Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi series Dahaad which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. The series marks the return of the serial killer genre which has been my goto genre for so many years. And I was particularly excited for Dahaad given that it was Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar as the co-writers of the show. Anyone who is privy with their previous work would know that the biggest strength of Reema and Zoya is the world building and the character development.
I did feel at times that films as a medium did limit their storytelling, given how they like to expand the world that they are building and see how characters react to the situation. But with a full fledged webseries, I did feel that this was their playing ground! And Dahaad was that one opportunity. With Amazon Prime having a great year with the webseries in the form of Jubilee and Cinema Marte Dum Tak, Dahaad did look promising enough to join that bandwagon. Now that I have finished watching Dahaad, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
Dahaad follows the story of the investigation following the disappearance of 27 girls across various districts of Rajasthan. What is the truth behind the mystery? The story here is so much more than a regular serial killer film given how its plays out a social commentary in the second layer. It was refreshingly complex and textured in its narration. The screenplay standing at 8 episodes of roughly 50 odd minutes does seem slightly on the longer side but it does make for a compelling watch which is binge watch worthy.
The drama does open with an ongoing investigation of a girl who supposedly may have fled from her home with her lover. The writers do well in introducing the viewers to the politics of the land which is ruled by religion and caste issues. There are subtle touches of patriarchy which are well integrated in the premise itself that sets the ball rolling for the rest of the drama to follow. I did like how the events had a vibe of a K-Drama but it did follow a separate trajectory with respect to the politics of the land. Yet, the writers are quick enough to establish the fact that this isn’t a whodunnit. There is a parallel track introduced featuring a rather creepy person who doesn’t exude of positivity by any stretch of imagination. This, while keeping the mystery and the motives of the man intact, which were unfolding like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. What this does is that the writers do not lose focus of the primary issue of nabbing the serial killer.
The proceedings are engrossing and entertaining with some very well etched out characters. It was immersive to study the behaviors of certain characters when they are put in a situation, and every action of theirs does define their character. As a part of a few subplots, the plight of the police officials are also showcased pretty well, where in this case, their personal lives are affected following the investigation. The twists and turns are mostly laid out in the form of a cat and mouse game amidst the police procedure that forms the majority of the drama. This, while the social commentary related to gender bias, caste and religion continues to run as an undercurrent.
If I were to have a small gripe with the drama then it had to be for a fact that the drama did get repetitive and went around in circles at a few junctures. Thankfully, this did not derail the drama in any manner, given how well the sequences were approached and built on. The events leading up to the final act are interesting and thrilling, and something that does keep the viewers on their toes as opposed to the rest of the drama which was more of a slow burn. While the final act is satisfactory but I did feel that it was straight forward and relatively rushed and simplistic. I was expecting a final twist that did not arrive. But taking nothing away from the journey which is a sharp social commentary veiled as a thrilling serial killer drama.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are meaningful and hold a lot of weight. The BGM effectively captures the rustic vibes of the area where the drama is set in. The cinematography compliments the drama with some lovely frames capturing the barren landscapes of the area which was a metaphor for the diminishing hope. The editing is quite sharp as well. Directors Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi have done a stellar job here at giving texture to the drama. Their ability to build a world of intrigue with interesting character motives was in itself captivating and compelling. The direction was excellent here.
The performances are brilliant by the ensemble cast. Rytasha Rathore as Lata, Mazel Vyas as Surekha and Adithi Kalkunte as Krishna are first rate in their respective roles. Ratnabali Bhattacharya as Renuka, Ana Ilmi as Tarini and Shruti Vyas as Shivangi are stellar in their respective roles. Manjiri Pupala as Aarti and Swati Semwal as Neelam have their moments to shine. Sanghmitra Hitaichi as Miriam is natural to the core in a stunning job done! Prashansaa Sharma as Sindoora had to showcase emotions of her trauma from her past. And she delivers a fabulous performance.
Manyuu Doshi as Shiv is sincere and earnest, as is Jayati Bhatia as Devki, Anjali’s mother who is a treat to watch(while being on the otherside of the spectrum of the gender bias). Varad Bhatnagar as Kassim has his moments to shine. Zoa Morani as Vandana is nuanced in a performance wherein she is just so well restrained and in full control. Her mannerisms and her vulnerabilities are deftly explored through her character in a job well done by her.
I was the happiest for Sohum Shah who as Parghi is spectacular to watch in such a meaty role. He has a nice little character arc and he does full justice to his character. Gulshan Devaiah as Devilal Singh is outstanding to the core and I did like his character traits of believing in gender equality while dealing with his daughter. It was a sincere performance by a very talented performer. Vijay Varma as Anand is a revelation in a character who is cunning and has no remorse whatsoever. There is a level.of creepiness that he brings to his character in what was a terrifyingly brilliant act. The stoic look on his face can intimidate anyone in the room. Sonakshi Sinha as Anjali does a wonderful job as well despite her inconsistent dialect. As far as Sonakshi was concerned, it was always to do with the choice of her roles and here she does a terrific job in a character which was fiery, rebellious and confident. More power to her!
The first season of Dahaad is a gripping serial killer drama laced with a sharp social commentary that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Recommended.