Paatal Lok: Based on his book, but nothing to do with Tarun Tejpal

Updated: May 13, 2020, 08:07 IST | Uma Ramasubramanian, Mohar Basu | Mumbai

As sources say Amazon US initially axed Paatal Lok during #MeToo in 2018, creator claims series uses rape-accused Tarun Tejpal's work as an only starting point.

Tarun Tejpal and Neeraj Kabi in the show
Tarun Tejpal and Neeraj Kabi in the show

Amazon Prime's upcoming offering, Paatal Lok, has caught the audience's attention as much for its gritty treatment as for its source material. The Anushka Sharma-backed show is based on former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal's book, The Story of my Assassins, which in turn is a "fictionalised tale" of the 2001 incident where five suspects were arrested for allegedly plotting his assassination. While the Jaideep Ahlawat and Neeraj Kabi show follow a similar narrative, it is told from the perspective of a cop, essayed by the former.

Sources suggest that the crime thriller was in the works over the past five years, and had faced a hurdle in 2018. According to sources, Amazon US had decided to pull the plug on it when the #MeToo movement gathered steam in India, considering Tejpal was accused of rape by a colleague in 2013 and has been on bail since July 2014.

"However, creator Sudip Sharma and Amazon India had faith in their product and reasoned that the book was only the starting point. They pointed out that they had consciously distanced themselves and their offering from Tejpal. It was also a collective decision to develop Neeraj's journalist as a grey character, thus keeping the messaging of the show in the right place," adds the source.

When mid-day quizzed Sharma on how Amazon US had apparently wanted to axe the series, he refrained from discussing the episode, saying, "I wouldn't be in a position to comment on that."

Sharma, who has also served as one of the writers of the series, acknowledged that the book stayed with him ever since he read it a decade ago. "This book was a small part of it. We took a one-line plot from there, and then the writers explored many different situations. There are several other factors that have been added to our story. We decided to explore the life of a cop. [That character] is not based on a [real-life] person," he said, before stating, "The author of the book was not involved in the development or production of the show."

He also dismissed talk of Kabi's character being modelled on Tejpal. "Neeraj Kabi's role has got nothing to do with Tarun; it's a fictional character," he emphasised.

Sudip Sharma
Sudip Sharma

The Amazon Prime spokesperson remained mum on the 2018 episode, instead stating, "Paatal Lok is loosely inspired by an idea from the book. Creator-writer Sudip Sharma took inspiration from it, and with his team of writers, crafted a nuanced and immersive crime thriller. Tarun Tejpal was not involved in any phase of the development and production of the show. It is the story of an honest cop who unravels a deep nexus of crime. The characters are fictional and not based on any real-life personalities or incidents."

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