Sultan of Delhi is a garbled, convoluted, powerless mess

Anjum Sharma and Tahir Raj Bhasin in Sultan of Delhi. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

What is the lesson we learn from a series like this? That a popular novel doth not necessarily a good series make! We need a tight script and a cerebral approach at adaptation, and last but definitely not the least, sensitive and intrepid direction,

Based on Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray, this gangland series carries all the tropes of pulp fiction—ambition, greed, lust for power, betrayals, manipulations, twists, politicians, femme fatale mistresses, a back story with a traumatic childhood, plastic characters, violence and—as it is a series, liberal sequences of sexual activity and expletives too!

Arjun Bhatia (Tahir Raj Bhasin) is a young man who has to win. He becomes an arms dealer and finally an influential power-broker in Delhi’s corridors. Of course, he has to pay the price in terms of his soul or conscience and even his loved ones. Into this plot that is garbled and convoluted to extremes, multiple principal and accessory characters are thrown in, like his fast friend, Bangali (Anjum Sharma), who has his own back story. Arjun too hails from a rich Lahore family that is rendered penniless in the horrors of Partition, and must seek haven in a refugee camp. The camp’s owner’s son, Rajendra Pratap Singh (Nishant Dahiya), later grows up to emerge as Arjun’s keenest adversary, though Arjun’s mentor and big-name (!) arms dealer, Seth Jagan (Vinay Pathak) wants the two to be his left and right arms.

To be sure, women are involved as well, led by Shankari Devi (Anupriya Goenka), Bangali’s wife (Mouni Roy) with her secrets, and more. And so on…to a journey that is replete with restiveness for the viewer as the show gets into so many boring and needlessly repetitious and silly (for the audience!) detailing. Did I not call it pulp fiction?

A shocker from Milan Luthria, who, even in his films that have not done well, never descended to this humdrum level, the film is co-written and co-directed by Suparn Verma, and he too has never done shoddier work. Three entities are  credited with the music, which unlike Luthria’s best work, is substandard as well. The background music is routine, the technical values ditto.

The performances are rightly average, and I use the word ‘rightly’ considering the material the actors have and the way they are directed. Mouni Roy gets the worst deal, while Tahir Raj Bhasin seems to be sleepwalking through his main character. Anupriya Goenka behaves like the typical seductive vamp in old Hindi films, while Vinay Pathak vainly attempts to bring some fire into his character. Sunil Palwal as Sandhu, Mehreen Pirzada as Sanjana and Harleen Sethi as Preeti and the rest are are all ho-hum.

As Rajendra, Nishant Dahiya is a sordid disappointment, and the only actor who successfully breathes life into his (admittedly better-written) character is as Bangali.

But nothing can breathe life into this washout of a series.

Rating: *

Disney+Hotstar presents Reliance Enetrtainment’s Sultan of Delhi  Created by: Milan Luthria  Produced by: Namit Sharma  Directed by: Milan Luthria and Suparn Verma  Written by: Arnab Ray, Milan Luthria & Suparn Verma  Music: Anu Malik, Amaal Mallik & Siddharth-Sangeet Haldipur  Starring: Tahir Raj Bhasin, Mouni Roy, Harleen Sethi, Mehreen Pirzada, Anupriya Goenka, Nishant Manyuu Doshi, Shilpa Iyer, Armen Ata, Bhakti Vasani, Ricky Patel & others





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