Bard of Blood: Netflix’s espionage series has its moments

Based on Bilal Siddiqi’s espionage novel, The Bard of Blood, Netflix’s web series is a big-budget offering shot in parts of Ladakh, Leh and Rajasthan masquerading as Balochistan

Bard of Blood
Bard of Blood

Biswadeep Ghosh

The series had been widely hyped before its release, and it is being referred to as Netflix’s calibrated response to Amazon Prime Video’s action thriller, The Family Man.

Bard of Blood stars Emraan Hashmi, a reasonably versatile actor dealing with a rough patch for quite some time. Hashmi plays Kabir Anand, and he is shown as teaching William Shakespeare’s Macbeth after being 'dishonourably discharged' from his job of a spy.

Once codenamed Adonis, he has adapted to the ways of the academic world after the death of his friend and companion on the field. In the avatar of a teacher, Hashmi doesn’t convince one bit. How he teaches Shakespeare is nothing short of laughable.

Thankfully, his character makes a return to his once-familiar world to lead a mission for rescuing four Indian agents who have been captured by the Taliban. As a spy who undertakes a bumpy ride deep inside Balochistan, the actor is more than efficient, and a major reason why the serial keeps us interested.

The Taliban is controlled by Mullah Khalid (Danish Hussain), who has been modelled on Mullah Omar. Anand, or Adonis, is accompanied by Isha Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala), an analyst, and Veer Singh (Vineet Kumar), a sleeper agent rotting in neglect in Balochistan for a long time. We also get to see Jannat (Kirti Kulhari, in a pointless role), his old flame, whose brother is part of the resistance movement seeking to emancipate the area from the control of the Taliban.

For director Ribhu Dasgupta, who had helmed the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Te3n about a missing child, the making of Bard of Blood would have been a big challenge. The series has several subplots with many characters from both sides of the border. Most of them leave a mark with their performances, which is an indication that the director was able to extract good work from them.

Jaideep Ahlawat as the Taliban handler, Hussain as Mullah Khalid, Dhulipala as Khanna and Rajit Kapoor as Anand’s boss (in a brief role) have made particularly remarkable contributions with their well-measured performances. Saddled with a badly written part, Kumar as the agent is rather disappointing.

The timing of the ending of each episode is just right, making the viewer look forward to the next episode. Each episode is between 40 and 50 minutes in length, and seven of them is the perfect number for finishing the series at one go on a lazy holiday.

Spy stories must have twists in the tale, which Bard of Blood also does. Some predictable ones, however, could have been easily dropped from the final product. Certain sequences have been overstretched, making one wish that the screenplay had been crisper.

The names of Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies have been marginally altered, making one wonder why. There is no effort to explain how sleeper agents are treated by the establishment, an instance of how a significant character has remained half-baked because of the absence of a good back story.

Some critics have compared Bard of Blood to The Family Man and stated why the former pales in front of the latter. While the two series have followed each other in quick succession, the comparison is unnecessary. Barring the basic fact that the protagonists of both these shows are spies, there is little that is common between the two of them.

Bard of Blood has its share of moments and highlights. Exquisite cinematography is an engaging quality of the series that can be binge-watched if one loves spy stories.

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