In a country where people worship cricket and cricketers, the integrity of the sport is seldom questioned. The T20 format of cricket, much popularised and glamourised by the controversial Indian Premier League (IPL), is the inspiration behind AmazonPrime Video’s Inside Edge (2017), the first Indian content to stream on the platform. Bearing a stark resemblance to IPL, Inside Edge highlights how the game and those playing it are plagued by match-fixing, politics, betting, treachery, doping scandal etc. The series depicts the world of cricket in such a way that certain situations and characters make you forget the difference between the reel and real.
Inside Edge begins with the star player Vayu Raghavan (Tanuj Virwani) of Mumbai Mavericks having sex with a cheerleader in a dressing room during a cricket match, while his team - the captain of his team Arvind Vashisth (Angad Bedi), his coach Niranjan Suri (Sanjay Suri) and the rest of the players - are looking for him. At one glance, one is likely to pass it off as salacious, but hang in there for a few more seconds to be treated with plot twists and nail-biting moments.
Mumbai Mavericks’ co-owner and fading actress, Zarina Malik (Richa Chadha) is proud of her team's recent victory, but has a larger problem to deal with - the investor of the team is bankrupt. But just when she thought that the existence of Mumbai Mavericks will be wiped off from the world of T20 cricket, enters Vikrant Dhawan (Vivek Oberoi), an “angel” in disguise who invests in the team and saves both Zarina and her team. However, the truth isn’t what it seems.
The calculated and manipulative Dhawan, the right-hand man of Bhaisaab (whose identity is kept hidden), engages a few players from the team in match-fixing. What follows next is a series of unfair and unfortunate incidents, resulting from fixing, blackmailing, betting, and betrayal. Dhawan, who earlier tried to molest Zarina, kills coach Niranjan when he refuses to continue to help him with spot-fixing. Helpless Zarina continues to work alongside Dhawan albeit with rage and vengeance in her heart. You can smell sexism here and it angers you to see how powerful men try to suppress women by much arm twisting.
The only “righteous” man, Arvind, while dealing with marital issues, continues to keep the team together and focus on improving the players’ performances, especially Vayu’s, who is embroiled in a controversy. Prashant Kanaujiya (Siddhant Chaturvedi), a wide-eyed boy from Bihar, is a breath of fresh air, and you almost immediately fall in love with his innocence and passion for cricket. Despite being bullied by Devendra Mishra (Amit Sial) for belonging to a lower caste and being forced to get involved in fixing, he chooses to inform Arvind about the whole nexus.
Zarina, with planning and support of her players, is finally able to defeat Dhawan, when her team wins the match. In the dressing room, an angry Prashant shoots Devendra, when teased and bullied and the only witness of this is Rohini (Sayani Gupta), Vayu’s sister and team’s analyst. Dhawan, who loses all his money put on betting, kills Zarina’s dog and attacks her, but is saved by Pritish, his right-hand man. Zarina hits Dhawan with a cricket bat on his head. The audience keeps guessing whether Devendra and Dhawan or either of them is alive.
Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s association has given us films that we have loved. And this time, too - Inside Edge is backed by their Excel Entertainment - the duo has been successful in keeping the viewers hooked on to the series, with many ‘edge-of-the-seat’ moments.
The series is sensational and it is not apologetic about it. It speaks what it has to, with honesty - at times you begin to wonder if the characters are in fact, the people we watch or have watched on the crease. Several online debates have surfaced, suggesting if Richa’s character was based on Preity Zinta or whether the idea of depicting the death of Niranjan Suri was inspired by the murder of Bob Woolmer. Despite being highly fictionalised, Inside Edge will change the way you look at the game of cricket. It leaves you questioning: Is it really the Gentleman's Game, after all?
The script is the king here; while focus is on the dark underbelly of T20 cricket, it deals with many other issues quite seamlessly. It is fast-paced, full of twists and turns, with no loose ends. The editing is crisp, however, the cinematography deserves a special shout out. The cricket matches shown in the series transport you to the stadiums where T20 matches are actually played.
The characters are layered and grey. The writers don't strive to justify their acts, which makes them more real. The ensemble cast delivers power-packed performance, however, Richa deserves a special mention. Siddhant is a delight to watch and so are all the other actors.
Inside Edge, despite not being a sports biopic, is a brilliant sports drama - something we haven’t seen earlier. And, that’s what makes it so appealing. Watch the 10-episode series if for its sheer honesty, fearlessness, and extremely powerful performances.