Bodyguard | S01 Netflix | BBC

Twenty minutes. That’s all  it took for Bodyguard, the BBC show that debuted on Netflix the other day, to get me hooked. And I presume I’m not the only one, if the rave reviews and ratings the show garnered on it’s original release on the BBC network are anything to go by. In fact those  very twenty mintues are all it took again for none other than Theresa May to switch off the show too, as she herself told the Press. Now, that should add some perpsective if you’re looking for some. Whatever you have heard or read about the show is entirely justified I vouch, now that I have binged through the six seaons of some very  British intrigue and thrills. Come to think of it, from Sherlock to Line of Duty to The Night Manager, the BBC have proven time and again that when it comes to the very serious business of classy thrillers and gritty police procedurals, they are past and reigning masters.

For a show that moves at the pace it does, Bodyguard  touches upon on a range of issues from PTSD to xenophobia while telling a decent tale of intrigue. Hollywood has used all variants of PTSD to set the cash registers ringing right from the Vietnam War days  to the American campaigns in the Middle East and around but it’s not everyday that you get to see a troubled British war veteran on screen. In fact I’d go so far as to say that David Budd, the central character played passionately by Richard Madden is nothing less than a modern British version of  John Rambo, that quintessential poster boy of PTSD, on celluloid. Bodyguard was fearless too I felt for most part as it did not stick to stereotypes and shunned prejudice early on but it has to be said that it turned out to be a deftly played card of a plot twist which was indeed disappointing to an extent. Reminded me of the regular Dan Brown template for thrillers where every major instituition as we know it is attacked  and portrayed as agents of evil but the actual acts of crime turns out to be the doing of one deranged  mind. The writers have obviously heavily borrowed from current day British politics and the PM in Office currently was interestingly the Home Secretary too earlier, which is one of the main characters here, played by a short-haired Keeley Hawes. In a curious gender reversal of sorts the incumbent PM in Bodyguard resembled Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary is the one who is after his job here, deft sleight of hand by the writers indeed.

Apart from the writing, much of the intensity on the screen owes it to the performances of the lead actors, namely Madden and Keeley Hawes. Richard Madden who made a name for himself as the short lived but much loved Robb Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones is the mainstay here and has delivered a moving and engaged performance. Keeley Hawes plays a character that has shades of the one she played in Line of Duty, to an extent and is most probably the reason why she was cast in the role of Julia Montague, the Home Secretary. Other actors who make more or less silent entries early on but go on to make their mark towards the end. Nina Toussaint-White, Ash Tandon and Anjli Mohindra stands out in their roles and something tells me we’d be seeing more of them in the future as actors. Recent BBC shows have displayed active engagement in the cause of diversity when it comes to casting and is essentialy a reflection of the British society at large too I feel. Bodyguard is not without faults entirely but it makes for an engaging and intelligent watch. One thing I like about the BBC shows is that they are short but intense affairs in contrast to epics like Breaking Bad. Unfair, unnecessary and pointless comparision I agree but that’s just me and trust me I’m not complaining.


Ghoul S01 | Netflix : Z meets The Exorcist In A Familiar Landscape.

Ghoul lured me in with it’s trailer. Hot on the heels of Sacred Games, here was an Indian Original that looked interesting and featured a prominent cast member from that other rage of the season Anurag Kashyap – Vikramaditya Motwane production too. Though the series speaks Hindi it is set in a more or less unnamed land – except for a brief historical reference by one of the characters-  and looks nothing like anything that we have come across on Indian screens, the fact that Sacred Games had set the bars high notwithstanding. Adding to the intrigue off-screen is the presence of a non-Hindi speaking writer-director, Patrick Graham at the helm. Maybe that explains the kind of tone and mood that’s alien to shows and films from our part of the world. Ghoul is pitched as a superatural horror series and it is scary, but not because of the horror element.

