There’s nothing better than a crime thriller done well. Gangs, serial killers, and criminal investigations continue to dominate and hold our fascination. The Indian streaming space is populated with some of the best shows in the genre. From the thrilling Mirzapur to the Emmy-winning Delhi Crime, there is no dearth of titles that hit the right spot. With newer shows like Bambai Meri Jaan and Kaala coming in, here is a list of essential crime thrillers to add to your watchlist.
In Sacred Games, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character says, “Chaand pe hai apun,” and that’s just how high the show sets the bar for not just crime thriller shows but for Hindi web series. Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap and featuring some great performances from Saif Ali Khan, Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Pankaj Tripathi, and others, the show is an engaging crime saga. It revolves around two very different men—a struggling cop and a local gangster. What ensues is a gripping cat-and-mouse case, with the city of Mumbai at stake. From quotable dialogues to hilarious viral memes, audiences were hooked.
The Family Man
The combination of Raj & DK’s genius and Manoj Bajpayee’s performance is like idli and sambhar; one cannot go wrong. The Family Man, starring Bajpayee, Sharib Hashmi, Samantha, Priyamani, and others, is a crime thriller with plenty of humour to balance out its gritty arcs. The show follows a seemingly regular man with a middle-class lifestyle who works as a covert operative at the National Investigation Agency. He is tasked with some serious missions, but at the same time, he needs to keep up appearances as a married man who has bills to pay. As the pressure mounts, his dual lives are threatened due to his job. Bajpayee and Hashmi’s onscreen chemistry was the cherry on top of the crime thriller cake here.
Mirzapur had a lot going for it. For starters, the show featured some of India’s finest actors. Pankaj Tripathi, Alia Fazal, Vikrant Massey, Rasika Dugal, Divyendu Sharma, and others brought their A-game to the crime drama set in the heartland of India. The story is about the people who inhabit the crime-ridden city: a local kingpin in the arms and drugs business, his faithful henchman, two brothers who serve the criminal overlord, a frustrated housewife, and more. The show takes a bunch of tropes and blends them into one bloody milkshake. After the success of the first two instalments, a much-awaited third season is on its way.
Based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, also known as the Nirbhaya case, Delhi Crime chronicles the aftermath of the brutal assault. Directed by Richie Mehta and Tanuj Chopra, the show features brilliant performances by Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain, and others. The show is a well-researched, nuanced take on the Delhi Police’s investigation of the shocking real-life crime. With its pacey action and hard-hitting subject, the show grabbed eyeballs and even earned a history-making Emmy award in the Best Drama Series category. This was the first time an Indian show won an Emmy.
The 2018 show Breathe is a somewhat underrated crime thriller in the genre. Starring R. Madhavan and Amit Sadh, the show revolves around a man who resorts to bending the rules to save his son, who has weak lungs and is running out of time. Meanwhile, an alcoholic cop begins to notice unrelated deaths and discovers a pattern. The basic premise of the show is just how far an ordinary person will go to protect their family. Both Madhavan and Sadh give great performances in a show that is at once bizarre and brilliant.
Paatal Lok arrived amidst the pandemic when audiences were hooked on OTT platforms. But that’s not the only reason for its success. The Sudip Sharma-created series features a perfectly cast ensemble, including Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee, Neeraj Kabi, Ishwak Singh, and more. Between the nail-biting plot, the neo-noir style, and Banerjee’s scene-stealing Hathora Tyagi, the show is a stunning addition to the genre. While it can get gory, the violence isn’t for the sake of sensationalization. It is one of the shows that builds up to a finale that’s wholly worth it.
Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story
It’s impossible not to think of the catchy title track at the mention of Scam 1992. The show, helmed by Hansal Mehta, is a lesson in screenplay, acting, and dialogue, among other things. The show is based on convicted stockbroker Harshad Mehta, who pulled off a major stock market scam where he misappropriated 2.8 million shares of around 90 companies. The show essentially put Pratik Gandhi on the map, as the actor became one of the best names in OTT very quickly after its release. Following the success of Scam 1992, Hansal Mehta’s Scam 2003: The Telgi Story was released recently.
Dahaad, Sonakshi Sinha’s OTT debut had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival as a part of the Berlinale Series before hitting Indian streaming. The show, which also features Vijay Varma, follows sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati, who is tasked with investigating the case of a missing woman. As she goes deeper into the investigation in spite of those around her dismissing it as a case of elopement, she unravels a series of disappearances that lead her to a serial killer. While Sonakshi delivers a convincing performance, Vijay plays the cold-hearted serial killer to perfection.
Speaking of OTT debuts, Shahid Kapoor made his debut with Farzi. The show, helmed by Raj and DK, took on counterfeit cash. Between Kapoor’s charm, Vijay Sethupathi’s natural performance, and Bhuvan Arora’s breakout role, the show pretty much kept getting its casting right. It revolves around an artist who decides to use his family’s printing press to manufacture fake money. The crime-comedy is a binge-worthy ride from start to finish.
Asur mixes mind-bending twists and mythology to make for the perfect cocktail of a must-watch show. Starring Arshad Warsi, Barun Sobti, Riddhi Dogra, Dhananjay Rajpoot, and others, the show is about a forensic unit that sets out to nab a serial killer who is convinced that he is the reincarnation of Asura Kali. The show became a huge hit with viewers upon its release. It also got a second season following the success of the first instalment.