With a solid Vijay Varma at its centre, Kaalkoot is a riveting watch, notes Mayur Sanap.
Police procedurals are the flavour of the season in the Hindi streaming space.
Set in the hinterlands, the premise of these shows usually has a crime story at its core while giving a stern critique of certain societal issues along the way.
After two back-to-back solid shows Dahaad and Kohrra, we now have Director-Writer Sumit Saxena’s Kaalkoot tackling the same genre with a very effective Vijay Varma headlining the show.
In a sweet departure from his wicked avatar, Varma plays meek Ravi Shankar Tripathi, a rookie cop stuck in a deadbeat job in a small town in Uttar Pradesh.
Reticent by nature, he lives a lonely life with his widowed mother (Seema Biswas) whose sole objective is to get her son married as she cultivates marriage proposals for him.
At work, Ravi is a subject of ridicule for his chauvinistic superior Jagdish Sahay (Gopal Datt, in a sharp turn from his comedic roles) who taunts him for not being ‘manly’ enough. He rejects Ravi’s resignation and instead, hands him over the investigation of a grisly acid attack that occurs in the town.
The victim is Parul (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), a young girl who Ravi remembers as his prospective bride from a photograph he previously received from his mother.
Ravi’s career as well as personal life change upside down when the complexity of the case stuns him, and brings many revelations to the forefront.
The show opens with a horrific crime.
The visuals of a young girl tragically maimed by an unknown attacker are gut-wrenching. This is heavy material, and Saxena handles it sensitively with a touch of realism.
The script, which Saxena co-wrote with Arunabh Kumar, is dense with a commentary on the system and its functioning along with various legitimate issues of our society.
Subject matter like this can easily veer off into preachy territory, but the director skillfully builds up the drama with a good amount of suspense and thrill to keep us engrossed.
The screenplay is rather slow-paced, but there is a lot going on underneath the surface which makes the proceedings interesting. As each episode ends on a suspenseful note, we are hooked to find out what unfolds next.
As the investigation moves further, the show brings in toxic masculinity, male chauvinism, gender biases, domestic abuse and other similar issues.
However, most of these issues are only touched upon rather than being woven into the narrative. For instance, in the show’s attempt to highlight female foeticide, the very issue ends up becoming a mere tool to complete the heroic arc for Vijay’s character. And the sudden tonal shift while depicting this heroism feels oddly filmi.
After episode three, the drama gets a bit convoluted with a few subplots that don’t add much to the central story. But even in these briefly shaky moments, the efforts of its fantastic cast keep things in order.
Vijay Varma renders a stunningly authentic performance without hitting a single false note.
From observing the toxic mindset of men around him to his gradual empathy for the opposite sex, the show plays out as Ravi’s coming-of-age story. It’s a fully realised character, and over the course of eight episodes, Varma makes us believe in the genuine goodness of Ravi.
In the concluding episode when Ravi pours his heart out to his fiancé Shivani (the eminently watchable Suzanna Mukherjee), the vulnerability that Varma exudes makes for one of the best scenes in the series.
In her brief appearance, Shweta’s sensitive performance ignites the core of the show despite her under-written character.
This is a demanding role that requires a level of fearlessness, and Shweta does it with total submission to her role. Her Parul has to hit absolute rock bottom before she starts to accept herself after a life-altering event.
Of course, things are much more difficult for victims of acid attacks but there is a lovely touch towards the end of the show, telling us that we are all capable of surviving the worst.
Yashpal Sharma plays Ravi’s subordinate, who is equal parts friend and mentor to him, and he brings an endearing warmth to his role. Their camaraderie will remind you of Ishwak Singh and Jaideep Ahlawat’s duo from Paatal Lok.
Seema Biswas as a nagging mother and Gopal Datt as a foul-mouthed officer lend able support in their respective roles.
Like any other good show, the nuanced storytelling in Kaalkoot offers more than just surface-level entertainment as it compels you to ponder on harsh realities of our society.
With a satisfying payoff to its slow burn and a solid Vijay Varma at its centre, it’s a riveting watch.
Kaalkoot streams on Jio Cinema.
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