Jehanabad is a taut thriller with unexpected end

Ritwik Bhowmik and Harshita Gaur in SonyLIV’s Jehanabad. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

The Jehanabad district of Bihar has been known for decades as one of the citadels of the Naxalite rebels. Mixing a large dose of fiction with a few dollops of reality, writer and co-director (with Satyanshu Singh) Rajeev Barnwal spins an engagingly gravelly and ballsy tale of love amidst violence in this 10-episode saga. It is not clear yet whether the last shot is meant as a shocker of a culmination or a doorway to Season 2, or maybe both!

In the town of Jehanabad (again real), spunky only daughter Kasturi Mishra (Harshita Gaur) to an indulgent father (Rajesh Jais) and a strict mother (Sonal Jha) falls in love with her new and charming college teacher Abhimanyu Singh (Ritwik Bhowmik). Of course, he is from a different community and the parents are against the match, being traditional Biharis. The close family friend and wily politico, Shivanand Singh (Rajat Kapoor), however, encourages them to accept Abhimanyu.

The local cops are dealing with the Naxal menace, especially after they have arrested Deepak (Parambhrata Chattopadhyay), who is a known Naxalite. Deepak generally makes a violent nuisance of himself within the jail, where, incidentally, Kasturi’s father is a cook. The top cop, SP Durgesh Singh (Satyadeep Mishra) has just about had it to the gills with the likes of Deepak and his ilk, while Shivanand, who is standing for elections, has his own axes to grind.

Just as one would think that all the political angles would come in the way of the cook’s daughter Kasturi’s romance withAbhimanyu (and Abhimanyu is an orphan with only a maternal uncle as relative), the story takes a lethal twist.

The entire saga is narrated in flashback after the opening sequence of Kasturi and her closest friends watching the arrival of Abhimanyu on horseback as her bridegroom, and his sudden abduction in front of their eyes.

Blending drama, love, politics and family relationships, Jehenabad is treated with the right mix of intensity, passion and necessary violence. The core undercurrent is superbly maintained and all the positive and negative characters are wonderfully and painstakingly etched with a lot of nuanced care.

The real element is excellently maintained and I particularly loved how the personae of the two lovebirds as well as Kasturi’s mother and Deepak are etched, complete with small traits that make them so human and identifiable. The cultural mores of Bihar, progressive as well as regressive, are depicted with compassion and a sense of acceptance. The frenzied, do-or-die passion of the Naxalites and the dedication of the honest cops are also shown with fervor.

Technically good, the series is marked by exceptional writing and consummate direction, with a tuneful score from Sujeet Shetty and Sumantha Das. Ritwik Bhowmik (who dazzled in the wonderful musical, Bandish Bandits) is perfect as the rock-solid, calm Abhimanyu Singh, while Harshita Gaur is a sheer delight in every shade shown—naughty, ardent, determined, submissive—as Kasturi. The actor playing her brother is hampered by an erratically-written character—the only weak point in the series, though luckily not a major role.

Kasturi’s parents are portrayed by seasoned actors who do not go wrong, and the same is true of the characters of Deepak, SP Durgesh and Abhimanyu’s maternal uncle. Rajat Kapoor is effortless as is the actor playing his political rival.

And the series is effortless as one to watch.

Rating: ***1/2

Sony LIV presents Studio Next’s Jehanabad  Produced by: Indranil Chakraborty Showrunner: Sudhir Mishra Directed by: Satyanshu Singh & Rajeev Barnwal Written by: Rajeev Barnwal  Starring: Ritwik Bhowmik, Harshita Gaur, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Rajat Kapoor, Satyadeep Mishra, Suneel Sinha, Sonal Jha, Rajesh Jais, Abhishek Mishra




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