SAMANTAR (2020)

  • Original Air Date: 13/03/2020
  • Cast: Swwapnil Joshi, Krishna Bharadwaj, Tejaswini Pandit
  • Director: Satish Rajwade

Samantar could have been great …but falls short because of lackluster execution

Samantar is the story of Kumar Mahajan (Swwapnil Joshi) who is going through a tough phase in his life. His income is low. He is unable to meet the demands of wife and children and always seems to find himself on the wrong side luck. On the advice of his friend, he visits an astrologer to know about his future. He disbelieves the astrologer at first but then realizes that he may have some merit after all. As the astrologer begins his study of Kumar’s future, he is shocked to realize that he had seen an exactly same hand before and refuses to tell predict Mahajan’s future. All Mahajan gets from the astrologer is a name —Sudarshan Chakrapani (Krishna Bharadwaj). As per the astrologer, his life and fortune are strangely connected to Chakrapani. Chakrapani seems to have lived the life that Mahajan is about to live. After this meeting, Mahajan is consumed with the idea of finding Chakrapani. Soon things take an interesting turn as Mahajan is at first suspended on charges of corruption and then transferred to a place that he later finds out was the home of Chakrapani. Soon he unearths some more interesting links between him and Chakrapani. Now it becomes an obsession for Mahajan to find Chakrapani and know his future.

Samantar is based on the novel by Suhas Shirvalkar of the same name. I haven’t read the book but going by its reviews, it seems to be a good read. The series, however, suffers from some major flaws on part of the director that stops it from becoming great. The story and the proceedings are undeniably engaging and it would have really been a great experience had the director not put a mind-numbing background score behind every sequence whether or not it was required. The best background scores are the ones that don’t tell us how to feel about a particular situation but instead elevate our current feelings. From the very first scene of the series, it just shifts to top gear and never let’s go for a second. It doesn’t let us breathe for that matter. It might have been how the makers intended it to be but that didn’t work well for me.

What I felt would have made the series a lot more engaging and affecting was if the makers took away the background score from it completely and let it build up in a documentary-esc manner. Think of it as if an invisible camera was following Kumar Mahajan in his pursuit. That would have not only made more sense and added some much-needed realism to the tale but would have also given the viewers the kind of breathing space that they needed to settle in on the narrative and the unfolding drama. I have to agree that I was interested to see which way Mahajan’s story was headed and that was because he was an interesting bloke. He is hyper in his dealing of situations but was made unnecessarily loud in certain situations when he could have been much more effective if he slowed down and mellowed down a bit. Subtlety is the name of the game here but that is something that the makers of this series just didn’t understand.

I remember Swwapnil Joshi from the Ramanand Sagar epic Shree Krishna (1993-1996). In between, I don’t remember seeing him in anything else. It was indeed refreshing to watch him on the screen after so long. He does an earnest job with the character. One look at him and you take him to be the hyper-charged and distressed man that is playing but the problem is with the fact that he is overplaying the character quite a bit. For that, I don’t blame him as I know that he could have easily turned his performance down a couple of notches. His act is in line with the style and feel of the series that wants to convey a feeling of being on the move constantly in top-speed. Krishna Bharadwaj turns up towards the end of the series and turns in a decent performance. He is sufficiently creepy and does bring an uncanny feel to a character that we have been waiting to see for the first 7 episodes before it makes its appearance. His give and takes with Swwapnil worked well for me and he was able to justify his presence.

The other issue that bugged me, even more, was how the series culminated. Each episode is around 20 minutes long and there are 9 episodes in the first season. By the time the series ends, you realize that the story is just getting started and that was extremely frustrating for me. This is not the kind of series where people would like to invest multiple seasons to get to know what happens to the characters as it is neither well-made enough nor the character are good enough to draw us out a second time. They should have instead tried to devise a way to culminate the whole story in one season. That would have given the audience the desired payoff at the end of it all.

The series is originally in Marathi and has been dubbed into Hindi and a plethora of other languages. The Hindi dubbing seems to be on point as Swwapnil can speak Hindi well enough. He has evidently dubbed for himself and his voice accounts for 80% of the series’ dialogues. I don’t know if Krishna Bharadwaj dubbed for himself or it was someone else but his dialogues ended up being effective and didn’t distract me. However, the production quality of the series was uneven. There were sequences where it felt as if the makers were going for an indie-esc quality to the visuals but then there came sequences where they wanted to show a sweeping visual palette but couldn’t pull it off. Thus it ended up being visually jarring. I have to agree that it might have been because of the meager budget but could have been easily managed using some ingenious ideas and innovative techniques. If Peter McKinnon and Daniel Schiffer can make their videos look that good single-handedly, there is no reason for a production backed by MX Player to feel visually uneven.

I believe MX Player will bring in another season of this series and culminate the story atleast. That’s the least that they should do for the ones who invested so much time on this one. Going by the positive word of mouth that this season is generating, I believe a follow-up must be already on the burner. If you all are to take my opinion, don’t keep too many expectations from this series when you walk into it and be ready to have your delicate senses assaulted with a jarring and incessant background score. If you are ok with these two things than Samantar might just impress you. In these times of lockdown when we are fast running of material to consume, it might fare better than how it would have had there been no Corona Virus outbreak.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)  

Feedback: aambar03@gmail.com    

 

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