Web Series: Dahaad
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Vijay Varma, Gulshan Devaiah, Sohum Shah, Zoa Morani
Director(s): Reema Kagti, Ruchika Oberoi
Rating: 3 Moons
Patriarchy, casteism and power politics have been ingrained in society for years. Soaked in these elements, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti-created series Dahaad tells a socially relevant and poignant tale. The show acts as a mirror wrapped in the covering of a crime thriller. Ruchika Oberoi directs the 8-episode slow-burn drama along with Reema.
Set in the small village of Mandawa in Rajasthan, Dahaad sheds light on patriarchy and caste politics through the lens of Anjali Bhaati (Sonakshi Sinha), the 'lady Singham' of the locality. While being brilliant at work, her status of 'neechi jaat' won't stop hounding her. As she takes over the case of 20-odd missing women who co-incidentally commit suicide by consuming cyanide, Anjali has to deal with greater evils. Right in front of her is Anand Swarnakar (Vijay Varma), the culprit.
Dahaad roars when the focus of directors Reema and Ruchika is on smashing societal norms through the several dialogues initiated in 8 episodes. The characters represent various facets of Indian civilisation. Be is Anjali's fearlessness while breaking the glass ceiling, Devilal Singh (Gulshan Devaiah) redefining the father-daughter relationship, Kailash Parghi's (Sohum Shah) inability to take instructions from a lady senior to Anand's misogynistic approach, Dahaad achieves command over these nuances.
Dahaad aims to weave multiple poignant conversations into one final product. To an extent, it does manage to bring together subplots seamlessly. While there is a lack of big moments in the series, some sequences stay back in the mind. One of the key scenes showed an upper caste cop asking a lower caste complainant to stand at a distance and purifying the space with an agarbatti after he leaves. Whenever a lower caste person, including Anjali, passes by, he repeats the ritual. It shows the expertise of Reema and Ruchika as they make an effort to add layers to the series instead of restricting it only to the box of the crime thriller genre.
In the case of this Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti-created show, parts work better rather than the whole product. Two of the finest scenes of Dahaad are executed by Sonakshi and Gulshan. The former creates a 'Dabangg' impact while she schools Vijay's character Anand's father for not letting her do her job by stopping her from entering his house on the grounds of caste. Gulshan's Devi is a father who empowers his children, especially his daughter which is exactly why he and his wife don't get along well anymore. In one of the scenes, he sits his son down to talk about the curiosity around sex that comes at that age and why there's nothing wrong with it. Apart from this, his confrontation scene with his wife is a masterpiece. Gulshan is undoubtedly a stand out performer.
Dahaad touches upon the patriarchal system but doesn't promote in-the-face feminism. Without screaming loudly, the directors make sure that the undercurrents are felt strongly. Despite having its set of flaws, Dahaad is extremely relatable. It is believable. The family dynamics explored in Dahaad are pitch-perfect and definitely work better than the investigation portions.
As mentioned above, Dahaad is a slow burn with no big moments though the characters have their personal victories to celebrate. The series starts off with a bang with intrigue and thrill in every passing scene, however, repetitiveness seeps in pretty soon. The length of each episode is almost 60 minutes which makes the narrative slower. Anand's activities don't get justified completely and the intention behind the murderers is never revealed clearly. It gets predictable too. Some characters are introduced and get good screen space too but the purpose behind doing so isn't justified. At one point, the story doesn't move forward; it's stuck in a similar maze.
Even after spending close to 8 hours watching Dahaad, it feels that a piece is missing from the puzzle which keeps it away from becoming a perfect watch. A multi-dimensional villain and his impactful conflict with the protagonist could have done the job. In the series, the story's hero and villain are on the same page and due to a rushed and unsatisfying climax, the conflict never gets the space it deserves.
The star performers of Dahaad are Sonakshi, Vijay and Gulshan. The actress becomes Anjali from the word go. Wearing the character like her second skin, Sonakshi excels as the fearless cop who has multiple things to battle. A true inspiration to women, Anjali's character is brought to life beautifully by Sonakshi. Vijay shines as Anand. The show never shows him personally killing or committing a wrong deed, but the scare in his stare and mannerism is enough to send a chill down the spine. The actor performs with honesty. Gulshan is brilliant as always. He is the perfect example of a progressive man in the mean world who knows how to empower his colleagues without allowing their gender and caste to play spoilsport.
Sohum Shah deserves a special mention for owning his moments as Parghi. He is fantastic. Zoa Morani does her job well as Anand's wife. She is calm in the storm despite battling her own fights.
Dahaad's opening title sequence is worth mentioning. It is hauntingly beautiful. The background score is perfect too. Tanay Satam is fantastic as the Director of Photography. Dahaad is a visually stunning series.
Dahaad works best in fragments than the whole. With a bustling plot and multiple things to savour, it would be right to say that the series is a great attempt at telling a new story. Despite flaws, it is watchable for the idea and performances.
PeepingMoon gives Dahaad 3 Moons