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Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4 Star popcorn reviewss


Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi series Kaala which is now streaming on Hotstar. But before my release, a word of praise for the OTT platform. If you have been following my reviews then almost every other week since the past few months, I have been criticizing Hotstar for sabotaging one series after another. I wasn’t sure as to who was taking calls but to only partially release their show every single time was nothing short of suicide. But I am glad that this criticism has finally met with some respite as Hotstar has finally released all episodes of their latest show Kaala. And this makes me happy, so way to go Hotstar and please continue with this model!

One of the reasons why I was looking forward to watching Kaala was due to the presence of Bejoy Nambiar who was at the helm of the show. If you are familiar with his previous works then you would know that there is a certain sense of flair to his filmography, often dabbling with stylish sequences and running riot with the editing on the edit table. Nambiar is that one eccentric filmmaker whose voice needs to be bubble wrapped and kept for future references. Yes, he loves experimenting and that in turn always makes his work niche, something which may not be liked by everyone. But over time, you will see more and more people discussing his work like for instance, Shaitaan. And to top it Kaala had a bunch of talented actors too including Avinash Tiwary and Jitin Gulati, both having their second release of the week after Bambai Meri Jaan. So then with much anticipation, I ventured into Kaala, does it manage to impress, lets find out!

Story & Screenplay

The basic plot of Kaala involves a group of cops trying to bust a money laundering racket. And that is all you need to know while venturing into this series that is far too unassuming with its content than what it promised to be early on. Yes, the plot is niche and requires focus particularly with its non-linear narrative that jumps timelines. But if you are willing to sit through it then there are rewards to be had. The screenplay standing at 8 episodes ranging from 20 odd to 50 odd minutes is exhilarating and compelling while also very niche with its narrative style. There would be no middle ground here, either you will love the proceedings or you won’t!

The drama does open on one particular timeline which did act as a foundation for the rest of the drama to follow. The opening premise with the use of drone shots capturing a trunk being set ablaze, while also focusing on a set of gunmen looking towards a supposed soldier escaping the arena, does throw in many questions on what the show is about. Immediately, the action shifts to a timeline closer to the current day and you are introduced to the protagonist and his team who do have intel about a business tycoon being involved in a lot of black money. How the two events are connected does form the rest of the story.

The initial connection between the two timelines might seem simplistic, and I personally thought that things were headed south simply because I had supposedly guessed the link. But credit to the band of writers for adding subplot within subplot across multiple timelines that made for an exhilarating watch. The writers demand your attention by serving plot points through various characters, while providing different perspectives in a lead up to the single incident at the beginning of the show. The frequent jump in the timelines(to and fro) is an age old challenging piece of art that I have always enjoyed, something which does keep me on my toes!

The proceedings are interesting and engrossing featuring multiple twists and turns at various junctures, at times in the form of character motivation thus paving way for the character dynamics in the drama too. Another interesting aspect of the drama was the setting of the drama in Kolkata and Darjeeling while featuring some of the characters from different parts of the country that added a fusion of freshness to the drama. The writers also touch upon a sense of humour along the way, something that they could also have pushed early on in the show. Yet, none of it compromises on the pace of the show that moves at a break neck pace! The issue being addressed was also important and it did touch upon some of the external factors including the politics involved or the role of the media. In between, the LGBTQ angle which plays a major role in the series was represented with sensitivity and normalcy!

The events leading up to the final act were quite indulgent with the narrative style that had already thrown up multiple shocks along the way while nice integrating the two major timelines of the show. As the body count began to rise, and the stakes began to shoot up, the finale act was quite satisfying as well, mostly tying up the loose ends while deliberately keeping a few open for perhaps the next season. Overall, the screenplay is a niche with its narrative style but it accounts for a pulsating thriller that made for one of the most unique watching experiences for me this year!

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are sharp while continuing to be conversational that allowed to keep the proceedings grounded! One of the interesting aspects of the show was the soundtrack and the use of songs in the narrative. From including a video-game-esque Bengali rap during a chase sequence to the soulful classical music to represent the calm after the storm towards the end, there are plenty of songs that represent the ever-changing moods in the drama. The BGM compliments the drama by enhancing multiple scenes. The cinematography was outstanding, and I did like how the drones have finally made the cut in action sequences after Michael Bay using it in ‘Ambulance’.

Besides that, the lighting along with the cinematography deserves a mention as well. The yellow hues depicting either scenes from the past or representing a filter of emotions pertaining to either of the characters, or simply adding a set of filter to represent the ambience in the drama, did enhance the viewing experience ten-fold. The costumes compliment the personality of the characters pretty well. The unsung hero of the show is the editing, and the editor deserves an instant hike in his appraisal. It was so easy for the editing to miss a beat, particularly with the frequent jump in the timelines. But it was sharp, crisp and always enticing to a point where it became indulgent in a good way. Director Bejoy Nambiar presents his most eccentric self yet again with his narrative style wherein he chooses to run riot every now and then. Yet, there was a sense of control to the proceedings which were layered wherein Bejoy did not let things to fall apart. It was a simple story which was transformed in this unique, complex and complicated screenplay with utmost control by the director who deserves distinction marks here!


The performances are outstanding here. The veterans Ajinkya Deo, Mita Vashisht as Jyoti and Saurabh Sachdeva as Himmat shine in their respective roles. Melissa Raju Thomas as Tabassum, Priyanka Bose as Vandana, Shakti Kapoor as Ghulam, Rajarshi Nag and Alistor Bennis all are fabulous to watch in their respective roles. Shruti Seth as Malini and Vivek Madaan as JK are dignified and perform their roles very well despite a limited screen time. Anangsha Biswas as Mari, Anil Charanjeett as Danish and Tanika Basu as Lobo are excellent and each one of them has a good screen presence.

Hiten Tejwani as Bismil is wonderfully restrained and does a tremendous job with his smaller nuances in his character. Vinil Mathew as Shireesh Prenan aka SJP is such a joy to watch with his effortless sense of comedy that stands out on the show. The other director performing here is Danish Aslam who holds his own as Himanshu in what was a performance filled with sincerity and earnestness. Elisha Major as Aaloka has a good screen presence and she does an impressive job here while also being beautifully expressive through her eyes. Rohan Mehra as Subhendu is brilliant and his character infuses the drama with some much needed intensity early on!

Taher Shabbir as Naman does a fine job as well but perhaps adding another layer of intimidation on the writing front would have further enhanced his character. Nivetha Pethuraj as Sitara is stunningly brilliant here in a character which will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. And she was a joy to watch through and through. Avinash Tiwary in his second outing this weekend as Ritwik is in top form. He is effortless in his performance and there is a sense of ease that he has in front of the camera. He is assertive and totally convincing as the cop.

This brings me to my favourite character of the series, but before I get there, a huge shoutout to the casting department here for backing a talent as Jitin Gulati. As Shakti, the man is a revelation in what is perhaps the best performance of his budding career. His performance had the utmost level of grace and poise along with an inherent emotional streak that elevated his layered act to perhaps one of the best that I have seen all year(certainly in my top 5 performances this year). It was a brilliant act by a brilliant performer who is making rapid strides! His body language and mannerisms were simply outstanding! From MS Dhoni – The Untold Story to now Kaala, the journey has been one to savour, and it is upwards and onwards for him from this point!


Despite being a niche with its narrative structure, The first season of Kaala is an unassumingly brilliant and pulsating thriller with stellar performances that made for an incredible watch. Available on Hotstar and Highly Recommended!

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