Review Hindi

Cartel review: Performances save the day for show that tries to ape Sarkar

Release Date: 20 Aug 2021

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

Supriya Pathak, Tanuj Virwani, Jitendra Joshi and Rithvik Dhanjani excel in the ALTBalaji and MX Player show.

Director Suyash Vadhavkar’s Cartel tries to ape Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar (2005). The Amitabh Bachchan-starrer movie saw Supriya Pathak play the wife of Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar (Bachchan). Cartel sees her play widow Rani Maai in the same get-up as in Sarkar. So the show seems like an indirect attempt to explore what would happen to Nagre’s empire if he were to die.

But there is more. Sarkar had two sons, of whom one (Abhishek Bachchan) was mature and calm while the other (Kay Kay Menon) was wild and went astray. In Cartrel, Rani Maai’s nephew Arjun Angre (Tanuj Virwani) handles the day-to-day affairs of the gang in a responsible and calm manner while her own son Abhay (Rithvik Dhanjani) is immature, short-tempered and emotional. Plus, the twist related to Abhay’s character is the same as that of Kay Kay Menon’s in Sarkar.

Interestingly, Sarkar’s family name was Nagre while Rani Maai's is Angre, an anagram of Nagre.

But none of this is a major problem. The real problem with Cartel is the screenplay which does not deem it necessary to establish even the basic plot and primary characters.

Rani Maai is head of the Angre clan, headquartered in Goregaon, and controls Mumbai. She has concluded a peace treaty with four other gangs based in different parts of the city. But the audience is never shown any proof of Rani Maai’s power. We are only told about this.

Cartel has a number of interesting characters in the Angre family and in the other gangs, but they all lack depth. We aren’t told much about any of them either.

Cartel is the story of what happens when Rani Maai, head of the dreaded Angre gang, is shot by two unknown men. The suspicion falls on the other four gangs despite the peace treaty.

The Angre family also has to face the challenge of controlling Rani Maai’s son Abhay, who will do anything to become the next leader of the gang. He is jealous of Arjun who indirectly takes charge of affairs in a calm and calculative manner.

The show has another hot-headed character in the form of Rani Maai’s nephew Madhu Mhatre (Jitendra Joshi), but he also has the maturity to accept Arjun’s unofficial leadership.

In Cartel, Rani Maai slips into a coma moments after she is introduced and thereafter remains out of sight for a major part of the 14 episodes of the web-series. From here on, a cat-and-mouse game about gang wars with a lot of characters coming in and going out becomes the focus and Rani Maai and her condition are largely forgotten.

This is a real dampener because the show was promoted as one revolving around Pathak's character. But just when you begin feeling that there is no hope for the show, Rani Maai returns to the scene and gives it a new lease of life. The script improves perceptibly on her return and the final few episodes turn out to be interesting with occasional doses of thrill.

Supriya Pathak slips easily into the character of a powerful leader of a criminal gang. A single signal from her commands respect from her family and foes. In fact, the performances play a major role in saving Cartel from falling apart.

Tanuj Virwani’s character is the opposite of what he played in the first two seasons of the Amazon Prime Video web-series Inside Edge. He scores highly as the mature Arjun who says a lot without speaking much.

Jitendra Joshi and Rithwin Dhanjani excel as Madhu and Abhay. Amey Wagh gets to play the interesting character of a young leader and he grabs the opportunity. Girija Oak, as Madhu’s wife, also scores high marks. Of the rest of the female cast, Aditi Vasudev is impressive. The show has a long list of characters of gangsters and criminals. Their performances range from good to decent.

Around the half-way mark, the idea of a second season of Cartel would sound silly. But after the completion of 14 episodes, when a second season is indicated, you are not as dismissive. You just hope it isn’t as long.

Cartel is now available on MX Player Gold and ALTBalaji.



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