‘Inside Edge’ season 2 blows the lid off doping
In the summer of 2017, just a few weeks after the Mumbai Indians lifted their third IPL trophy, it was the politics and power play in the dressing room of the Mumbai Mavericks that kept many entertained and engaged.
Inside Edge — a no-holds barred look at the ugly underbelly of the T20 world — combined a winning cocktail of well-known controversies that have dogged the gentleman’s game through the years and an interesting dose of carefully curated fiction to come up with a 10-episode series that was saucy and sassy and, surprisingly, self aware. Subtlety wasn’t really one of its strong points, but Inside Edge played to its strengths, delivering what T20 cricket itself promises — some blistering entertainment, even if it traversed a fairly predictable template.
Executive-produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment, Inside Edge — boasting names like Richa Chadha, Vivek Oberoi, Angad Bedi and Sayani Gupta, among others — was one of Amazon Prime Video’s first successful Indian originals. With close to 500 minutes at its disposal, Season One managed to dig deep beyond just the conventional arcs of matches and auctions, team selection politics and underhanded dealings.
Fairly solid writing — courtesy Karan Anshuman and his team who tempered cliches with cliffhangers and threw in engaging conflicts every time the storytelling felt too clinical — defined Season One. It was also a season powered by some sturdy acts. Most importantly, it gave us Siddhant Chaturvedi, who earlier this year rapped his way into our hearts and playlists as MC Sher in Gully Boy.
Season Two, that drops on the streaming service today, carries forward the theme and template from Season One. It unravels some mysteries — we finally know who the mysterious and elusive ‘Bhaisaab’ is — even as it introduces new players and plot points. The action, for the most part, shifts to foreign turf (if you follow your IPL, you won’t be surprised to know the new scene of action).
If match fixing was the focus of the first season, then Season Two attempts to blow the lid off doping. The Telegraph has had access to Season Two and our review is based solely on how it plays out in the first five episodes. Our three-word verdict: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.
Unfolding a year after the controversial last season that witnessed a murder (Bob Woolmer, anyone?) among other things, Season Two hits the ground running, wasting no time in showing the shift in the power centre. Zarina Malik, the fading Bollywood superstar struggling to hold on to her stake in the Mumbai Mavericks, is no longer the whimpering, helpless damsel being constantly played as we saw in the initial episodes of Season One. In this season, Zarina — Richa Chadha plays her with an intriguing mix of manipulative charm and audaciousness — operates from a position of power, playing everyone around her. It’s a huge turnaround, making Zarina one of the most compelling characters of the season. In fact, it’s the women — Rohini Raghavan, played by Sayani Gupta, has more to play with and Sapna Pabbi’s Mantra Patil has much more to her than is revealed initially — who power this season.
The big face-off this season is, as expected, between the Mumbai Mavericks and the Haryana Hurricanes. Both teams have new captains — we won’t spoil it for you — and it’s the rivalry between the two sides, on the pitch and off it, that establishes the narrative oeuvre of the first five episodes. But like the first season, it’s the behind-the-scenes action — thankfully, more Zoya Akhtar than Madhur Bhandarkar — that defines Season Two. But every time the show gets a little heavy-handed — a debate on the merits of the T20 format vs Test cricket seems misplaced — it slips.
A show on cricket should have the game at its centre and it’s in Episode 4 that Season Two engages the most, just like it did in the sixth episode of the first season when the action on the 22 yards was juxtaposed with the shenanigans — betting, et al — playing out simultaneously. Karan Anshuman teams up with Gurmmeet Singh to direct this episode — one of the season’s best — but bringing in different directors for different episodes results in a somewhat uneven pitch, pun intended.
“Cricket is a multi-billion dollar business. Everyone has a finger in the pie....” “This politics is the dirty kind”. Like Season One, cliched lines abound, but Aamir Bashir delivering most of them mean that you buy into it. The actor is at the top of his game here and is one of the major reasons to plug in. Tanuj Virwani continues his bad-boy act as the volatile man-child Vayu Raghavan, but his character shows little growth. Siddhant’s change in body language from Prashant Kanaujia to MC Sher and back to Prashant is remarkable.
Inside Edge has always been expository with its writing presented in broad strokes, but it makes a laudable attempt at authenticity. The banter in the commentator’s box — former cricketers Nikhil Chopra, Atul Wassan and Chetan Sharma do the duties here — sounds genuine and the cricket, on the field and on the nets, looks and feels legit. And when Angad Bedi — spin legend Bishan Singh Bedi’s son who’s back on the show as the redoubtable Arvind Vashisth, but with an added dimension to his walk and talk — runs up to spin-bowl to the opposition, you can’t help but smile. Reel meets real? Well, almost.