Year-Ender: Best Telugu Web Series Of 2023

In 2023, different kinds of thriller stories like ‘Dayaa’ and ‘Dhootha’ have been attempted. However, non-thrillers like ‘Save the Tigers’ struck a chord with the audience.

Web series in Telugu have seen a slow but gradual increase. The quality of these shows cannot be compared to Hindi. However, there have been some good ones.

For example, the 2021 Telugu web series Unheard by Aditya KV was an impactful show that dealt with the freedom struggle from the point of view of Hyderabadis.

Ideological standoffs between the revolutionaries and different opinions about the Nizam rule were brought out well in the web show. Though Unheard had a stage-like atmosphere, which took some time to get used to, it was nevertheless a fascinating web show, particularly for those who are interested in history.

In 2022, acclaimed filmmaker Krish Jagarlamudi adapted the work of Malladi Venkata Krishnamurthy into a gripping Telugu web series titled 9 Hours. Krish was not the director but he was involved creatively.

As the title suggests the story was set in the stipulated time of nine hours. Three prisoners plan to rob three banks and go back to jail before anyone finds out.

The best part of 9 Hours was the unexpected revelations that shocked the viewers. Though most of the story takes place in a single location, it never comes in the way of the audience’s enjoyment.

Now, in 2023, different kinds of thriller stories have been attempted — even paranormal. For example, Pavan Sadneni’s Dayaa revolves around a freezer van driver whose life turns upside down when he finds a dead body inside his van.

Dayaa poster
A poster of ‘Dayaa’ Telugu web series. (X)

JD Chakravarthy played the title role in his OTT Debut. Pavan Sadneni did a good job of keeping the audience invested with his skilful direction.

It was a right mix of mystery and drama while dwelling on the dark side of human nature. JD Chakravarthy led the ensemble cast with his skilful acting.

Among the thrillers with paranormal activities, Vikram K Kumar’s Dhootha was a riveting saga, making important points about politics and journalism.

But other thrillers like Mansion 24Athidhi, and Vadhuvu could not create the same impact.

On the other hand, non-thriller web series like Save the TigersKumari Srimathi, and Newsense struck a chord with their target audience.

Interestingly, we have two major Telugu web shows in 2023 dealing with the nexus between journalism and politics.

Now, let us get into the details a little more:

Newsense

A poster of Newsense web series
A poster of ‘Newsense’ web series. (X)

Newsense directed by Sri Prawin Kumar was an insightful take on the nexus between media and rural politics. The story was written by real-life journalist Priyadarshini Ram. This clearly showed in the authentic presentation.

Newsense touches upon several issues like the impact of sensationalising news and doesn’t shy away from criticising media and its corrupt practices.

Thankfully, there are no filmy clichés despite being set in the much-abused area of Rayalaseema.

The perspective of a female journalist, rarely seen in Telugu shows, is another plus to this web series.

Bindu Madhavi played the role. Her interactions with Navadeep’s Shiva have a certain playfulness and the dialogues have the appropriate rustic touch.

Navadeep got into the skin of a street-smart journalist and embraced the many grey shades of his character with aplomb.

Bindu Madhavi also lights the frame whenever she is on screen.

Among the supporting cast, Nanda Gopal made a solid impression as sub-inspector Edwin.

Newsense has only one song Myneeru Pillagada. This track made for a soothing watch and listen.

It is streaming on Aha.

Save the Tigers

A poster of Save the Tigers
A poster of ‘Save the Tigers’ web series. (X)

Director Teja Kakumanu‘s Save the Tigers is similar to Anil Ravipudi’s F2: Fun and Frustration (2019) in terms of husbands having issues with their wives. However, this web show has its individuality.

What made Save the Tigers entertaining is how the director used the background of his protagonists. The title is a reference to married men — that they should be saved from going extinct much like the tigers.

The main protagonists are Ghanta Ravi (Priyadarshi), Rahul (Abhinav Gomatam), and Vikram (Krishna Chaitanya). There is nothing common between them in terms of their backgrounds. They only meet at the school where their children are studying. But soon start bonding big time.

Save The Tigers hits the ground from the first frame. Several scenes tickle your funny bone. The interactions between Abhinav’s Rahul and Rohini playing the servant were an absolute riot. Fortunately, there are no body-shaming jokes here.

The director was also successful in creating conflicts that have substance. For example, Vikram’s wife is an activist-cum-lawyer. Their daughter is the emotional anchor between them like many children.

The Telugu web series also subtly touches upon workplace harassment without breaking the entertainment flow.

The story of Save the Tigers is not high on logic but that does not become a major deterrent. The performances of the three main leads were flawless.

Priyadarshi got the body language of a dairy farm owner spot on. Abhinav Gomatam’s satirical humour leaves the audience in splits.

A particular mention must be made of the scenes where he is struggling to get over writer’s block.

Krishna Chaitanya’s character does not come with any major comic punches but still, the actor was mighty impressive in his scenes. His acting skills are most visible when he expresses his frustration on being sandwiched between his boss, mother and wife.

Save the Tigers is an absolute binge-watch with just six episodes of short duration.

It is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

Kumari Srimathi

Thiruveer and Nithya Menen in Kumari Srimathi
Thiruveer and Nithya Menen in a still from ‘Kumari Srimathi’ web series. (iamThiruveeR/ X)

Kumari Srimathi directed by Gomtesh Upadhye was a heartwarming tale of a female entrepreneur.

The backdrop is a beaten-to-death genre of a family feud. Still, Gomtesh brought a freshness to this tale. The freshness comes from how he depicts the journey of Srimathi in establishing her restaurant-cum-bar in Ramarajulanka.

Some subtle points are made about how society differentiates men and women while doing the same business.

Apart from Nitya Menen’s Kumari, there were also other strong female parts. Whether it is the mother Devika (Gautami) or grandmother Seshamma (Talluri Rameshwari), the scenes between the three gave the show some of its best moments.

But the love triangle where two men compete for Kumari’s affection falls out of place.

Among the male characters, Prem Sagar made a big impact as the semi-villain. His character has some of the best punch lines too.

Nani has a special appearance which does not last long but the viewers feel a sense of nostalgia for seeing the Ala Modalaindi (2011) jodi again.

Overall, Kumari Srimathi was a well-made feministic tale. The Telugu web series is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Dhootha

Dhootha poster 2023
A poster of ‘Dhootha’ Telugu web series. (X)

Director Vikram K Kumar is mostly known for romantic and science fiction films, but he is also not new to the genre of paranormal thrillers.

Vikram earlier made a Tamil film with R Madhavan — Yavarum Nalam (2009). It was a nail-biting suspense thriller dubbed into Telugu as 13 B. In the movie, the television set was a major character.

In Dhootha web series, newspaper cuttings play a pivotal role. Whenever a newspaper cutting appears viewers get tensed up because there is a back story to the newspaper by the same name.

There are some hard-hitting dialogues about the dangers of intersecting politics and journalism. This web show makes it very clear that nothing good will come out of politicians running newspapers.

Naga Chaitanya as Sagar is initially presented as an ideal husband and righteous media person. In fact, many aspiring journalists look up to him. However, layers upon layers of secrets start tumbling down soon.

Naga Chaitanya did a splendid job in this grey-shaded role. A particular mention must be made of the mental and emotional breakdowns.

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