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Why the Cops in Web Series are More Real Than Mainstream Films

By on September 6, 2021 0 106 Views

With the exception of a few, the cop characters in mainstream Indian films have been larger-than-life, display superhuman ability in crime fighting, are without any genuine flaws and travel an outward journey in the absence of an internal conflict. However, the digital has ushered in some significant changes to the cop personality and the genre has become more realistic. Most importantly, it has paved way for more women to step into the shoes of police officers who uphold the values of courage and integrity.

Some of the realistic cop characters in Hindi films have been Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) in Mardaani, Inspector Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) in Article 15, Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) in Talaash and ACP Raghavan ‘Raghav’ Singh (Vicky Kaushal) in Raman Raghav 2.0. While Rani played the character with utmost grit and simplicity and mostly relied on her power-packed dialogue delivery backed by action, Aamir, Vicky, Ayushmaan’s cop avatars were wholesome characters who displayed a wide range of emotions and didn’t just beat around the bad guys in high-flying action sequences or sang and danced. They were conflicted characters and lived dual lives.

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On the other hand, movies like Dabangg, Singham, Simbaa, Theri, and Darbar, to name a few have painted a very flamboyant picture of the police force and project the image of an unwavering, stylish and all powerful public servant who stands tall in the face of adversity all by himself. Even takes the law in his hand at times. Akin to an anti-hero, this was the most accepted cop persona on screen, although nothing could have been further away from the reality. Bollywood cops were superheroes in uniform. The box office success of these handful of films further validated the ‘macho’ image of a policeman. This robbed them of any emotional depth or relatability. The cop became a messiah. Women still didn’t fit into these stereotypical moulds and largely stayed away from this highly popular film genre.

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With the coming of the web, the cop characters have become rounded. They are no longer just the bulky men in khaki devoid of any warmth, but a more real version of the heroes they are in real life. First and foremost, crime fighting is being done with more brains than brawn and there is a semblance of a police procedure. Secondly, a police officer like Hathiram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat) in Paatal Lok or Inspector Jatil Yadav in Raat Akeli Hai are travelling an inward journey that gets fulfilled by the time their external conflict is resolved. This completes them and the cop characters are not just a means to an end, but the agency of positive change. They are finding and fighting faults and prejudices within and emerging as enlightened individuals of society. Not just involved in the ‘who’s better’ battle.

Another point that still sticks out like a sore thumb is that women cops have been largely missing from the big screen or have only appeared in soft focus in frames crowded by the males. Their screen presence is limited and mostly without substance. Thankfully, the web has given ample space to the under-represented. Shefali Shah played DCP Vartika Chaturvedi in Emmy winning show Delhi Crime and will be reviving the role shortly in the second season. Her character assigned sensitivity to the police force while the mainstream film cops continue to exact revenge in some form or the other. In hard-hitting social drama Soni (2018), Geetika Vidya Ohlyan as Soni and Saloni Batra as Kalpana Ummat are two cops straddling in different societal and power circles, fighting both personal and professional battles, hardly with ease. Meanwhile, Raveena Tandon, Sonakshi Sinha, Shweta Tiwari and Aamna Sharif are some of the actresses who will be taking on full-fledged cop roles in their respective web series, paving way for more realism and women representation.

Moreover, the web is experimenting with the physicality of the cop wherein they come in all shapes and sizes. In mainstream films, the police man always appeared younger and well built. In contrast, Dibyendu Bhattacharya as DCP Ghosh is a cop with a belly in Undekhi. He is not just worn down by the system but also by his own body frame. Far from fighting the fight, he appears underconfident at times as the powerful trample down and downright abuse him. Hathiram in Paatal Lok has a slight hunchback and appears weary. They are also shot in contrast lighting as opposed to flat tones and with bright highlights in movies. Physical action takes a complete back seat with such characters. In Sacred Games, Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan) barely stands tall but is a mentally and morally strong cop. In Special Ops, police officer Abbas Sheikh (Vinay Pathak) arrives drunk on duty to investigate a terrorist attack. It evokes empathy with the profession. Abbas, like other cops, lays his life on the line but the system demands way too much from him and at times he can barely make it instead of looking all flashy and ever ready for duty. Look at him and you see a relatable man in his mid 40s with greying hair and getting slow with each passing hour.

Nawazuddin may not be the quintessential cop material viewed through the mainstream lens, but in the digital world he is the high-headed and confident policeman Jatil, meaning complex or hardened. The actor himself has played two versions of the cop character. In Raees, he is made out to be the tough cop Jaideep Ambalal Majumdar who outwits the hero with one-liners. In Raat Akeli Hai, he becomes someone who is uncomfortable in his own skin and uses lightening products. He sabotages murder investigation for his only chance at love. This directly contrasts with the mainstream cop who will go to any lengths but will rarely compromise with his duty or the values he upholds. Jatil is more humane while Jaideep is relying on moments of heightened drama.

In a nutshell, the cop genre is getting reinvented and reimagined for the web and only more exciting characters should be expected.

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