Bloody Brothers highlights difference between placid and plodding

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ZEE5’s Bloody Brothers is the official adaptation of the BAFTA-winning BBC show Guilt. Photo: Instagram / Jaideep Ahlawat

There are thrillers and thrillers. The ones styled in retro manner are placid ones that spurt into pace at times midway or towards the climax. Great examples of these are the thrillers written by old-time British authors like John Dickson Carr and—occasionally, even Agatha Christie. A fabulous example in cinema is of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

But there is a cardinal difference between the meanings of the words ‘placid’ and ‘plodding’ in terms of movement in stories of this genre. A placid thriller moves inexorably towards the climax, creating the perfect ominous atmosphere and impatience, as if something truly chilling or devastating is on its way and we cannot put the book down or stop watching a series. A plodding story, however, is precisely that—snail-paced, going into needless tangents, delaying tactics, just to enhance the length of the narrative.

And this is the category into which, unfortunately, Bloody Brothers, falls. Worse, the climax is singularly lacking in audience gratification. The story is far from complete, a second season (will it happen in this case, unless already shot?) is indicated, and we do not have any more interest, truly speaking, on what will happen.

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The complicated saga, adapted from the BBC series written by Neil Forsyth, Guilt, begins on a deceptively simple note. Two brothers, Jaggi Grover (Jaideep Ahlawat) and Daljeet Grover (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), are returning from a party one late night. Jaggi, a well-to-do counsel in Ooty, is sozzled, and his car hits an old man. Finding him dead, they decide to carry him into the bungalow from which he had suddenly come out on the road. Obviously, they think no one has seen them, and obviously, someone has. In fact, more than one person has witnessed this, one on close-circuit camera.

When inside, they find that the man, named Samuel Alvarez (Asrani) was a cancer patient as per his medical papers. Finding no injury noticeable on his person, they prop him up on a chair, confident that it will be deemed a natural death.

From here, the assertive Jaggi decides what happens next, right from the time he finds that Daljeet has inadvertently left his wallet in the dead man’s room. Initially, the verdict for Samuel is a natural death, but when his niece Sophie (Tina Desae) comes in, things start going in a different direction.

Daljeet owns a local bookstore, as bought by Jaggi for him. Later, due to various reasons, Daljeet and the Mumbai-based Sophie come close. Sophie wants to give away uncle’s books to Daljeet as she is not interested in them. At the same time, she finds certain aspects about her uncle’s death as suspicious and to frantically allay them, Jaggi hires a drunkard detective, Dushyant (Jitendra Joshi) to find out the truth, confident that the detective will not get anywhere. But when he turns sincere and finds curious aspects, Jaggi must do something fast.

Then there is Samuel’s crafty neighbor, Sheila David (Maya Alagh), who has her own plans and has witnessed the accident. Jaggi’s wife Priya (Shruti Seth) is having a complex relationship with her husband and even discovers a different side when her gym instructor Tanya (Mugdha Godse) kisses her.

A tech-oriented mystery man, Ravi (Nipun Dharmadhikari, writer and director of the very recent landmark Marathi biopic Mee Vasantrao) has an ominous presence and look—he is a stranger who lives alone in the late Samuel’s vicinity. There is also moneylender and general don Handa (Satish Kaushik) who has a stake even Jaggi does not know about in his bookstore! He smokes cigars like a chimney and spouts fable-like stories on the foibles of those who work for him or against his will. And so on.

There are too many character links and cross-connections, and even extraneous characters like Handa’s assistant (Indraneil Sengupta) and now rebel collaborator Selvaraj (Arvind Kuplikar). All these factors could have made the show gripping had there been pace and sufficient moments of engrossing fare. But with each episode named after a main character, the show gets a wonky imbalance and leads to impatience and, finally, indifference, on the part of the viewer.

Vilash Nowlakha captures Ooty in superlative manner, rivaling the camerawork in the Undekhi franchise set in Manali. Two of the writers here double up as art directors (Anuj Rajoria, Riya Poojary) and we have no doubt they score better in this important but less vital department of storytelling! The editing (Abhijit Deshpande) leaves much to be desired, but guess what? It is ultimately the director’s call. And Shaad Ali, of all his movies, has impressed me only in Bunty Aur Babli and the failed Kill/Dil. He should have taken the story and himself firmly in hand.

Thanks to their roles and the smart casting (Sunny Dagar), most of the performances are excellent—led by Jaideep Ahlawat as Jaggi, the self-assured, almost cocky yet suddenly helpless lawyer. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub is also effective as Daljeet, the vulnerable, by-intention righteous younger brother embroiled in the mess, though I sensed a certain calculation rather than spontaneity in his work. Maya Alagh demonstrates a welcome different side of her image here as she plays a nasty old lady with a charming smile. Shruti Seth is pitch-perfect as the confused and hurt wife of Jaggi, her expressions truly evocative.

Tina Desae does a good job, and Jitendra Joshi as the determined detective with an endearing personal agenda is superb. Satish Kaushik shows his versatility—after playing the benign buddy of Rishi Kapoor in Sharmaji Namkeen, he is seen in an antithetic vicious avatar here. Asrani is wasted, and Indraneil Sengupta seemingly does not mind thriving on inconsequential roles without any graph nowadays, as long as the shooting locales are great (as he also did in Mithya)!

And the funniest part is that Bloody Brothers is billed on the ZEE5 platform as a comedy! It just shows the level of confusion there has been in this remake of what I am told was a brilliant story—the original Guilt.

Rating: **1/2 (Just About, because of the performances!)

Zee5 presents Applause Entertainment’s & BBC Studios India’s Bloody Brothers Produced by: Sameer Nair & Sameer Gogate  Directed by: Shaad Ali  Written by: Neil Forsyth, Siddharth Hirwe, Anuj Rajoria, Riya Poojary & Navnit Singh Raju  Music: Roy Starring: Jaideep Ahlawat, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Tina Desae, Maya Alagh, Asrani, Jitendra Joshi, Mugdha Godse, Shruti Seth, Satish Kaushik, Indraneil Sengupta, Nipun Dharmadhikari, Sharvari Deshpande, Narendra Sachar & others

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