Mumbai, 08 Oct 2020 19:04 IST
Despite a few shortcomings, High manages to keep you hooked, mainly because of the performances of the principal cast.
A revolutionary new pill called Magic disrupts the illicit drug market in MX Player's new crime thriller web series High. Unlike other narcotics, Magic is not addictive. Quite the opposite. It helps drug addicts miraculously kick their habit. The business strategy behind such a product baffles everyone, including a reporter played by Mrinmayee Godbole. But then again, the sellers of the drug are not looking to make a profit.
High by Nikhil Rao is a crime thriller about scientist Dr Roy (Prakash Belawadi), his two assistants Dr Shweta (Shweta Basu Prasad) and Dr Nakul (Nakul Bhalla), and a drug addict Shiv (Akshay Oberoi), who create and push the miracle drug.
The series starts with a dead-eyed Shiv, scrounging the streets for a little maal (dope). An overdose lands him in the secretive drug rehabilitation facility run by Dr Roy in the middle of a dense jungle. The people operating the centre happen to have developed an unapproved compound that could potentially change medical science forever and also put many Pharma companies and drug dealers out of business.
But the first obstacle the doctors have to face is debt. They are required to hand over Rs27 crore in three months lest their facility be taken over. With no other option in sight, Shiv proposes the illegal sale of Magic, which he helps distribute along with his friend DJ (Mantra). As expected, powerful enemies are made, kicking off a deadly cat and mouse game between our heroes and gangsters Jimmy (Madhur Mittal), Munna (Kunal Naik) and Ghulam Bhai. Peddlers are now after the drug's formula and manufacturers and will stop at nothing until they get what they want. Also gunning for our quartet is a hitman Lakda (Ranvir Shorey) hired by the head of an evil pharma company and the aforementioned reporter Ashima whose search for a path-breaking story that will propel her career to new heights ends with the emergence of Magic.
Writers Rao, Emil Thomas, and Nishant Goyal have sprinkled enough twists and turns to keep viewers engaged throughout the series' nine-episode episodes run. Though most of these are predictable, the writers have made sure that the entertainment quotient remains high.
Rao's direction is praiseworthy. He and his cinematographer use some clever techniques to transport the viewer into the shoes of an addict. John Jacob Payyapalli's clever camera work deserves a special mention. For instance, in the first two episodes when Shiv is wandering around the city heavily under the influence of drugs, the camera movements are also lethargic, almost mimicking its subject's motions, giving a window into his world. The series also boasts of the rich production design of K.U. Mohan.
All the principal cast have done justice to their roles. Oberoi, especially, nails the transition from a drug addict who has abandoned all hope to a determined individual trying his best to get his life back on track. Bhalla and Prasad are also great but one wishes the writers had spent more time making their characters better-rounded. The series doesn't delve into their characters' histories and how they came to be in the employ of Roy. In fact, apart from Shiv, all the characters tend to be one-dimensional, including the drug peddlers and Shorey's hitman.
Another shortcoming is the characterization of villains, who appear directly lifted from Hindi action films from the 1980s. Their loud, over-the-top portrayal makes it difficult for viewers to take them seriously. With characters being shot in the middle of the road in Mumbai, the series has its share of logic-defying scenes. What makes it even more frustrating is that such scenes could have taken place at other deserted locations, keeping the aura of realism intact. Another drawback of the series its cliffhanger climax, which seems to have become a trend nowadays. Here, this kind of ending is not merited but is clearly a gimmick to shock viewers. The show is also high on profanity and violence. But given its premise, this was expected.
The makers of High have chosen the perfect timing for its release as drug addiction is a topical issue. The series raises pertinent questions about our outlook towards drug addicts. Currently, we are seeing how the media is conflating drug addicts with professional criminals. High attempts to show you that they should be rehabilitated rather than jailed.
High is a sincere effort by Rao and his team and despite its flaws it keeps you hooked with believable performances from the principal cast.
High is streaming on MX Player.
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