With the way web series have exploded on OTT platforms, it can be difficult to view them all. Perhaps that's why, Harman Wadala and Ajitpal Singh's Tabbar, on SonyLiv, missed the masses.
Tabbar tells the story of a small, middle-class family that is caught in a web of lies and crime (mostly of their own making) after their elder son's actions put the entire family in jeopardy. Here is why Tabbar is unlike any other family drama currently streaming on OTT, and a must-watch:
1. Stellar performances by the lead cast of Pavan Malhotra and Supriya Pathak Shah.
Pavan Malhotra is one of Bollywood's underrated gems, who has never got his due in the movies. But in Tabbar, he proves, yet again, why he deserves to lead powerful and original stories like this one. He plays a father who, driven by the deep-rooted desire to protect his children, goes to extreme lengths to save them. His expressions speak volumes, his desperation shocks you, and he leaves you hurting - even as he commits one despicable act after the other.
Pavan Malhotra is ably supported by Supriya Pathak who is nothing short of spectacular as a mother conflicted between basic humanity and motherly affection. The way her personality disintegrates as guilt consumes her reminded me of Shakespeare's Macbeth - and that's a testament to both, her acting prowess and the way the character has been written.
2. A gripping storyline, that strips apart the cost of family pressure.
From K3G to Dil Dhadakne Do, family dramas in Bollywood are a dime a dozen, ranging from the melodramatic to the realistic. Tabbar lands somewhere in between. But what sets it apart is that it draws its drama from real, human emotions of guilt, secrecy, and parental pressure. To cite a few situations from the show, in a country where family relations are paramount, how do you expect a mother to choose between her own child and her sister-in-law's child? Or how does a son let his father know he can't fulfill his dreams - when the very house his parents built, is named after him? How does a man choose between his wife and his children's future? Simply put, it's not just about how far would you go to save your family but also, about who do you actually consider family.
3. A brilliant supporting cast of mostly newcomers.
Barring Kanwaljit Singh and Ranvir Shorey (both of whom shine in their brief roles), the supporting cast is made of mostly debutants and newcomers, including Paramvir Cheema (Lucky), Gagan Arora (Happy), and Sahil Mehta (Tegi). While they've starred in a few web series and videos in the past, the kind of gravitas they lend to their roles is commendable. What is also noteworthy is that none of the three male characters in their late teens and early 20s are written similar to each other, in terms of their personality, moral take on life, or responses to high-pressure situations.
4. Realistic depiction of middle-class Punjabis, that breaks away from the image Bollywood has been showcasing for years.
Most of Bollywood would have you believe that Punjabis are loud and 'jolly', even in the middle of a tragedy. Tabbar throws this notion out of the window to give you a family with dreams and struggles that are unique to the Indian middle-class - while presenting a crime drama that is as shocking, as it is horrific. And it's a refreshing change indeed. It's also commendable that the show served this image while delivering an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
5. An insightful take on morality in a corrupt world.
Different individuals sacrifice their moral high ground at different altars - this forms the crux of the story. In the face of a corrupt system, do you let self-preservation win or justice? Is a father's love more important than a human's life? Can guilt over your actions be suppressed by the love for your children? How do you decide which crime is more heinous? The show raises many such questions but answers only a few. Instead, it shows the journey of the different characters and leaves you pondering over what is right and wrong.
6. Sneha Khanwalkar's haunting but powerful melodies.
I've said it before, I'll say it again - Sneha Khanwalkar is a magician who deserves far more praise than she receives. The show relies heavily on background scores to make a point because there is not one preachy monologue or long-winded dialogue. And here Khanwalkar's melancholic melodies strike the perfect chord. A special mention to the sequence where Pavan Malhotra dances to Chal Uth Bandeya.
7. The amazing direction that makes you believe you're watching a play.
Ajitpal Singh has truly done a brilliant job with the direction. While the actors deserve complete credit for bringing alive the nuances of their characters, the direction of the series is such that you feel transported to the magic of theatres and plays. In the world of Instagram reels and web series, it's a rare, notable feat indeed.
There are moments in the show where you feel the characters' transgressions are being explained away far too easily. But this creative liberty is perhaps the only downside in an otherwise engaging, thrilling drama, that reminds us why we fell in love with web series in the first place - for they told stories and showcased performances the silver screen gave up on!
All images are screenshots from the show currently streaming on SonyLiv.