Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Vijay Varma, Sohum Shah, Gulshan Devaiah, Zoa Morani, and ensemble.
Creator: Reema Kagti & Zoya Akhtar
Director: Reema Kagti & Ruchika Oberoi
Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video
Language: Hindi (with subtitles).
Runtime: 8 Episodes, Around 60 Minutes Each.
Dahaad Review: What’s It About:
In a remote town in Rajasthan, a mysterious serial killer is on the loose. The cops are up on duty to find out his identity and catch him red-handed. The entire state is scaled, only to realise that his victims are spread everywhere. How he is caught and what is his motive is what Dahad explores.
Dahaad Review: What Works:
There is a certain game that writer-director duo Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti want their audience to play. Together these women have defined the cinema of metaphors and retrospection with every project that they did together and respectively. Be it their dedication to making a movie about the Rap culture in Bombay and exploring the world through music and hidden layering (Gully Boy), or Kagti’s Talaash that was about a cop who wanders around with a mystery woman only to realise he was solving a murder case of the said woman (it’s been over a decade, it’s no more a supplier).
So when these women decide to make a murder mystery, their focus is definitely not to make you cringe with the goriness of it all, or throw random big twists to bring you to the edge of your seat time and again. Their idea is to make a slow-burning story that not just entertains but acts as a satire of the situation that their show is set in. Dahaad, an eight-part series, captures everything that is Akhtar-Kagti but way outside of their comfort zones. For that matter, the initial patch of the show will not even hint at their style if you aren’t informed it’s a show made by them. Together they want to be the women who unite and tell a powerful story about women but also not alienate men in the process.
Dahaad, while serving a murder mystery, is more about the journey that leads to capturing the bad guy. It doesn’t really want you to focus on what he does, but the evils that have shaped him into the monster he is. There is so much to decode in Dahaad if one is ready to immerse themselves entirely into watching an eight-hour-long show. In a critical scene when Sonakshi’s Anjali is done with the caste discrimination, says, “Agar insaaf ki jaati puchlo na to woh bhi uschi jaati ka hi milega,” a line that encapsulates the entire crux of this world. She is a woman born in a low-caste family, never allowed to enter the world of the upper castes, so she made a dent by entering the police force. Now she is a strong woman, still looked at as a weaker gender, but that does not stop her from demanding her space.
The idea behind the background layering of this world is insane. People have abandoned their missing daughters saying they are saved from paying the dowry; the Thakurs are living in a bygone era and still vouch for their purity; men are busy walking with the world, while the women stay where they were because they have no resources to evolve.
So when you see some men being progressive in this world, and women trying to block the progress, it is an alarm and a very close to real reflection of the world without belittling any gender at the cost of one. The filmmaker duo with director Ruchika Oberoi talk about multiple social taboo.
They discuss the politics of hate, classism, the divide between the have and have-nots, and the haves trying to keep it alive. Religious politics and the politicians in love with turning every narrative against one religion. There is so much layering to this world that one cannot multi-task while watching it. You can either immerse yourself in Dahaad or switch off immediately because it demands your complete attention and compensates it with a slow-burning story. Yogi Sankotra, Tanay Satam, and Vanshikha Singh’s create frames that are intriguing and manage to lock you up in the desert the story unfolds itself.
Dahaad Review: Star Performance:
The casting in Dahaad is bold and brave. The makers choose an actor who is far away from playing a part this nuanced for a long time and make her realise that she also possesses the art to ace it. Sonakshi Sinha goes back to being an ‘actor’ and how. She adapts to the environment and plays the part so organically. There is so much added pressure with the layers on Anjali as a character, but she has brush it all off with some residues still with her. Sonakshi embodies it so well. In her, they shape a woman who is the frontline victim of many things only because of being born in a certain strata.
Vijay Varma is a magician, and there is no other way to define what he does with these parts. Another negative part but a complete 180 degree turn from Hamza in Darlings. The actor plays a serial killer who live a parallel life of a monster. The writing shapes him so well that you are afraid of him even when there is no scene of him killing anyone. It is only the idea that he kills everyone with his brains is so lucrative and evil. A lot of slow burn comes from his performance.
Soham Shah lives a dilemma, and it is so moving to voice him the concern many of us have. The actor never tries to over power others because he does have the calibre but he decides to take the back seat and even make the audience notice him. Gulshan Devaiah as the boss of them all, is also amazing in what he gets. The actor in him enjoys when his character is taken away from the chaos of the police station and in his house.
Dahaad Review: What Doesn’t Work:
The biggest factor that bothers while watching Dahaad, is the fact that Rajasthan fails to become a character in the show. It remains as a base for things to unfold, but never speaks. Like the setup in Gully Boy was very much a character like Murad. Even a long shot of the setup minus anyone, had a story to tell. Dahaad misses that mostly.
Many notes in Dahaad are teased but never explored enough. Be it Sonakshi’s resistance to love, her relationship with her father, the eve teasing she suffers even when being a cop, the resistance a man has to bring a life into this world. All of this accounts into making it feel like something is always missing from the bigger picture. I wish there was more attention of some of the above points because there is enough time and also patches that feel repetitive.
Soham Shah’s arc deserved much more limelight than he got. Maybe there is a season 2; if yes, please make a note. Dahaad demands a lot of attention and is a journey without massive twists. It is too much to demand from a wide audience, so it will find its place in the niche world. Also, the music could have been much better.
The climax of the show feels too rushed and underwhelming after having spent almost eight hours watching this story unfold. Of course, the idea was to emphasise on the journey and that the audience already knew he will be caught. But it cannot look this half baked and sudden.
Dahaad Review: Last Words:
Dahaad is not for all but certainly deserves to be given a chance even if it doesn’t sit on your pallet. It is a filmmaking that looks like reading a book and an experiment that is worth investing into.
For more recommendations, read our Garmi Review here.
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