After a long wait, one gets to watch a police procedural that gets the anatomy of the corroding system and social tapestry in a fictional Uttar Pradesh town almost right. The gripping crime drama neither tries to be overtly progressive nor deliberately attempts to present a picture of crassness in the name of realism. Engaging and insightful, it unravels the deep-seated patriarchy and gender bias even as it goes about the task of solving a case of acid attack. When a stranger on a scooter throws acid on a young Parul Chaturvedi (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), the case comes to the Sirsi police station. Incidentally, the staff is undergoing training in gender sensitivity and the new recruit Ravi Shankar Tripathi (Vijay Varma) is late to report.
Finding himself unfit in a job that demands a flexible backbone, he is about to put in his papers but the narrow-minded but well-meaning senior inspector (Gopal Datt) has other plans. He puts Ravi on the case and the son of a progressive teacher and poet (Tigmanshu Dhulia) starts writing First Information Reports. Ravi shares an unfinished relationship with his late father as his poetry helps him stay put in the fight. The thick-skinned head constable Yadav (Yashpal Sharma), who knows the tricks of the trade to survive in the profession, is also Ravi’s well-wisher.
Creators: Sumit Saxena, Arunabh Kumar
Cast: Vijay Varma, Shweta Tripathi Sharma, Seema Biswas, Gopal Datt, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Yashpal Sharma, Suzanne Mukherjee
Run-time: 30-40 mins
Storyline: Upstanding police recruit Ravi Shankar Tripathi confronts a complex social tapestry as he solves an acid attack case in Uttar Pradesh
Rich in subtext and dotted with metaphors, the series created by Sumit Saxena and Arunabh Kumar draws its title from Hindu mythology. Kalkut is said to be the poison that came out during the churning of the ocean. Here the writers indulge in plenty of churning and curdling processes to address the social perversions we encounter. As the investigation progresses, the writers probe multiple dark spots around us. From revenge porn to homophobia and rampant female infanticide to prejudices against a minority community, there is plenty to reflect upon. Alongside, in the game of perceptions, nobody is spared. Is Parul truly a victim? The series explores the desires and ambitions of a young woman in a small town and how she is boxed into labels by society if some of her decisions go wrong. Here is a father who is not ready to believe his daughter and there are friends who become voyeurs with technology in hand and muck in mind. Some of these work as red herrings to the central investigation but all of them drive the narrative forward and add multiple layers to the absorbing story. Sumit doesn’t see the policemen as corrupt or honest but he rather paints them as products of a society that is judgmental when it comes to women.
After essaying negative characters with aplomb, Vijay dons the uniform of an honest policeman with equal felicity. As the conflicted young man whose personal and professional lives get intricately intertwined, Vijay is the tour de force that drives the eight-part series. Backed by persuasive writing, he brings out the inner turmoil of Ravi who gradually begins to feel that he is also responsible for furthering the patriarchy that he is up against.
His doting mother (Seema Biswas) wants him to get married but Ravi is unsure. Carrying the wound of marrying off his sister to her tormentor, he is not sure of his equation with girls. When he feels cheated by Sonali (Suzanne Mukherjee), the girl he is about to tie the knot with, the male entitlement that he finds toxic raises its ugly head inside him. After a point, the case starts informing his relationships and vice versa and we get some memorable moments.
The gifted actor employs his expressive eyes and creases on the forehead to telling effect and more often than not his silence could convey the seething anger and frustration that could not be captured through words. The khaki suits him and one would like to see him as the new blend of Ravi and Vijay Khanna on the block.
Once a common feature in cop dramas, seasoned actor Yashpal Sharma returns to familiar territory with a challenging character whose opinion is as slippery as sand. He represents the shifting gaze of the writers who don’t keep any character above suspicion even if it means being politically incorrect. The colourful chatter in the police station reeks of rampant misogyny that pervades the system.
As always in the long form there are too many threads to tie but the performances and conversations keep us hooked. Seema is excellent as a mother who is scared of losing her son after her husband. Shweta and Gopal are competent as ever and Suzanne proves to be the surprise package.
Unlike some of the recent cop dramas on OTT where the writers either seem to think in English subtitles or resort to incessant profanities and directors employ an outsider’s gaze, here the use of colloquial and literary Hindi stands out and the dialogues are consistently incisive and to the point. Of course, there is a fair sprinkling of abuses in the language used in the thana and even in poetry but by and large it is not for effect. As for the treatment, Sumit switches between the scalpel of a surgeon and the knife of a butcher but is consistently effective and true to the terrain.
Kaalkoot is currently streaming on JioCinema