeable' category of streaming shows.
First things first, let's all agree that Inside Edge falls more in the "so-bad-it's-bingeable" category of streaming shows. Sure, it got nominated for the International Emmys, and was Amazon Prime Video's first Indian original, but let's not pretend it is compelling television.
Now that we've established that, let it be very clear that one isn't going to waste time judging the show for its lack of nuance, its commitment to overacting and histrionics. It's a guilty pleasure. It's the kind of show you pick when you want to take an intellectual break. Thankfully, the second season doesn't end on a needless cliffhanger (hi Netflix); at least Inside Edge has the courtesy to end season two with the closure of its story arcs, while still leaving room for season 3.
Inside Edge season two begins with the introduction of the mysterious 'bhaisaab', Yashwardhan Patil played by Aamir Bashir, in a Republic TV-type interview where an overbearing news anchor questions the Indian Cricket Board president about corruption and the PPL's politics-cricket nexus. Season two ends with another interview, where the Mumbai Mavericks' coach Moses (who replaces Niranjan Suri after his death) comes clean — about all the foul play in the current season of PPL — to the same news anchor in the same news show. In between these two interviews, the melodramatic season plays out.
This time around, the PPL is taken to South Africa after the Home Minister in India refuses to provide the cricketing league any security (this obviously happens because of his vested interests, but it's not important to know what they are). Yashwardhan Patil's daughter Mantra (Sapna Pabbi) is now the primary owner of the Mavericks with Zarina Malik (Richa Chadha) as a co-owner and Vayu Raghavan (Tanuj Virwani, who believes aggression is acting) as the captain. Meanwhile, Arvind Vashisht (a stoic Angad Bedi) is nabbed by the Haryana Hurricanes. Handa (the hilarious Manu Rishi) lures Vashisht by promising to help him find out who killed Niranjan Suri (played by Sanjay Suri in season 1), creating a compelling rivalry between the two friends-turned-foes: Vayu and Arvind. The finale match between Mumbai Mavericks and Haryana Hurricanes is the highlight of this mixed-bag of a season.
The women of Inside Edge get their time in the sun this season, and are fun to watch as compared to their male counterparts. Rohini (Sayani Gupta) continues her role as the cricket nerd, refreshingly so. Her impeccable diction and accent becomes a bit too mechanical at times, and there's an unnecessary track thrown in involving Makarand Deshpande as a foster father-cum-coach to Vayu and Rohini. Zarina climbs the proverbial ladder to become the main puppeteer of the corruption and scandals in the PPL, as bhaisaab's right hand woman. Mantra is the moral centre of the show *yawn*, providing direction to those characters who lose their way.
Some themes are touch-and-go. The betting scenario is limited to an after-thought, at best, when nothing else new can be used as a plot point in the show. A doping scandal is introduced, bringing Luke Kenny into the picture, but it disappears before anything real can be done about it. Yashwardhan Patil is made out to be a menacing villainous character (prosthetic leg etc) at some point and we're expected to understand that he's doing all of this for the love of cricket at other points.
Prashant Kanaujia (Siddhant Chaturvedi) suffers from PTSD after the events of the season 1 finale, where he shoots the castiest and entitled Devender Mishra (Amit Sial) but doesn't kill him.
In one problematic scene, both Prashant and a newly improved Devender (now playing for the Hurricanes) are in jail for a brawl. A few South African rowdies share the jail with them and almost abuse Devender when Prashant comes to his rescue. In a moment of clarity after, Devender is apologetic about his entitlement and claims he doesn't know any better but to be castiest; "it's what I was raised with," he says. He then goes onto to remove his janeu claiming he isn't a "good Brahmin" for his abusive behaviour to Prashant, and admits that when the rowdies where beating him up, he felt what it mean to be oppressed, just like Prashant would have. Prashant, meanwhile, keeps silent. The background score is rousing, as if to indicate the formation of a new friendship. Obviously the spotlight and onus of reformation is on the upper-caste character.
The only thing consistent about Inside Edge is its obsession with hammy acting and Vivek Oberoi. His "return" is teased through the season, peppering every other episode with a supposedly mammoth controversy that he is orchestrating, and no matter which character gets one up against him or manages to outsmart him, he finally always has the last word (spoiler alert). So much so, that the brilliant Aamir Bashir, perhaps the best actor in this series, starts talking in the annoyingly forced deep baritone that Oberoi championed in season 1. With actors like Bashir, Manu Rishi, Richa Chadha and Luke Kenny on their roster, why is Inside Edge so obsessed with Vivek Oberoi? This is the true bouncer of the show.
Aakash Bhatia, the director of this season, brings some great shots and visuals to an otherwise over-the-top series. Some frames are breath-taking, worthy of pausing and staring at. The scenes with cricket, which are far fewer in number than the previous season, are well crafted, genuinely nail-biting like an IPL match would be. Bhatia understands the pulse of a show that centres on cricket, politics and entertainment.
Richa Chadha, Aamir Bashir and sporadically smart writing make some episodes of Inside Edge a breeze to watch and apart from a lull midway through the season, the 10 episodes pass by swimmingly: easy to watch and easy to forget.
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