Costa Gavras’s Z  is as political a movie could get and The Exorcist set the mould in which every other horror movie since has been made. Ghoul has elements of both the classics and their genres in a delicious mix. It presents a dystopia which is not about a dusty, windy, rundown future or a world where machines have taken over, neither is it one where humans have moved to Mars, rather Ghoul leads us into a very real place where the government has taken control of lives and any voice of criticsim and dissent is in danger of being clamped down ferociously. Patrick Graham was researching torture in modern warfare when he hit up on the idea he claims. Now, that must give you an idea. Ghoul even reminded me of The Silence Of The Lambs not necessarily because it had a female officer walking down a dark corridor with prisoners in cells on either side. Radhika Apte seems to be doing at home what Priyanka Chopra is trying away. Manav Kaul transforms into an army officer who’s eons apart from other characters he has recently portrated with ease.One actor to watch out for.

Anurag Kashyap’s first two films never saw the daylight thanks to run-ins with the regulatory authorities, namely CBFC and it later turned into a regular excercise for almost all his productions. So when a giant like Netflix streamed its way onto Indian screens with the kind of creative liberties it bestowed upon talented individuals with whom they joined hands like Kashyap, who has been working the system from within for decades us as an audience were definitely the ones to benefit most. If Kashyap flexed his muscles with Sacred Games, he has gone for the sucker punch with Ghoul. It’s not the demon that’s the scariest in this miniseries, it’s the people in it and the system they represent that leaves you disturbed. If you thought Sacred Games was perfectly timed, Ghoul would leave Rahul Dravid drooling. The release eerily coincided with the crackdown on activists across the country . Kashyap and Co have almost done a Nostradamus I’d say.

Sacred Games : S01 | Netflix

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Shantaram by Greogory David Roberts and Maximum City by Suketu Mehta are three books which were published few years apart at the dawn of the millenium and all three of them have a common central character, that being Mumbai. Mehta and Chandra coincidentally had collabroated on Mission Kashmir too. Apart from Sacred Games, the rest could safely be called non-fiction with Shantaram treading a thin line between fiction and reality. But then any story about Mumbai is a genre in itself, magical realism meeting Mario Puzo, if I may. Shantaram was the one book that I looked forward to being made into a movie and if I am not wrong Mira Nair was supposed to do one with Johnny Depp in the lead. That never took off I guess. Sacred Games to be honest was a difficult read, in terms of the sheer number of pages it ran into and was a slow burner  but it had all the makings of a potential gangster drama, in the hands of the right filmmaker. Ram Gopal Varma was fresh on the heels of his take on the Mumbai gang land with Satya and Company and looked  the perfect candidate in those days, now not so much. So it was only natural that one of his early collaborators who went on to make a distinct name for himself in India and globally, Anurag Kashyap turned out to be the one who brought Vikram Chandra’s magnus opus-as it would be touted now- to life on the screen finally, and how. It’s also a landmark in terms of the fact that it’s the first Indian Netflix Original.The book was a critical success, commercial not so much back then and given the hype and rave reviews  Season One has generated thanks to Kashyap and Co. , I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a revived interest in the book itself and offer some consoloation to the author towards the cause of the unrecouped original million dollar advance by Harper Collins.

