Horror as a genre is terribly underutilized in our country. Partly, I believe the viewers are to blame too. You just cannot be distracted while watching horror, a genre that requires your full attention from start to finish. But to be fair, there aren’t too many ‘good’ products to be consumed with filmmakers blindly aping the ones made in the west. Which brings me to Tummbad and why it is regarding as a classic. Because it had a folklore deeply rooted in our country and dealt with an original story. Sadly, instead of it being a starting point, a few filmmakers went back to their formula and failed miserably. Since then, there has been a scarcity in the horror genre. I just finished watching Betaal, the latest offering from Netflix and I have to admit that I was skeptical owing to the horror genre and the recent track history of Netflix in the Indian content. Did it give me nightmares or was it another letdown…lets find out.
Betaal is the story of an army who unknowingly invoke a curse on a remote tribal village while trying to seize their land for development. The story had all the makings of a delicious zombie entertainer rooted in our country dealing with our history. Divided into 4 episodes of 45 mins each(approx), the screenplay is engaging in most parts. While the premise is just excellent and very well setup in the first episode, things do slow down a bit in the second episode but excitement creeps in late in the third episode and continues throughout the fourth one with a mind boggling finale, setting up ground for season 2. There could have been a little more urgency in the middle but nevertheless unlike other Netflix shows, this does score! The dialogues are good though a few lines seem corny. In a horror series, you require great cinematography, good BGM that is not blaring and some good art work and all three are ticked here, in fact brilliantly so! The direction is shared by Patrick Graham(Earlier directed Ghoul) and Nikhil Mahajan and they really deserve an applause for creating some spooky atmospherics.
The performances are good too. Syna Anand as Saanvi is excellent. Ankur Vikal as Bhunnu has his moments. Siddharth Menon(seen in Karwaan, highly recommended) as Nadir has a very terrifying role and he does a great job with it. Suchitra Pillai is a bit caricaturist in the middle(you’ll know when) but is convincing as the commanding officer. Manjari Pupala as Punia is such a fine actor and the pick of the actors for me, a case of perfect casting! Jatin Goswami has terrific screen presence. You may have rooted for our very own Katekar in Sacred Games, but here Jitendra Joshi as the power hungry Mudhalvan has no redeeming quality, and you will just hate him, he is that good. Aahana Kumra is a fabulous actor and here again she is spot on as Ahu. I really wish to see more of her. Viineet Kumar Singh is just a star isn’t he? He is so comvincing as the second in command officer Sirohi and really drives the narrative. Also portraying an inner conflict may not be easy, and he just sails through. Don’t miss him in an excellent finale!
Betaal does not have any jump scares but nevertheless is a treat for all the fans of the horror and zombie genre. Well what can I say, Netflix India has finally joined the party, here is wishing it to produce such great concepts and one shout out to SRK for backing this project. Watch this series now and keep screaming!