Bambai Meri Jaan (Season 1)
We are nearing the weekend but the new releases have started pouring in. So after 4 to 5 days of dormancy, I am slowly limping back to normal and just in time to cover the new releases. And for those checking on my health, just a little weakness that persists, this while I get back to my writing duties. With that, I finished watching the new Hindi series the first season of Bambai Meri Jaan which is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
There has been a plethora of content related to the underworld which are for consumption on various OTT platforms. Be it Once Upon A Time In Mumbai which marked the rise and growth of Dawood Ibrahim, or The Shootout franchise(Wadala and Lokhandwala), that followed the encounters of the notorious gangsters and his men, the subject in itself has been tried and tested. But I was more interested in the medium of a webshow that would provide makers with an expansive playfield to further dissect the events while paying attention to the character dynamics. And this is where Bambai Meri Jaan did warrant my attention. Coming from the prestigious production house of Excel Entertainment, I was quite looking forward to Bambai Meri Jaan featuring some incredible actors like KayKay Menon, Nivedita Bhattacharya and more importantly Avinash Tiwary who in my eyes is one of the most promising talent to watch out for! So then does Bambai Meri Jaan manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
The first season of Bambai Meri Jaan follows the story of the rise of a notorious gangster from the streets of Bombay(erstwhile name) contrary to the value system of his father. The story here is a typical gangster drama that doesn’t quite have anything new to offer. Yet, it is the presentation of a simmering drama always threatening to explode, that makes for a compelling watch. The screenplay standing at a daunting episode bank of 10 episodes ranging from 40 odd to 50 odd minutes could have been further trimmed down for a crisper watch. Yet, taking nothing away from the drama which definitely does command your attention.
The drama begins with the introduction of one of the protagonists, an honest cop from a humble background carrying off his duties by keeping his value system intact. The meagre salary offered to him may not have been enough for his budding family yet he still does enough to make ends meet. One thing that instantly caught my eye was the attention to detail in representing the Muslim culture, through the visuals or by simply showcasing the neighbourhood. It does help when the surroundings play a character in slowly enticing the viewers into the drama. But at the same time, a part of me felt that because the drama didn’t have anything new to offer, it had me marginally distracted, particularly with a couple of episodes at the beginning which did take a while to pick up.
The proceedings were a bit of a hit and a miss for me as I felt that the makers decided to flesh out the story that much more longer at the beginning. The events did feel slightly repetitive but it was the fascinating character study of the protagonist, and an equally contrasting personality of his young son that did hold my attention. Yes, there were some intriguing moments created but I really wished for a little more urgency with the events. The drama though slowly gathers steam with the politics of the area with respect to a few characters being explored, thus adding a layer of novelty with respect to the situations created. This included the crumbling of the value system of the protagonist following an incident that made me ponder about the forced choices with respect to so many people in the neighbour. This, while the show switches gears as it switches timelines.
The simmering aggression in the first half of the show almost threatens to explode every now and then in the second half of the show, with the reintroduction of many more characters that contribute to the chaos in the drama. The shifting character dynamics was rather indulging to a point that the flavour of the show began to nicely kick in with the writers creating some tense moments throughout the narrative. Another huge positive was that the stakes of the show were always pushing the envelope, and that is something that kept me invested as a viewer throughout. A couple of subplots related to the love angle of the protagonist wasn’t quite required but it did not deter the momentum of the show.
The twists and turns in the show are interesting, and coupled with some tense action sequences, it did make for a rather compelling watch. There are various instances throughout the show where you would be able to equate the events with some popular films of the genre, and that added to the nostalgia factor in a rather peculiar manner. The era of the late 80s is well represented and contributes well to the impact of the show. The events leading up to the final act are explosive, and while the final act in itself is simplistic and a tad rushed, the overall impact of the show was fiery and it made for a tense watch for most parts.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are wonderfully well penned, often grounded but not compromising on the impact. There isn’t much dialogue-baazi and deliberately so, to keep things authentic throughout. The music is excellent and the soundtrack deserves a playlist of its own. The use of rap in certain tense chase sequences was wonderful to watch, as was the playful track with a Goan touch to the proceedings being played out during a cricket match. The BGM heightens the tension in the drama more often than not. The cinematography is outstanding and one look at it, and you will know that a lot of thought is gone into it. Be it a frame featuring a wall dividing the characters of the father and son, representing the difference of opinion between the two characters, or the shaky frames in chase sequences representing chaos, the DoP deserves a huge round of applause here.
