Sultan Of Delhi
Thank God It Is Friday but the excitement of the weekend is not reduced only to the new releases that are pouring in but also the mother of all clashes at the ODI Cricket World Cup wherein India will take on Pakistan tomorrow in Ahmedabad. Clearly that match is the main weekend attraction and I am as excited as you are. But before the match, I have to get a few weekend releases out of the way, and first up, I finished watching the new Hindi series Sultan of Delhi which is now streaming on Hotstar. Firstly, it seems Hotstar has learnt its lesson and is now releasing all episodes of their show in a single go, so kudos to that! But as far as Sultan Of Delhi was concerned, I was kind of worried with regard to the content of the show.
The show boasts of a stellar cast and I have absolutely adored the work of Tahir Raj Bhasin right from his Mardaani days. But the reason that I was slightly worried was because of the name Milan Luthria associated with the show. Milan has been a prolific filmmaker with films like The Dirty Picture and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, and he had attained his peak in the mid 2000s. But since then times have massively changed and his narrative style is often termed as ‘stale’. But Sultan Of Delhi presented him with an opportunity to shut critics like me, and present a whole new version of himself. That said, does Sultan Of Delhi manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on a novel by the same name, Sultan Of Delhi follows the story of the rise of a young man against all odds in the mafia circuit of Delhi. The story here is very routine and nothing that you may not have watched already. But even if I were to keep this aspect of the series aside, the narrative style itself is too safe and outdated, even in the OTT space. This is a period drama, and I would directly have to compare it with the show ‘Jubilee’ which had set the bar so high that this didn’t quite seem to be anywhere near it. Even the gangster genre which was so well handled in an otherwise routine story in Bambai Meri Jaan, just felt half-baked. And unfortunately here, this was the story of the report card of Sultan Of Delhi. The screenplay here standing at 9 episodes ranging from 30 odd to 40 odd minutes had a lot of potential to setup things while playing around with the character dynamics. But that too is laced with a routine narrative style which is soapy and over-the-top while being cringe-worthy at times, that just did not hold my attention enough.
The drama begins on a decent note with the timeline being the year 1947, the year of the partition and the riots which was a black mark in the history of the two countries, India and Pakistan. Amidst this, you are introduced to a young protagonist and his father who make it to India alive, after their entire family is slaughtered in Lahore(presented in a horrific manner). Soon, the protagonist is tactfully acquainted with his surroundings, forming a bond with a few people before imbibing the virtue of maturity along the way. Soon, his journey begins after helping out a businessman who is involved in smuggling of weapons and drugs across the country, thus kickstarting his journey in the mafia world.
The proceedings are watchable but far too predictable with the writing being the biggest letdown. I found a few of the characters randomly popping onscreen every now and then, without them being introduced with a coherent purpose onscreen. The events too are a little coherent as the drama keeps switching between a love angle and the actual game of one-upmanship between the parties. And the love-story was too frivolous and half-baked for my liking, and given that it had a recall value later on in the plot, it didn’t evoke the required feelings for me. On top of it, some incidents are just so random(not to mention cringe-worthy) and swaying away from the plot, that it had me wondering on what the intention of the writing was. For instance, a character randomly making out with an air-hostess in a plane, why?? Also, what was the need to bring back a supposedly dead character, only to kill him off immediately?
The drama scores when it chooses to focus on the interpersonal relationships between characters, some of whom have layers. There is a genuine purpose there and I wish that was the tone of the drama as opposed to feequent bouts of ‘soapiness’. There aren’t too many curveballs along the way and the drama does move at the same bandwidth too but the events are pretty routine. The events leading to the final act did promise a knockout finale but quite shockingly so, it resulted in a weird final act. The multiple twists were completely out of the blue, and with the character motivations not drawn well, the finale act was a complete washout. Overall, the screenplay is predictable and that is probably the best thing that I can say in this piece of writing which was half-baked.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are over-the-top and this larger than life tonality did not sit right with me. It is interesting how the medium of an OTT space can change the wiring in your head whereas in the theatrical space, these very lines may have worked. Something that the writers need to adjust, going forward. The music is good and atleast presents a case of blending well with the atmospherics of the drama. The BGM is pretty good here and tries hard to enhance the impact of the scenes. The cinematography is adequate, the editing is decent as well. The director’s chair is shared by Milan Luthria and Suparn Varma and while the direction is decent, they aren’t quite able to rise above the mediocrity of the writing. So even some of the supposed marquee moments seem diluted, thus resulting in the direction being just about above average.
The performances are pretty good but they can’t quite salvage a sinking ship. The likes of Harleen Sethi and Mouni Roy are talented actors but they are completely wasted here in roles which barely have an impact on the screenplay(although they may come in play in season 2 given how the drama ended here). Mehreen Pirzada as Sanjana doesn’t quite leave a mark although she keeps getting better with her character with every passing minute. Sunil Palwal as Sandhu has his moments to shine. Vinay Pathak as Jagan pulls off his character with aplomb.
Anupriya Goenka as the scheming Shankari is my favourite character here with traces of Lady Macbeth and Portia prevalent in her trait. And she is simply outstanding in her performance, having a ball throughout the narrative. Anjumm Sharmma as Bangali is sincere and endearing and his bromance with the character of Tahir Raj Bhasin is wonderful to witness. Nishant Dahiya as PR Singh is menacing and plays the perfect nemesis to his 83 co-star. Tahir Raj Bhasin as Arjun is brilliant with a magnetic screen presence and he does a terrific job even with that swagger.
The first season of Sultan of Delhi is just another soapy and routine gangster drama that fails to impress. More over, the writing is completely predictable but when it decides to throw in some twists, it turns into something totally bizarre. Available on Hotstar.