Inside Edge Season 3 review: ‘90s nostalgia, thrilling onscreen India-Pakistan cricket rivalry make it sneaky-good fun

Inside Edge 3 dials up the '90s nostalgia and transports it into the India of today.

Pradeep Menon December 03, 2021 14:50:07 IST
Inside Edge Season 3 review: ‘90s nostalgia, thrilling onscreen India-Pakistan cricket rivalry make it sneaky-good fun

The first season of Inside Edge had me hooked. The second season caused me a mild migraine. With the third, I’m glad to report, the show returns to form.

The plot continues from where that creaky, crumbly second season ended. The Big Dada of the Indian Cricket Board (ICB) Yashwardhan ‘Bhaisaab’ Patil  (Aamir Bashir) has yet again managed to retain control of the reins of the lucrative sport, by hanging his daughter out to dry, no less. The Power Play League (PPL) has been rocked by scandal, but it will survive. Some key characters have exited, some new ones have entered the fray. There’s also an awkward but still refreshingly bold dose of ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ this time round. Most importantly, they’ve finally taken all the cricket on the show to the international level.

This, in the form of a historic visit by frenemies from across the border. Yes, a (strong) Pakistan team is touring India for a three-test series on Inside Edge, and that alone makes this season worth a watch. Fans of the game have an indefinite wait going for that encounter in real life, so this fictionalized screen depiction is the best we can get. And I’ll grudgingly admit – it is vicarious, guilty-but-unapologetic pleasure. Inside Edge still takes the OTT in OTT very seriously, but this season is – umpire’s call – the fun-est one yet.

But first, let’s talk about the Vivek Anand Oberoi in the room. Much about his character on the show has been questionable from the very start. Vikrant Dhawan might seem cool on paper – suave, cocky, unusually erudite, and deeply, intensely grey. But it’s hard not to question all the creative choices that led to a competent actor playing an important role in the context of the show, with such unnecessary smugness and smarm. It was the kind that not just physically slowed down proceedings, but also left you with a bad aftertaste outside of the misery he’s inflicting on screen. Still, he’s the upper limit of how over the top the show goes, and that’s a good thing. Because they’ve toned him down a wee bit, and they’ve amped up much of what made the first season a binge-fest.

Inside Edge continues to borrow generously from real headlines, mischievously incorporating it into the hyperactive universe of the show.

This time, they’ve loaded it up – and many of those headlines and events are drawn from the '90s. The oft-invoked ‘90s kids’ among the audience are thus likely to appreciate all those references the most. Full disclaimer – I belong to that infamous generation myself. We, who spent a mix of wide-eyed childhood and early teen-hood in the '90s, mark the point at which Indian civilization began to curdle. Headlines were routinely salacious, and the coming of the internet in the mid-to-late '90s meant shock value suddenly became everything.

So, from political miscreants vandalizing the pitch; to the omnipotent UAE-based underworld boss, to a suspiciously timed plane crash; to the choice of the actor playing the Prime Minister sahiba; to even Gautam Bhimani; Inside Edge 3 dials up the '90s nostalgia and transports it into the India of today. Trouble in Kashmir may be common to both then and now, but also think Test cricket in the time of T20 mania, a closeted superstar player with an identity crisis, even a super-efficient genderqueer hacker who is patronizingly prodded by, who else, Vikrant Dhawan, on their pronouns. Unsurprisingly, many more female characters get a lot more substantial screen-time. As I mentioned earlier, some of it can be awkward, but I wouldn’t fault the progressiveness for its intent.

What the season certainly could have done without are the unwieldy backstories for many of the key characters – Zarina Malik (Richa Chadha), Bhaisaab and his daughter Mantra (Sapna Pabbi), the sibling-duo of Vayu (Tanuj Virwani), and Rohini Raghavan (Sayani Gupta), and even Vikrant Dhawan. No one cares why these people are the way they are. It’s what they’re doing in the here and now that’s fun. Showing us random events of their pasts to explore psychological reasons for present toxic behavior seems like overkill.

All of this is thankfully offset by the increased focus on cricket. There’s a lot more on-field action to savour. Apart from the all-important India-Pakistan series, they even manage to squeeze in a significant domestic game and allude to the importance of grinding through the domestic circuit. The hedonistic excesses remain, but the balance with things that resemble real events to varying degrees makes the show hard to put down.

The Pakistan team has a young superstar named Babar, but he’s a quick bowler. After his immensely popular turn in TVF’s The Aspirants, Sunny Hinduja here plays Pakistan’s jovial captain Sultan; the actor and character are both in devastating form, his excessive West-Punjabi accent notwithstanding. Cricket and its actual backroom machinations are front and centre here, and it helps the season immensely. Inside Edge just doesn’t take half measures with its flourishes. Except, this time, they’ve managed to find a sweet spot close to the middle of the bat.

Pradeep Menon is a Mumbai-based writer and independent filmmaker.  

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