Dahaad is an exemplary crime series

Sonakshi Sinha and Gulshan Devaiah in Amazon’s superb series, Dahaad. Photo: Amazon Prime Video 

When I use a term as decisive as “exemplary”, I must explain why I do so.

As pure crime dramas, whether on big-screen or web, there are very few that fall into this category, and Dahaad ranks among the rare gems we have seen that are beyond the hyped ones like the same company’s Mirzapur, Paatal Lok and the likes. I would straightaway place Dahaad (which means ‘the roar’) in the crème-de-la-crème league of dramas like Criminal Justice 2, Apharan and Aashram (strictly the first seasons only), Mithya, the Undekhi and Aarya franchises, Human, Bichhoo Ka Khel, Rudra—The Edge of Darkness and the same filmmakers’ Inside Edge 3—and higher than most of them.

Still, I have not commented on the term “exemplary” yet, so let me do so. For one, this is a crime thriller in which investigative deduction is a key part, as should be the case (pun intended!) in police procedural dramas. There is no standard frenetic treatment, like chases and unnecessary action but mind games predominate. There are several threads and some of them coalesce into one. The layers are not really secret and yet are ingeniously peeled off in succession to grip.

More: each of the episodes is around 50 minutes long, but the 400 total minutes are almost perfect and not stretched or even remotely boring. There are a few red herrings strewn on the way, and computers and tech come in, but with good reason and in convincing manner. The villain is a psychopath and has his own point of view and finally even influences the intrepid investigating low-caste cop to make a crucial and brave decision. And last but not least, and very vital, one thinks that the saga will end in a cliffhanger when there are just 15 minutes to go and a lot remains to happen, and yet the story is—to my very pleasant surprise!— completed deftly and logically.

The season is self-sufficient and complete as a good web series must be before it moves to a new one, as Neeraj Pandey stated during Special Ops. Whenever its second installment is made, Dahaad will be welcomed also for this one overwhelmingly gratifying reason.

One more point: rarely do we see even the most minor characters making a mark and this series ticks that box as well. Whether child artiste or adult, everyone harnesses the tight script as a foothold to give a minimum above-average to great performance. Kudos, then to all those responsible: the writers, directors and casting directors Karan Mally, Nandini Shrikent and Hemang Vyas.

The story is basic: in Mandawa in Rajasthan, a police team is investigating couples who have eloped, especially Hindu girls being inveigled by Muslim boys. But in a twist, something else bigger and more horrendous is discovered: a series of murders of 29 innocent girls that have a pattern. And the pivot seems to be a professor in a girls’ college, Anand Swarnakar, happily married for 11 years with a kid, who teaches school kids on weekends, and even owns a mobile library.

The victims have all run away from their homes, willing to do so as they would otherwise have their families paying (or be unable to pay) huge dowries for prospective suitors. They all commit suicides the day after their weddings by consuming cyanide pills inside a public toilet.

Low-caste but ferocious SI (senior inspector) Anjali Bhaati (Sonakshi Sinha), her superior Kailash Parighi (Sohum Shah) and their cool boss, Devi Lal Singh (Gulshan Devaiah) come across the clues and gather data, both digitally and physically, with relentless doggedness.

During this process, Anjali has clashes with her mother (Jayati Bhatia), who is hell-bent on getting her married, Kailash with his pregnant wife (Swati Semwal) and Devi Lal with his suspicious and uneducated spouse (Shruti Vyas), who feels that he is having an affair with Anjali and also does not want her daughter, Nupur (Sammaera Jaiswal) to have freedom so early in life.

Calmly, the series also highlights political manipulations using communal angles, the dangers of not educating girls and women (including Devi lal’s wife!), caste discrimination, the misuse of technology and how handicapped even the cops can be when they are sure of their target but must face technical matters in the law books, fund paucity and police protocol.

Too many cooks (writers) this time do anything but spoil the broth, though I must single out the overall realism and the superbly-varied yet perfect dialogues (Sumit Arora) on the show. Creator and co-director Reema Kagti is one of those few makers today who has shown a steadily ascending graph as director (Gold was better than Talaash that was superior to Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.) and I will watch for her next with great expectations.

Among the major highlights of the series are its bewitching cinematography (happily by a homegrown whizkid, Tanay Satam, and not a foreigner as often seen in Excel shows) and background music (Gaurav Raina and Tarana Marwah) and the music pieces that form the villain’s backdrop are just fantastic.

Equally so are the performances: Sonakshi Sinha is in terrific mode as not just the cop but also the acidic woman she is with everyone, including, occasionally, her superiors. As the rebellious yet diplomatic daughter, she truly is outstanding in her dilemma of dealing with a stubborn parent. Gulshan Devaiah is a revelation in his essay of an ideal parent, a harangued husband and a patient, dedicated-to-justice cop. Sohum Shah is great especially as the troubled human being that he is at work as well as at home.

Zoa Morani, as Anand’s wife, is magnificent as her character undergoes a transformation due to circumstances. Divyanshu Veerwani as her son Kapish and Sammaera Jaiswal as Nupur are superb and natural. Prashansa Sharma as Sindoora, the victim who escapes the killer alive but is petrified, is magnificent, and the same applies to Vijay Verma, who plays the mercurial yet ruthless Anand with fantastic deadliness—even when in trouble, he is nonchalant and uber-cool.

Don’t miss this one for it justifies this long review: it makes a dahaad with its sheer force of merit in the web space. And Amazon is stepping up their stock. Give me this to a Citadel any day!

Rating: *****

Amazon Prime Video presents Excel Entertainment’s & Tiger Baby Films’Dahaad  Created by: Reema Kagti & Zoya Akhtar  Produced by: Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani, Kassim Jagmagia, Angad Dev Singh & Sunitha Ram  Directed by: Reema Kagti & Ruchika Oberoi Written by: Reema Kagti, Ritesh Shah, Zoya Akhtar, Sumit Arora, Mansi Jain, Karan Shah, Chaitanya Chopra & Sunayana Kumari  Music: Gaurav Raina & Tarana Marwah  Starring: Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah, Sohum Shah, Vijay Varma, Zoa Morani, Jayati Bhatia, Manyuu Doshi, Sanghmitra Hitaishi, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Waris Ahmed Zaidi, Rytasha Rathore, Varad Bhatnagar, Prashansa Sharma, Sanjeeva Vats,   Ikhlaque Khan, Divyanshu Veerwani, Swati Semwal, Shruti Vyas, Sammaera Jaiswal, Ankur Verma, Rajiv Verma & others   






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