Thank God It Is Thursday! Thursday?? Yes, because the new weekend releases have already started pouring in. First up, I finished watching the new Hindi series Shiksha Mandal streaming on the newly launched segment MX Gold on MX Player(which has some charges associated with it). We have seen films and series related to education scams which are in turn inspired from the Vyaapam Scam which had shocked the nation a few years ago. Films and shows like Halaahal and The Whistleblower did deal with this hot topic and both had a very different approach towards it.
Lets face it, the films or shows based on scams will always have a political angle to them and thus they again fall in the category of a political drama/thriller. This again depends on the writers and filmmakers as to how deep they wish to explore the topic without inviting any controversy. Keeping that in mind I did have a good amount of hope from the series Shiksha Mandal given the stellar cast on display. Now that I have finished watching the series Shiksha Mandal, here are my two cents on the show.
Story & Screenplay
Loosely based on the Vyaapam Scam, Shiksha Mandal follows the story of Aditya who finds himself in the midst of an education scam after his sister is kidnapped one day. Will this open a can of worms? The story here is interesting with all the right ingredients for a solid political drama/thriller. The screenplay is on the longer side with 9 episodes of almost 45 minutes each which means the drama does go around in circles at certain junctures.
The first thing that I noticed about the show was on how it was trying to initiate many subplots all at once. So the issue was that the audience needed to be on point from the very first episode. The world building does coincide with multiple subplots doing the rounds wherein there is an element of mystery attached to it initially. You do need a bit of patience to sit through atleast the first episode instead of trying to find instant answers.
The drama slowly settles along very well although there are issues with the transition(something that I will get to in my next section). The proceedings are interesting and engrossing although the drama is most definitely a slow burn. The convoluted plot demands that you pay attention given that the multiple subplots further branch out into further subplots.
There are some real tense moments which are well integrated in the screenplay. The events leading up to the combat sequences(consistently throughout) make for a compelling viewing. The twists and turns are fairly predictable to begin with when the issue at hand seems simple. But as you tread along, the drama keeps getting murkier by the minute in a convoluted political trap.
One small drawback is the love angle which you do witness almost three quarters into the series. That does slacken the pace of the overall drama and could easily have been avoided. There are instances of the drama also getting a little carried away towards the end wherein some events seem to be repetitive. But the final act is a good one wherein the drama ends on a bit of a cliffhanger nicely setting up things for season 2. Overall, the screenplay might be slow to start with but it ensures a compelling watch!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are a bit of a mixed bag but thankfully they do not impact the overall drama in a big way. Some lines are really over dramatic and were absolutely not needed. But some other lines have some witty one-liners which compensate for the former. The music is just about above average and nothing much to shout about. The BGM is pretty good(although not great) and keeps your interests peeked. The cinematography is pretty good as well but the editing is a bit of an issue here. The transitions between one scene to another is not done sharply particularly in the first half of the series which at times kind of breaks your continuity too. Director Syed Ahmad Afzal has done a pretty good job here although the series is far from perfect. He does manage to hold your attention for most parts which in turn results in a compelling watch!
The performances are pretty good despite the fact that some of the characters were underdeveloped. Breshna Khan, Kasturi Rout and Suhaas Ahuja have their moments to shine despite a limited screentime. Jaihind Kumar as Madhav does contribute to some of the lighter moments due to his stammering dialogue delivery. Nanda Yadav is first rate as is Sandeep Goyat and Aatm Prakash Mishra. Puneet Kr Mishra as Sudesh is probably the find of the series for me. He is sincere and earnest and he does a sparkling job here. Dr. Niharika Porwal as Aisha is well restrained and does a decent job. Kumaar Saurabh as Dr. Nanhe is excellent and I am the happiest that he is continuously getting such meaty roles. Anamika Shukla as Laali has an impressive outing as well!
Rajendra Sethi as Jangal Singh has his moments to shine although his character did keep me on the fence with his loyalties despite a personal tragedy. Shivaani Singh as Shivani is excellent here and consistently well within herself. She does a pretty good job here. Iram Khan as Vidya is wonderful to watch as well and she contributes to some good moments in the screenplay. Pavan Malhotra is such a brilliant yet an underrated actor. And he makes his character of Dhansu Yadav quietly terrifying with his unassuming nature and dialogue delivery. Gauahar Khan as Anuradha is exceptional and does a convincing job as the cop although her character did seem a tad underwritten. Gulshan Devaiah as Aditya is natural to the core and does a smashing job in his role. As they say, acting is more of reacting and if you study Gulshan’s performance closely, he does exactly that – reacts to the situation!
Shiksha Mandal is a slow burner but its compelling nature of the drama and subject coupled with solid performances makes for a good watch. Available on MX Player under the MX Gold Section.