Film: Web-series: Undekhi
Director: Ashish R Shukla
Cast: Harsh Chhaya, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Ankur Rathee, Surya Sharma, Anchal Singh, Abhishek Chauhan and Ayn Zoya
The rich and powerful can get away with murder… literally. Undekhi revolves around a cold-blooded murder of a dancing girl at a marriage party and the extent to which the influential would go to cover up their murky acts.
Undekhi is no whodunit. Rather who has killed whom is crystal clear from the word go… yet what is creditable is how the director builds a thriller around what is an open and shut case. As the tagline goes, ‘Can you un-see what you witness’, it builds the graph from a bloody incident.
A murder right on the centre of a stage, in the eye of public, and it is evident there can’t be just one eye-witness. Only one, Rishi (harried, yet wilful Abhishek Chauhan) part of the video team is with a conscience. The thrill here lies in the cat and mouse game between him, the policeman and the lead antagonist. Surya Sharma as Rajinder Singh Atwal aka Rinku Bhaji leads the charge of the mean and menacing brigade, and is suitably impressive and equally abominable. You dislike him and yet can’t help but admire the actor for getting the ‘over the board’ villainous traits right.
Equally impactful is Dibyendu Bhattacharya as the police officer who has to constantly remind everyone that he is a DSP and not an inspector. Every single inflection of his being, from his self-righteousness to his frustration, is captured well. On the trail of girls from Sunderbans, he lands in Manali and is close to uncovering a sinful murder. Will he be able to crack the case? You root for him as he goes about humming old Hindi songs and pitching his ‘calm and collected self’ against his adversaries. At more than one point, he seems to be getting the better of his bête noire.
But Rinku bhaji is clearly a smarter cookie, who crumbles in unexpected ruthless ways. His foster father, the rich owner of resort hotel in Manali (Harsh Chhaya is more farcical than menacing), trusts him blindly, far more than his own son (Ankur Rathee.) Son’s marriage by the way is the joyous occasion where mayhem is let loose.
Without a doubt, the narrative, but for last few episodes, is briskly paced and packed with innumerable twists and turns. Thanks to the 32-minute run-time of each episode, the 10-part series is an easy watch and takes you from one episode to another without testing your patience. However, what rankles is the barrage of ‘gaalis’. Every other sentence is laced with choicest of abuses, often unnecessary. If the rationale here is to demonise its bad men and a woman too, well, they are anyway painted in broad black shades. Manali, where the series is set, comes across as a land where only the rule of gun prevails. Of course, the systemic rot and the collusion between different arms of the social structure are not unknown.
But, somehow, the series which claims to be based on a real instance, does seem contrived. Tribal girls travelling all the way from Bengal to Manali for a marriage function, is a rather far-fetched idea. Yes, there is a back story and exploitation of tribals forms another thread too.
Bit too dramatic
However, not everything here comes together organically… more stands out as sore thumb and a trifle too dramatic in a series that aims to expose the ugly face of our society. It may thrill in parts, even ends on an intriguing note, with a twist wide open for another season. Streaming at SonyLiv, it is certainly not an unmissable crime thriller. However, if you have ample time at your disposal, it can easily fill up your evenings. Besides, it sure is a far better option than saas bahu sagas, even though it does toss up a scheming bahu Tejee (Anchal Singh), who as things stand in this season is in the driving seat. Roll on...