Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Punjabi/Hindi series CAT which is streaming on Netflix. The OTT giant has often been picked upon for its Indian content which the feedback being that it is not rooted enough and thus it caters only to a niche audience. But having watched most of its Indian content and following the trend of procurement/Originals, I see a shift in the mindset of Netflix for the better. If it was Khakee – The Bihar Chapter that had released on its platform a couple of weeks back, a type of content which you wouldn’t generally associate with Netflix, then this week comes another rooted story CAT which is set in Punjab. The moment you are clear on where to set the drama in, the ‘rootedness’ does kick in automatically. And kudos to Netflix for the shift in the mindset.
Right from its trailer I was really excited to watch CAT and there were several reasons for the same. Its trailer did promise for a captivating drama but more importantly I was excited to watch Randeep Hooda onscreen. He is such a talented performer that I wish to watch more of and CAT did promise his elaborated presence too. And now that I have finished watching CAT season 1, here are my two cents on the same!
Story & Screenplay
The first season of CAT follows the story of the prevalent drugs issue and the power tussle in the state of Punjab. The story isn’t very novel and you have seen a similar issue being addressed in one of my favourite films of 2016, Udta Punjab. However, the topic continues to remain relevant even today and so the story is quite captivating in the manner in which it is narrated. The screenplay standing at 8 episodes of roughly 40 odd minutes does seem a tad too long and there was a little scope to trim its overall length. But the drama has enough to keep you engaged throughout.
The first thing that did click in this impressive drama was the setting and the world building. The flavour of the drama set in the bylanes of Punjab was evident from scene one and credit does go to the writers and makers for the same. Ofcourse it does help that the people associated here do understand the culture of the land pretty well. The drama does unfold across two timelines – one of the past and the other of the present. This bit of narrative style was interesting as you as a viewer almost had an instant validation about why things are the way they stand, without completely taking you away from the current buildup and the surmounting tension.
The drama is engaging and engrossing even though largely predictable. Having said that, some of the twists and turns along with revelations did take me off guard as I did not see them coming. There are multiple subplots in the story here but once again a tad too many for my liking. Some of the subplots do not quite tie up to the main plot and in turn they do add crucial minutes to the overall length of the series. What that also does is that it slightly does keep the focus off the main plot which is the most interesting feature of the drama.
The drama though is consistently watchable and entertaining while keeping the who social issue as a subtext. Everytime you get a sense of the drama slightly drifting away, a change in the trajectory of the drama puts it right back on track. So despite the convoluted nature of the screenplay, you are thoroughly invested throughout. This is also in many ways a thrill a minute kind of a drama that can be binge watched in a single go! The grand revelation in the pre-finale does setup things for a mouthwatering showdown. But the series which could have been easily wrapped up does falter in setting up things for the second season. The ending is compromised to an extent and is slightly underwhelming despite it being layered with a predictable trick up its sleeve. But overall, the screenplay is really well written and does make for a captivating drama!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are raw and that translate in the authenticity of it making the drama textured and flavourful. The music does go well with the narrative, the BGM is generic and could have been much better. The cinematography and the colour grading is fabulous and definitely enhances the overall viewing experience. The director’s chair is shared by Rupinder Chahal, Jimmy Singh and the showrunner Balwinder Singh Janjua and the direction is excellent here. The nature in which a not so novel story is treated and narrated does make for a rivetting watch and for that the directors need to be given a lot of credit.
The performances are brilliant and credit needs to be given to the casting director here for unearthing some serious talent here. Avyaana, Emily Acland and Rehmat Rattan have their moments to shine. Sukhwinder Chahal as Mukhtiyar is calculative and first rate as is Jaideep Singh. Neha Panwar and Navneet Kaur are excellent despite a limited screentime. Manish Gulati as Monty has his moments of madness but in a very good way. Eklavey Kashyap as Rocky has a pleasant screen presence and does a good job. Dakssh Ajit Singh as Laddi is sincere and shares a warm chemistry with the protagonist while it lasts! Gurinder Makna as Bill is good although he goes slight overboard(in that hospital scene) towards the end. Hopefully his return in season two shall be intimidating. Ramandeep Yadav and Sachin Negi are both first rate as well.
Pramod Pathak as Chandan has a streaky sense of humour here that works well but his character is a touch underwritten. Coral Bhamra as Sweety looks pretty and does a swell job. Kavya Thapar as Kimi does show different shades of her character really well. Danish Sood as Sunny is good in again a character that was a touch underwritten. Geeta Agrawal Sharma as Aulakh is brilliant and an absolute treat to watch. Harleen Kaur as Babita is phenomenal and wonderfully understated. Suvinder Vicky is an outstanding actor whose performance I was blown away with in Meel Patthar. As Sehtab, he is calculative, intimidating yet effortless in this towering act. I wish to watch more of his work going forward. And it is Randeep Hooda who yet again shows what a brilliant performer he is. As Gurban, he has so many emotions to play with and he nails every emotion in this phenomenal act. You can literally see that the man has given his sweat and blood to his role here which makes me wonder why don’t I get to watch him more often. But all in all, a stupendous performance nevertheless!
The first season of CAT is a captivating drama with splendid performances. Available on Netflix.