Human: Medical thriller works despite significant flaws

Shefali Shah in Disney+Hotstar’s Human. Photo: Spice PR

When Dr. Saira Sabharwal joins Manthan, the prestigious Bhopal multi-speciality hospital, as a cardiac surgeon, she has no clue of what is in store for her. Initially facing the usual minor politics from other doctors, like Dr. Shindey (Atul Kumar), she however has the support of founder-doctor Gauri Nath (Shefali Shah), a neurosurgeon. She adores her senior for a multitude of obvious reasons.

But things are far from what they seem. The hospital is the actual epicenter of unscrupulous drug trials on unsuspecting, innocent humans. Dr. Gauri and her businessman husband, as cool as he is cruelly callous (Ram Kapoor) have no compunction about what they are doing, as long as the money and prestige both come in and their ambitions are fulfilled (in one sequence, he reminds her that they stay together only because they have matching ambitions).

The drug trials, and the equally amoral drug manufacturers, Ashok (Aditya Srivastav) and his father Mohan Vaidya (Mohan Agashe), are hand-in-glove with Dr. Gauri, and the victims are chosen for their medical as well as economic needs. A young man with ambitions to make big, Mangu (Vishal Jethwa) and his family become their victims and his father (Sushil Pandey) and he decides to fight in sheer desperation. Social workers come to their aid. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy looms large as a backdrop.

So far, so relentlessly gripping and even stomach-churning on occasion, at how human life can become a mere commodity, Human begins to get into flawed zones from (about) episodes 3 or 4 of 10 long-drawn ones. A needless lesbian slant is brought in for Dr. Saira, and we have the mysterious never-really-explained angle of the trauma drug and the heinous behavior of Roma Ma (as Seema Biswas is called) towards 10 young girls, even as she is quietly affectionate to Dr. Gauri. Also, Dr. Gauri’s secret room makes us feel we are stepping into Mogambo terrain!

The peek into Dr. Saira’s past was so needless (except maybe to cater to international audiences who are supposed to endorse such aspects even when forced into any story). This is supposed to explain Dr. Saira’s tendency to go hyper in adverse situations and also be a perpetual liar to her photographer husband (Indroneil Sengupta).

Worse, there is a prolonged exercise where Dr. Gauri’s character is sought to be at least explained, if not justified! To begin with, her very traumatic childhood, and two, the loss of her son to a brain ailment she could not treat, resulting in alienation from her surviving teenage son (Mihir Ahuja). A true villain without a “sad” back- story, like a Gabbar Singh, Mogambo or even the character Vishal Jethwa played in Mardaani 2, makes for far greater impact, an axiom that the writers and directors clearly do not accept!

All these points simply take away from the impact of many solidly-written sequences about the drug trials, the ruthless murders, the involvements of politicians, the inhuman (pun intended) treatment meted out to Dr. Shindey (Atul Kumar) by the hospital board, and the adversities faced by the victims as well as by Dr. Gauri’s loyalist Dr. Pramod Ahuja and his son-in-law’s family.

Mangu’s story, in particular, is graphically involving and moving, a scathing comment on how both the abundance and shortfall of money can turn humans into monsters in different ways.

And if the mention of the Hippocratic Oath in a telling sequence is a powerful reminder of what a doctor should be, the climax (as in the last episode) is supposed to be “realistic” but ends up not only more than a tad contrived and filmi but also needlessly unpleasant and thus pointless. With this one episode, the series zooms down into average territory (in the name of supposed realism, ironically!) and makes the previous plus points finally seem redundant.

If the show still scores, it is with the grip in the first nine episodes and some trenchant lines and sequences that show how human beings in need can be desperately those in greed too, to coin a phrase! Also, in these times, powerful performances can carry many a series and film to a higher level than deserved, and Human is no exception.

An award-winning performance comes from Shefali Shah as Dr. Gauri Nath: this must be the best ever example of a screen essay under the direction of a real-life spouse (the director)! She is incredible as the hypocritical and mentally traumatized woman who sees nothing beyond herself and her own intentions and ambitions. Kirti Kulhari, again cast in a script that wants to say something for society, is just good, hampered by a role that veers into unnecessarily complex zones.

Atul Mathur steals the show as Dr. Shindey whenever he appears. Ram Kapoor is subtle in his devilishness, cool as a cucumber, while Seema Biswas is chilling to the extreme. Riddhi Kumar as Deepali is a revelation—here is a humongous talent waiting to be explored. Indroneil Sengupta has a natural charm.

But if anyone’s performance here matches Shefali’s, it is of Vishal Jethwa as Mangu. After his blackguard’s role in the aforementioned Mardaani 2, here is another commendable essay in a diametrically opposite yet aggressive role.

Watch Human for its dramatic grip and exposure of social evils. It works in the end if you cast a Nelson’s eye on its avoidable flaws.

Rating: ***

Disney+Hotstar presents Sunshine Pictures’ Human Produced by: Vipul Amrutlal Shah Directed by: Vipul Amrutlal Shah & Mozez Singh Written by: Mozez Singh & Ishani Banerjee Music: Saurabh Bhalerao, Suyash Kelkar & Nupoora Niphadkar Starring: Shefali Shah, Kirti Kulhari, Vishal Jethwa, Ram Kapoor, Mohan Agashe, Aditya Srivastav, Atul Kumar, Aasif Khan, Seema Biswas, Shruti Bapna, Indroneil Sengupta, Riddhi Kumar, Pranali Ghogare, Sandeep Kulkarni, Gaurav Dwivedi, Sushil Pandey, Abhijit Lahiri, Govind Pandey, Mihir Ahuja & others





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