Grahan Review: Star Rating: 3/5 (Three Stars)
Cast: Zoya Hussain, Pawan Malhotra, Wamiqa Gabbi, Teekam Joshi, Purva Parag, Anshuman Pushkar, and ensemble.
Creator: Shailendra Jha
Director: Ranjan Chandel
Streaming On: Disney Plus Hotstar
Grahan Review: What’s It About:
The year 1984 was a dark phase in the history of India that saw the Anti-Sikh riots. Then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards which resulted in hate against the community. Grahan streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar, based on Satya Vyas’ novel Chaurasi, with the backdrop of the riots tells a love story of Manu (Wamiqa Gabbi) and Rishi (Anshuman Pushkar) that succumbs to the horrors of the riots, and the politics behind it. Three decades later, a police officer Amrita Singh (Zoya Hussain), begins investigating the root cause with a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and tumbles upon the biggest secret of her own existence.
Grahan Review: What Works:
The web arena right now is churning out shows that are set in the political territories, because those are the stories that we resemble the most in this politically charged environment. But how many of them who claim to be making a “commentary” actually have the courage to name the real people they weaving their story around? Grahan, first and foremost, excels for me in that department. Names are taken, accountability is discussed, and top of that not sides but the ugly politics behind it is brought out.
Now I don’t say this is some ultimate truth; the judiciary is capable of finding that out. The tale is fictional, and that is how it should be consumed. But there are possibilities, and this is definitely one, and Shailendra Jha, with his team, manages to address that without lurking around. Grahan plays like a documentary series for half of its runtime where victims and criminals of the riots tell their version of the story and the horrors of those nights. And for the latter half, it gives you a love story.
Writers Anu Singh Choudhary, Navjot Gulati, Prateek Payodhi, Shailendra, and Vibha Singh create a non-linear screenplay that cuts to flashback and present many times. Grahan talks about the atrocities, the hate and brainwashed individuals ruining the world. Where a man from Patna falls in love with a Sikh girl, he is also brainwashed, but how can he kill the one he loves? There is an exploration of caste, politics and how the men in power become parasites who feast on the vulnerabilities of the people, be it financial or emotional.
What beats harder in Grahan is the naive love that blossoms between Manu and Rishi. They never discuss their backgrounds, but the society they exist in happens to be making decisions on their behalf. But their love is delicate. The team of writers and director Ranjan Chandel makes sure he lets them shine with his direction that successfully changes tonality when needed.
Talking about shining, there is a wholesome abundance of caliber in here. Zoya Hussain finally gets what she deserves. For a girl who literally acted with her eyes in Mukkabaaz, gets a playground and she plays pretty well. Her police officer is not a constantly angry, shooting bullets cop. She is subtle, she knows her surrounding. When policemen harass a newly recruited female police officer, she subtly gives them an ultimatum without creating a preachy scene.
Anshuman Pushkar has my heart after Zoya. The guy becomes Rishi with the word go. His face that seems like he has seen it all is the gateway to the conflict inside him. He is supported by Punjabi actor Wamiqa Gabbi who plays Manu. A girl with twinkling eyes and a radiant smile. How her character transforms is shattering and they together are enough to move you.
And last but not the least, Pawan Malhotra, an actor so seasoned that even a scene that looks like a rip-off of an iconic film (about that later), cries in a way that you feel the dent and it pains. He gets to play Amrita’s father and the man blamed for curating the riots. He has been loved for that for 30 years. With him, the writing also hints at how the criminals in the riots camouflaged themselves to not be caught.
Also, is it time we label Amit Trivedi one of the best music composers? Whenever the album hits the internet listen to it. O Jogiya and the theme music for Manu & Rishi already has my heart.
Grahan Review: What Doesn’t Work:
Grahan does fall prey to loopholes. And some you cannot really ignore. While the first 6 episodes are directed to be crisp and to the point. The last two become slow stretched and a bit too preachy. In a scene where Amrita lectures a mob, you see the forcefulness the scene is staged to drive the point home. You will see. This definitely pulls down the energy.
While Zoya Hussain gets to be a subtle cop, her aggression and breakdown are too tamed. Maybe a bit of outburst allowed could have hit more. The show relies too much on the music to convey emotions. Also, Wamiqa Gabbi’s freckles seem to be changing their colour and position throughout the show. Makeup department, what went wrong? Set designs could have been more immersive and real.
Talking about the courtroom scene in the finale episode, does it give a Veer Zara déjà vu just to me?
Grahan Review: Last Words:
Grahan is an earnest tale and it deserves to be seen. But like I always say, it is fiction, so consume it like that. Of course, the backdrop is a real-life massacre, but the main story isn’t. Watch Grahan for its star cast.
Read Ray review to know if that’s a better option to watch this week.