The Jengaburu Curse is a convoluted and dragging thriller

Faria Abdullah as Priya Das is the saving-grace of a drag of a web series, The Jengaburu Curse. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

Thrillers do not have to move at breakneck space. Whether in written form or audiovisual, we can have placid thrillers that really thrill with an edge-of-the-seat tenor. But when we have a fanciful premise in a village setting, the least we can expect is a series that crackles with suspense and twists. The hardcore crime angle then becomes inept and diluted as far as even its message is concerned.

Message? Yes! This one is claimed at the first ‘Cli-Fi’ series. Whazzat? It is Climate Fiction! The message is purportedly environmental but there is a twist in the end—we have to wait for the very last of seven long-drawn (each around 45 minutes) episodes to know what it is. And by that time, my interest has changed to ennui, if not irritation.

The complex and almost incredible yearn The Jengaburu Curse narrates involves these diverse elements: backward tribes, a bauxite mine, a doctor who charges only one rupee (Makrand Deshpande), foreigners who are involved for either good or evil, corrupt and honest lawmakers, an honest IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer (Sudev Nair) and a dying politician and takes off when London-based financial analyst Priya Das (Faria Abdullah) gets a message from a social worker named Rao (Nasser) that her activist father, Swatantra Das (Pavitra Sarkar) is missing.

As Priya lands in her village in Odisha, she has to encounter multiple mysteries and it takes a (long) while for her to piece together the puzzle, even at the cots of a threat to her life. Does she find her father? Will she reunite with her IAS officer boyfriend? As the mysteries and murders pile up, and we off and on get visuals of violence by or against the tribals. I, for one, decided that the denouement had better be worth the gore and the bore! But it was too fantastical at the end!

Director-co-writer Nila Madhab Panda’s sensibilities have always been midstream (as shown by his masterly I Am Kalam in 2011, for example) and such filmmakers, however talented, do not come off well in mainstream genres like crime. The social angles here are multiple, but they are superficial and not handled with the  much-needed grip and grit. All-too-frequent tinted shots of the expanse of the mines make me go back to dreary stuff like KGF2. And the background score by Alokananda Dasgupta is neither ‘thrilling’ enough when warranted, nor effective even in the dramatic and emotional sequences.

Faria Abdullah is the saving-grace as she seems to be living the character of Priya—it is an excellent and effortless essay and this young actor will go far. Sudev Nair impresses, while another actor who scores impressively is Sukumar Tudu as constable Ram. Nasser, as expected, is flawless and effortless in all his shades. The rest are good too, or at least fit their characters.

Wish this socially-conscious series had got necessary brevity and intensity and packed a wallop, It is far from a blessing for a viewer, though it is not a curse. This is one time the not-prolific-yet-memorable-in-web-series Sony LIV disappoints.

Rating: **1/2

Sony LIV presents Studio NXT’s The Jengaburu Curse  Produced by: Indranil Chakraborty Directed by: Nila Madhab Panda  Written by: Nila Madhab Panda, Mayank Tewari & Nikhil Ravi  Music: Alokananda Dasgupta  Starring: Faria Abdullah, Nasser, Sudev Nair, Sukumar Tudu, Melanie Gray, R. Badree, Makrand Deshpande, Deipak Sampat, Richard Bhakti Klein, Aarya Bhatta, Pavitra Sarkar, Vikram Pratap, Tushar Acharya, Shrikant Verma, Hitesh Yogesh Dave, IManini De & others      






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