Ganesh Gationde, the surreal character who is a hero, a villain and a victim simultaneoulsy needed a Nawazuddin Siddiqui to be elevated to greatness as one of the most memorable characters ever written.Back when I read Sacred Games, Gaitonde did not have a face. Now, I cannot imagine anyone else but Nawazuddin as Gaitonde. It’s his destiny as an artist, I can’t but help feel. Consider this, it took Vikram Chandra around ten years to write the book.He travelled to Bihar and attended Bollywood parties as part of the writing process.The book was released in 2006. Nawazuddin Siddiqui made one of his early screen appearances in a minor role in Anurag Kashyap’s unreleased Black Friday in 2004. Little did Siddiqui or Chandra know that their creative talents would come together and were fated to take on Netflix by storm decades later.This will go down as Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s greatest role ever and the man scorches the screen every second he’s on it.When he is not on, his voice over holds sway over the audience. Sartaj Singh, a cop, the other central character in Sacred Games interestingly had made an appearance in Vikram Chandra’s earlier novel, Love and Longing in Bombay, I am told. Saif Ali Khan brings Sartaj Singh to life here and delivers a performance that is a testimony to the fact that Bollywood is a jungle where even the most talented artists could get lost for eternity. Anurag Kashyap has rescued Khan here from that jungle, so to speak, who has shown in the past that in the right hands, he could give the best in the business a run for their money. He plays Sartaj Singh with such depth and sensitivity that he has transformed himself completely into the character. Even his silences tell the audience stories here. Most notable is the scene where he meets constable Katekar’s wife. Katekar played brilliantly by Jitendra Joshi is an endearing character and is Sartaj’s sidekick, as the genre would have it. Radhika Apte is a no-nonsense intelligence officer who is far removed from the female cop characters we have come across on Indian screens. Luke Kenny, a familiar face on Channel V of yore is seen as an assassin here. Jatin Sarna makes  an impression as Bunty, Gaitonde’s man. Rajshri Deshpande plays a different kind of gangster’s wife here, quite unlike anything that we have seen on Indian screens before. Kubra Sait is Kukoo the primary love interest in Gaitonde’s life, a character already being talked about in the media. Every other actor from Neeraj Kabi to Shalini Vatsa to Geetanjali Thapa lingers in your psyche as the characters they play. Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap have co- directed the series with Motwane working on the Sartaj timeframe of the story and Kashyap on the Gaitonde origins. The decision was right on the money given the fact that the urban landscape is where Motwane’s stories have flourished till now in contrast to the hinterlands that we are now familar with in Kashyap’s films.

Sacred Games is a case of art-imitating-life-imitating-art.The timing of the show could not have been more perfect, considering the central theme it deals with and the times we live in. In the Mumbai of Chandra, Kashyap and Motwane, the good guys are not that good and the bad are not exactly evil. The city decides the fate of the individual.Delhi, the power centre is no match for Mumbai, it’s a different world altogether, a character reiterates that in a line he speaks. Sacred Games explores the underbelly of Mumbai where agents of politics, businesses, movies and religion are indulged in a constant process of evolution in a struggle for power and control. Gaitonde is almost Forrest Gump here with major incidents that shook the nation in the past couple of decades proving turning points in his life as a career gangster. Even someone as dreaded as Gaitonde is a pawn in the hands of the people in power, politically. Motwane and Kashyap have successfully brought in an element of suspense and maintains it without losing their grip on the aesthetics of the tales being told. The series is particulary critical about the past governments who were in power when incidents which changed the country forever occurred. Sacred Games is what happens when an irresistible force in the entertainment industry like Netflix meets a filmmaker with immovable vision and outlook. Kashyap and Co. have come out all guns blazing here and have delivered a world class piece of entertainment. Looking forward to the next season and I think I’m going to revisit the book again.



Seven Seconds : The Netflix Series to Binge and Brood over This Month.

Sadhya, which is mostly attributed to the festival Onam globally but is otherwise a regular fixture in almost all events and ceremonies in Kerala, when served in its true form and devoured passionately as a true Malayali is expected to, can leave you bloated and intoxicated even, when you haven’t concluded it as it should be. If you have been to one of these elaborate sessions, you must have come across people going around with a serving of spiced buttermilk towards the end. This has in fact been immortalised in the minds of Malayalis across the globe by actor Innocent and the whole idea is that the buttermilk serving is supposed to work as an antidote to wave off the intoxicating effect of the feast, especically the penultimate serving of paayasam, the sweetened porridge of sorts. Now if your’e wondering what in the name of Mahabali’s belly does this have to do with Seven Seconds, the show that debuted on Netflix few weeks back, it’s the most fitting analogy that I could come up with to convey the kind of effect, watching the show close on the heels of Black Panther, could have on a viewer. Seven Seconds is the dose of buttermilk to wave off the sway of Black Panther and jolt you back to reality.

