Review Hindi

Chutzpah review: A skin-deep dive into digital toxicity

Release Date: 23 Jul 2021

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

Directed by Simarpreet Singh, the series depicts several issues such as online trolling, sexual harassment, toxic masculinity and pervasive narcissism, but very superficially.

It is amusing that the instinctive reaction of today's generation, upon experiencing something novel, is to share it online. People are consumed by a sense of self-importance fuelled by easy accessibility to a large captive virtual audience. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning impudence or extreme self-confidence. This attitude has led to a whole slew of problems such as narcissistic behaviour, trolling and viciousness. Simarpreet Singh's series seeks to capture these elements in a few stories that criss-cross each other. Sadly, it merely scratches the surface.

The stories revolve around individuals whose lives are built into and around virtual reality. Kevin (Gautam Mehra) is a budding content creator whose obsession is attaining digital stardom. He hounds his friends into liking, sharing and leaving comments on his videos and dreams of creating content with another star, Deepali Shah (Aashima Mahajan). His roommate, Prateek (Kshitij Chauhan), is a predator, who preys on women on every dating platform he can find. 

Rishi (Manjot Singh) is an introvert who turns to a camgirl Wild Butterfly (Elnaaz Nourozi) for company. While the young woman seems to have harbour personal secrets, she inspires the shy youth to stand up for himself. 

Vikas (Varun Sharma) is a Punjabi momma's boy in Boston working on a breakthrough AI app. Hating America, he wants to come back to the comfort of his girlfriend, Shikha (Tanya Maniktala). His only friend in the states, John (Varun Tewari), finds himself dragged into social media battles while trying to save his brother, Kevin. 

Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Amrit Babbar layer the series with myriad themes. From the leakage of nude images online to the considerable clout social media influencers wield, these stories capture the zeitgeist. Kevin's obsession with numbers on his videos, Rishi's difficulties in building a relationship in the real world and the fraught relationship between Vikas and Shikha are relatable. They feel real. 

The trouble is that the screenplay is far too loose and lacks proper character arcs that allow all of the themes to emerge. In the case of a story about an invasion of privacy, the man guilty of making a sex tape is arrested, but the one who spreads it is let off scot-free. Also, how Vikas escapes being pulled up for an illegal activity remains a mystery. 

The phenomenon of trolling is also depicted but the show stops short of exploring the nature of trolls themselves or the reasons why the activity is so widespread. While the issues brought to the fore are interesting issues at a time when the screen is an omnipresent entity, they deserved to be explored better.

The lens through which these issues are looked at happens to be predominantly a male one. The story also takes too many diversions to highlight Kevin's obsessions and Vikas and Shikha's phone calls and discussions. This takes a toll on the pacing, dampening the viewer's interest. 

Sharma and Maniktala deliver mature performances. Singh and Nourozi have a very interesting arc, while Singh jettisons his trademark slapstick humour without losing his comic timing. Singh and Sharma are refreshingly sober in their craft. Gautam Mehra is appropriately annoying while occasionally capturing the narcissism of influencers. The performance makes a mark but is undermined by a weak storyline. 

The show's premise is a fascinating one, and it does have its positives. But sadly, it fails to offer viewers a deeper look at the topics at hand. 

Chutzpah is being streamed on SonyLiv.


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