Cast: Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Harsh Chhaya, Abhishek Chauhan, Surya Sharma, Apeksha Porwal
Creator: Siddharth Sengupta
While reading up about Undekhi, it was revealed that its creator Siddharth Sengupta has earlier directed a series titled 9 Malabar Hill for Zee TV in the late ’90s. We were not allowed to watch much TV back then, but thanks to the satellite revolution in India, I still recall this show for its distinct ‘feel’. As a kid, it was imprinted on my mind strongly enough that today when I watch Undekhi, I could see how Sengupta has honed his craft to suit the crime-thriller genre over two decades.
There was a dread surrounding the environment in 9 Malabar Hill, as if people don’t want to talk about the obvious. The omnipresent fear engulfed the whole action area. The danger seemed immediate and imminent. It’s not that kind of terror which a community experiences. It’s very individual and targets appear all alone. In fact, it would be safe to say that you don’t deal with such kind of a terror with simply being brave. It’s much more than this because you have lived with your tormentors all your life, and they know how far you can stretch!
Coming back to Undekhi, here’s the basic premise of the show: Some dancers have been called to take part in a resort wedding of a powerful timber merchant family in Manali. Two of these dancers are absconding suspects in a murder case in the Sundarbans. A Bengali DSP Barun Ghosh (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) is in their pursuit, but things take a drastic turn when something sinister happens at the resort, and the host family tries to brush everything under the carpet.
Though the show is designed as a thriller, in which a few powerless people are trying to escape from the clutches of the mighty ones, it’s more about how the law enforcement machineries can be manipulated without much effort.
Rinku Bhaisaab (Surya Sharma) is the apparent scion of the Atwal family, headed by a drunkard, foul-mouthed Papaji (Harsh Chhaya). The maneuvering businessman, Rinku, has been controlling the local police since years, and is quite dreaded in the area. He has a gang of bizarrely menacing youths who could kill in a blink.
Sengupta has created moments from the very first episodes, and is quite open in bringing out the contrasting cultures of Bengal, Delhi and Himachal. Thankfully, he has an actor like Dibyendu at the helm of affairs, who is nuanced, subtle and extremely expressive. This could have been a tall task for any other actor. Dibyendu has brought out the helplessness, tactfulness and shrewdness of a police officer in a foreign land with brilliance. He takes charge of the situation and disappears into the background to let others shine just at the right moments. He is the cohesive force behind making Undekhi a really good watch.
Then there is the chemistry between Harsh Chhaya and Surya Sharma, which creates a nearly perfect milieu for a mob show. While Chhaya’s crass mannerism would push you away, Sharma’s confident body-language would make you hate his guts. If the devil would own a resort in Manali, it would look like Sharma. Another solid win for Sengupta at the casting front. Hope this actor gets more meaty roles.
But there are the usual Hindi web show tropes too that stop Undekhi from becoming a memorable show. Despite fine performances and some terrific moments, it’s stretched, and sometimes, developments look forced. It also gets repetitive after the 5th episode. Had the makers avoided giving extra time to chase scenes for no apparent reasons, it could have been a better watch.
Also, shock values don’t work once your premise is set and the primary characters are introduced. Why do the makers need to serve the audience an insane twist every 20 minutes when they know where all this is headed. The entire jungle chase scene and people bargaining with each other at every juncture could have been chucked out to make Undekhi a sleeker presentation.
But all said and done, Undekhi has a texture of its own and that would push you to binge watching. With 10 episodes of nearly 32-minutes each, Undekhi is another win of the Indian OTTs in the crime-thriller genre. It’s streaming on Sony Liv.