TV Review: 'Dahaad' will chill you to the bone

'Dahaad' puts the roar back into the OTT viewing experience

Actor Vijay Varma in a still from Dahaad (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@jammypants4)
Actor Vijay Varma in a still from Dahaad (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@jammypants4)

Subhash K Jha

Dahaad (Prime Video, 8 Episodes)

Rating: ****

Heartstopping in its depiction of savagery in the atmosphere of normalcy, Dahaad is the kind of rare, engrossing thriller that makes you forgive all the excesses of exacerbated drama that we see in OTT serials. Weird and wearisome were the words for Tooth Pari and Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo.

Dahaad puts the roar back into the OTT viewing experience. It is astutely written (by Reema Kagti, Ritesh Shah and Zoya Akhtar), taking sharp U-turns in the narrative when you least expect them. For example, there is this nocturnal interlude (the series captures sounds and flavours of a sweltering small town) somewhere in the mid-series where the protagonist Anjali Bhaati peeks into a sinister van.

Suddenly, she is pushed inside and driven off. It is a heart-in-the-mouth moment, but it isn't meant to tease and provoke the audience. There are many shock waves running through the plot as twenty-nine women get murdered by one man.

Vijay Varma plays the serial killer with chilling equanimity. It is as if the man perpetrating this brutality is convinced he is doing society a favour. This serial killer in a killer of serial, is unlike what Nawazuddin Siddiqui would play. With Siddiqui, you would be able to spot diabolic evil from miles away.

This is more like your friendly slightly nondescript neighbour who has an axe to grind with women who opt to elope with him.

“Good women don’t run away with strangers,” Anand Swarnakar tells the cop Bhaati in the end. The series, set in a small monkey-infested town in Rajasthan, goes directly for patriarchy’s throat.

The peppery plot is filled with men who are either misogynists or cowards or both but constantly inflicting emotional and physical pain on the woman around them. The one seeming exception is Anjali’s superior Devilal Singh (Gulshan Devaiah, restrained and effective).

Also, what was the need for such a lengthy series? Why is every series given so much space when the story can be wrapped up in much less time? In this case though, the prolonged duration doesn’t sit uneasily on the dark yet well-balanced narrative, which swerves through a number of unexplored lanes before braking to a halt.

Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi direct the spry material with a relentlessly unwavering glance at a society that knowingly or unknowingly gives rise to a closet monster like Anand. In the given context of polluted patriarchy, the most interesting character is the cop Kailash Parghi, played thoughtfully by Sohum Shah. Parghi suffers from an inferiority complex at work. Although he is Anjali’s senior, he is treated like a subordinate. At home, his wife is pregnant with a child that Parghi doesn’t want.

Parghi sorts out his inner confusions. So does the series. It is an exhausting but exhilarating series that creates ruminative ripples across its storytelling skyline.

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