Review Hindi

Human review: Shefali Shah delivers a riveting performance in this menacing thriller

Release Date: 14 Jan 2022

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Disney+ Hotstar series explores the murky world of big pharma and its unethical practices fuelled by unbridled ambition.

During the pandemic, we have witnessed the desperation of big pharma to get ahead in the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines with reports of trials taking place at an accelerated, break-neck speed. It gave a glimpse into the mega bucks at stake in the pharmaceutical industry and an entire system that stands to benefit, or lose, through the medicines.

The latest Disney+ Hotstar series Human, starring Shefali Shah, Kirti Kulhari, Ram Kapoor, Vishal Jethwa, Seema Biswas and Mohan Agashe, takes us bang in the middle of the murky world of pharma companies.

Set in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, the medical thriller unfolds in a hospital, Manthan, owned by Dr Gauri Nath (Shah), a reputed neurosurgeon. On the face of it, Dr Nath is an inspiring pioneer, but the devil lurks behind her deceptive eyes. Together with her husband (Ram Kapoor), she has an ambition to open her dream project Elisir and will stop at nothing to fulfil it.

Meanwhile, a pharmaceutical company, desperate to recoup its recent losses, is manipulating trials of a formulation being marketed as a super drug to offload it for tons of money. The company, in association with Dr Gauri Nath, orchestrates a carefully managed system wherein poor and vulnerable people are conned into drug trials and the data are manipulated. As things get murkier, we realize that deception and exploitation are the bedrock of the neurosurgeon's stratospheric rise.

With all these elements in play, a new cardiologist, Dr Saira Sabharwal (Kriti Kulhari), joins Manthan, wide-eyed and smitten by Dr Gauri Nath’s success. Eager to please, Dr Sabharwal has no idea about the hospital's past and the rot that seeps in from the top. But alarm bells start ringing as she becomes aware of the wider nexus and starts seeing through Dr Nath’s feigned innocence, albeit a little too late.

One person caught in the web of the drug trials is Mangu (Vishal Jethwa). Desperate to claw his way out of poverty, he does not quite understand what he is getting into. Finding himself in over his head, he becomes the linchpin for exposing Dr Nath's activities and joins forces with Dr Sabharwal.

We also see the now predictable nexus between politicians and big business. Dr Sabharwal and Mangu, though flawed characters themselves, become the moral centre of this drama. The series brings to the fore the shiny, opulent lives built literally upon the corpses of other lives, delving into both the staggering wealth and the squalor that feed the crooks.

Directed by Vipul Shah and Mozez Singh, Human weaves together compelling themes in a manner that is often disturbing and meant to be a shock to the system. The various themes and their treatment keep us mostly riveted to the unfolding drama.

The pace, however, slackens a little past the mid-point and there are choppy bits in the narrative that seem discordant. Chief among them is the trial of the twisted mind-altering drug that Dr Nath, along with her adopted mother Romi Ma (Seema Biswas), is involved in. The cluster of mindlessly cackling girls whom Romi Ma controls is disturbing and curious at first, but as things spin out of control, it becomes more and more bizarre, leading eventually to a bewildering, hammy resolution. The referencing of the Bhopal gas tragedy and its aftermath seems forced and expected, though it is put to good use for exploring Dr Nath’s past.

While all the performances are competent, Shefali Shah stands out, delivering one of the more menacing female characters seen on screen. A sociopath, she is alluring, earnest, glamorous, seemingly vulnerable, but always waiting for the right moment to coil herself around her victim’s neck and strike. Everyone is a pawn to be deployed at the right time for Dr Gauri Nath and nothing stands in her way. This is a role worthy of Shah’s talent and one is transfixed by her.

Human is creepy, even nauseating in parts, and makes us despair at the world we live in — all the things aimed to be a jolt to the system. One hopes to see more robust experiments of this kind in the OTT space.

Disney+ Hotstar is now streaming Human.


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