Veena Sud, the creator of the show specialises in remaking and transplanting foreign shows to the American heartland for the benefit of the English speaking audience. She did it in the past with The Killing, the Danish show and this time around she has found the perfect cultural setting for the Russian movie The Major in Jersey City. The show is a police procedural, a courtroom drama, a crime thriller and social commentary at the same time.Seven Seconds does not hide the fact that it draws inspiration from the #blacklivesmatter campaign and features direct references to the events in Ferguson and New York. This is one show that is not afraid to take sides and call a spade, a spade. It shows you how ordinary people struggle with personal loss and how it wreaks havoc in their lives.While they demand answers and asks questions too, they are not always the same ones that the crowd of protestors ask.Everyone is a victim here of the choices they make, some more than the others, justice is elusive and penance is not an option, as in real life.

The show rides on some of the most powerful and compelling performances in recent times by a group of talented actors. Regina King and Russel Hornsby play parents to a slain kid with an honesty and depth that leaves you no choice but to empathise with the characters. Clare-Hope Ashitey plays the troubled prosecutor and keeping her company in the hunt to nail the bad guys is Michael Mosley whose cop character and portrayal is an oasis of sorts for the viewer in a story that’s otherwise grim and bleak to the core. The most complex character of the lot, that of the cop who is torn between his own past, his integrity, the crime that he commited and the decision that changes his life forever taken under the compulsion of his corrupt colleagues, is played by Beau Knapp. Though it starts off slow to a brooding pace, the series makes up for it the later episodes and takes the tone of a thriller almost, that would make Grisham proud.There are a few successful attempts to break steterotypes and avoid cliches. All things said, this is one show that chooses to stick to ground realities and offers little or no closure to the viewers and the charcters in the end, much akin to the world that we live in.







Dark | Netflix :Review

A German show debuted on Netflix the other day.Not that i have a problem with the spoken language when it comes to binge watching, Narcos had more than a fair sprinkling of Spanish.But this one turned out be something else entirely.Imagine watching Nolan’s Interstellar in a language that you do not speak or understand, while you were drunk, with subtitles, thats the closest i can get to explaining my experience as a viewer, the fact that the show dealt with the same mind bending theme as Interstellar notwithstanding.Both are about bending of time, but its your mind that gets bent ultimately by the time you figure out the story.

For those of us who feel that Stranger Things Season One was the best Sci-Fi drama to hit Netflix but have been disappointed by Stranger Things Season 2, Dark just might be the right button to hit, literally. While Dark doesn’t have any of the nostalgic charm of Stranger Things and is in fact a grim tale with a bunch of disturbed characters, you still end up caring for the most of them and their fates, but you might want to keep a pad and a pencil at arms length too, not the easiest of plots to keep track of exactly.I am not exaggerating, trust me on this one.

For a plot that progressed in the most complicated yet flawless of ways, i must say i was a bit disappointed by the ending of this Season, which could only be justified by an impending Season Two announcement .The stage has been set brilliantly, a climax thats worthy is what the creators owe us as viewers now.Nothing less will do.


Narcos S03:The Review.

Post Seasons One and Two which saw the rise and demise of Escobar, Narcos has returned for a third season which chronicles the events that led to the takedown of the Cali Cartel.In the absence of the towering presence that Escobar played by Wagner Moura was, the show focuses on the fates of the men who took over the reins of the Colombian drug cartels and the men who went to work to bring them to justice or rather what passed for justice in that part of the world.The series doesn’t take sides here when it sheds some light on the compromises made by the forces who are supposedly on the side of justice, the Americans in this case.Basically its about men on either side of the law, and how they play the system to get what they want.This season unfolded to the pace of a taut action thriller and is not a character study like the earlier seasons, for obvious reasons.Now that Narcos is done with the Colombians, the show closes with a hint that they will be moving to the next destination on the global drug trade map, Mexico and news just came in that the location scout for Season 4 has been shot dead in Mexico.Imagine, those are the guys DQ fought off like they were school bullies in CIA.