Review

Bhaukaal (Season 2) review: Entertaining while it lasts, but not satisfying

Release Date: 20 Jan 2022


Cinestaan Rating

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Rajeev Pai

Pradeep Nagar and Siddhanth Kapoor are the pick of the cast. Some of the dialogues would have elicited wolf whistles in single-screen cinemas. And the fight sequences and the gore too.

A few years ago, when Game Of Thrones was all the rage with a section of the audience in India (at a time when OTT platforms were still to make their mark), a wag pithily observed that the HBO series was nothing but ‘Bollywood with boobs’.

Something similar seems to have happened with the ubiquitous (and repetitive) crime/police sagas on OTT platforms. The plot, shorn of the frills, remains much the same; the creativity shows up in the gratuitous use of violence and the liberal use of cuss words, some commonplace, some so innovative that there are no real equivalents in English, making the subtitling look shoddy.

Of course, all this is in the service of ‘realism’, though one wonders how much realism is there in these dramas, many of them set in the Badlands of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and also among the more backward and lawless, if one were to go by what one reads in the news and watches on such shows.

To be fair, Bhaukaal (Season 2) is entertaining, though less so than the first season where the cat-and-mouse game between the largely Hindu police and the Muslim gangster Shaukeen (a ruthless Abhimanyu Singh) in western Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district — yes, the same where Hindu-Muslim riots were engineered less than a decade ago in the service of a political party’s campaign — was more gripping, even with all the plotholes.

The new season takes off from where the previous one left off. Like nature, the world of crime abhors a vacuum. So, with Shaukeen disposed of by SSP (senior superintendent of police) Naveen Sikhera (Mohit Raina) in the first season, the Brothers Dedha, ruthless and focused – unduly, in my opinion – on keeping the region in the grip of terror (hence the title) move in to seize control.

In reality, the brothers Pintu ‘pehalwan’ (Pradeep Nagar) and Chintu (Siddhanth Kapoor) seem more like caricatures than the holy terror they are made out to be by the show, given their lack of good sense and cold-bloodedness coupled with their love for bloodletting. What seems to matter most to the brothers is that ordinary people must be frightened of them. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they suffer in comparison with Shaukeen even after he is dead when it comes to the moolah.

And so the show goes on, with the dedicated SSP clueless how to fix the messed-up brothers while they go around killing merrily whenever the fancy gets them while the ever-present media with their boom mics and cameras demand to know when the ‘jungle raj’ will end. The absurdity of small-town journalists in a boondocks district demanding answers is even more striking when one considers how supine the national media has been even in cases of blatant lawlessness where the evidence is posted online by the very goons who commit the crime.

With a handful of dedicated officers and the mandatory Judas — whose existence remains a mystery to the otherwise smart IPS officer until the fag end — Sikhera struggles through the best part of the series to get to grips with the problem. Matters come to a head when the Dedhas set off on a killing spree for reasons that are not very clear, forcing the chief minister to read the riot act to the director-general of police, who, in turn, gives Sikhera a deadline — three days! — to clean up the mess. Voila! As any journalist worth her salt knows, nothing like a deadline to send the blood coursing and get the creative juices flowing.

The pace picks up, the SSP looks sharp and it would be no spoiler to say that he is able to meet his deadline in the only way our movie cops — and, increasingly, some real ones — know.

Production-wise, the series is well made. The semi-rural setup, dusty small towns, narrow roads, people struggling to live their lives and the fatalism are on point. Some of the dialogues would have elicited wolf whistles in single-screen cinemas. And the fight sequences and the gore would have been applauded.

Most of the cast perform their roles well with Pradeep Nagar and Siddhanth Kapoor as the Dedha brothers being the pick. They convey the brotherly attachment and hot-headedness of uncouth gangsters well. Nagar with his cat eyes and handlebar moustache looks devilish while one can discern traces of Shakti in Siddhanth. But there is only so much they can do when the writing lacks depth. Pintu’s repeated exhortation to his thugs to spread terror and not count the cost is amusing.

Raina is believable as the upright police officer, but for the most part, he is helpless, unable to pin anything on a quarry whom he keeps planning to ‘bring out into the open’ when they move around at will and commit their crimes in daylight in the market square. Only the police seem clueless. Yet the officers are all proud to belong to the Uttar Pradesh police.

Bidita Bag, who plays Nazneen, concubine of the slain Shaukeen, has a reduced role this time but is competent as ever. So is the veteran Anil Dhawan, who plays a local doctor who gets abducted, and the late Bikramjeet Kanwarpal as the mandatory slippery politician Aslam Rana, once the patron of Shaukeen and now backing the Dedhas but really only playing for himself. The show is dedicated to the retired major who died of COVID-19 last year.

Bhaukaal (Season 2) is now available on MX Player.

 

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