I did feel though that lighting was a bit of an issue in a few scenes. The editing is crisp for most parts of the drama. The costume department deserves an applause as well for tactfully putting thought into the outfits of the characters based on their traits along with an eye on the era where the drama is set in. Director Shujaat Saudagar who had previously directed Rock On 2, is in fine form here. He is able to create moments of intrigue which almost draw the audience in the drama every now and then. Even his ability to steady the ship, either through events which are used as a foreshadow or by maintaining the emotional core in the drama, was a sight in itself. The direction is excellent here.
The performances are fabulous by the ensemble cast. Princy Sudhakaran as Jayshree and Alok Pandey as Rahim have their moments to shine. Ashwani Kumar as Nasir, Aayushi Lahiri as Nasreen and Divyani Gandhi as Kainaaz are excellent despite a limited screen time. I was very impressed with Tanaya Khan Jha who is incredibly good as Chitra. Sumeet Vyas as Ganya is outstanding and quite intimidating in his character that almost played with the notes of dark humour. Aditya Rawal as Chhota Babban is phenomenal and I am a huge fan of his choices. Taking on the mantle of a sharp-shooter with a tinge of humour wasn’t easy, and Aditya did a tremendous job here with his massive screen presence too!
Dinesh Prabhakar as Anna, Rajat Kaul as Raiszada and Kamaljeet Rana as Haroon are wonderful to watch. Lakshya Kocchar as Ajju is first rate, as is Shiv Pandit as Malik who depicts his dilemma wonderfully well. Amyra Dastur as Pari looks pretty and does a good job. Kritika Kamra as Habiba is a revelation and kudos to the writers for adding flesh to her character. She hits all the right notes of her character so brilliantly that my money is on her to carry the legacy in the second season. It was a memorable outing by her!
Sunil Palwal as Bilawal has his moments to shine, as does Manthan Darji who essays the role of Young Dara. Vivan Bhathena as Abdullah is wonderfully restrained in a phenomenal job done. Jitin Gulati as Saadiq is well within himself and that does help in showcasing his vulnerability so well. Nawab Shah as Azeem is dependable and does a fine job. Saurabh Sachdeva as Haji is such a fine actor who often does pay attention to the nuances of his character. So his body language and mannerisms were so beautiful to witness and you can almost see a shift in the character traits as well from the first scene to the last wherein Haji becomes more and more subdued and powerless. It was wonderfully depicted by Saurabh.
Nivedita Bhattacharya as Sakina was one of my favourite characters here, simply with respect to the choices that she often has to make pertaining to the men in her household. And she brings forth her vulberability so beautifully in what was such a heartfelt performance. Kay Kay Menon as Ismail is another actor who focuses on the minute aspects of his character. And here the challenge was to showcase a contrasting picture of a person torn between his value system, and it was a brilliant portrayal of a character haunted by his past. It was tremendous to witness his drooping shoulders as the drama progressed while portraying a hapless version of his previous self in what was an acting masterclass of the highest order. Avinash Tiwary provides another timely reminder on why he is considered as a talent to cherish. As Dara, he exudes of style but doesn’t go overboard with it, instead dabbles with it in a portrayal of an insecured character who longs for a family while continuing to enjoy power. It was a magnificent act by Avinash.
The first season of Bambai Meri Jaan may not offer anything novel in terms of its story, yet it is an explosive representation of the underworld with stupendous performances that makes for a compelling watch. Available on Amazon Prime.