BREATHE : INTO THE SHADOWS (2020)

Abhishek Bachchan and Nithya Menen in a still from Breathe : Into The Shadows
  • Release Date: 10/07/2020
  • Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Nithya Menen, Amit Sadh, Saiyami Kher, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shrikant Verma
  • Director: Mayank Sharma

 Breathe: Into The Shadows falls short of its mark because of poor writing and indifferent direction

 Avinash (Abhishek Bachchan) is a successful clinical psychiatrist who often collaborates with the Delhi Police on complicated cases and helps them catch and convict criminals. He also helps in their prosecution with his dispositions in the court. He is happily married to Abha (Nithya Menen), a successful and flamboyant chef and has a lovely daughter, Siya. Siya is diabetic and requires extra care from both the parents to remain fit and fine. Disaster strikes their happy existence when Siya is kidnapped. For 9 months the police and the CID are unable to uncover a single clue about the missing girl. It is only after Avinash and Abha have lost all hopes that they receive a package with information about Siya’s wellbeing and instructions to kill a man who they don’t even know. The kidnapper informs the couple that if the task is not completed within the stipulated time, their daughter’s insulin will run out and she will meet a tragic end.

Inspector Kabir (Amit Sadh) has been in jail for 6 months for paralyzing a girl in the act of saving her from being shot by a crook. He is violently attacked in the jail, but he meets his assailant with ultra-violence. Once released from prison, he is allowed to join back the force, and he decides to take a transfer to Delhi so that he can have a fresh start. His arrival in Delhi coincides with the first killing of Avinash under duress from the kidnapper and as luck would have it, Kabir is handed charge of the case. As he toils to find the killer, he is also constantly haunted by his past and tries to make contact with the girl who he so fatally wounded even if it was to save her life. When he finally makes contact with her, things turn out very differently.  

The makers of Breathe: Into the Shadows had a very unique idea in mind. There will be immediate questions about how — a plot about a father forced to do a kidnapper’s bidding to keep his daughter alive — can be unique? It has been done a zillion times before in films, television, and literature. But what makes Breathe: Into the Shadows different and interesting is the identity of the person who is holding Avinash’s daughter hostage. Therein lies the biggest surprise of the series. The questions why he is doing it and why he wants Avinash to kill some specific people just adds to the intrigue and drama. Unfortunately, just having a good idea is not enough to ensure that your series will excel.

Ivana Kaur and Resham Shrivardhan in a still from Breathe: Into the Shadows

In a series like Breathe: Into The Shadows, a few aspects had to be nailed flawlessly in order for the series to have the desired impact but the makers often take an easy route and sometimes leave gaping holes in the narrative that immediately makes the viewer question the authenticity and believability of what they are watching. Once that happens the story and the screenplay lose its grip on the viewer and all its novelty counts for nothing. This was especially true about how this whole season of Breathe progressed.

When we meet Avinash and his family for the first time, we see that Avinash is a somewhat theatric personality with his daughter. He is loud, does a lot of interesting things, and is very expressive. After the fateful kidnapping, we see the man retort to a shell completely. He becomes low key and maintains an oddly disassociated appearance from all that has happened to his daughter. We don’t see him lose his head or overreact even after months of Siya’s disappearance. When the kidnapper finally contacts him and he is forced to murder one person after another, we don’t see him getting repulsed by what he is doing. We see him have a few discussions about the same with his wife, but the discussions feel oddly superficial. There is no feel for the gravity of what he is doing in his essay and that, for me was just unacceptable. If the character of Avinash was somber from the get-go, his low-key performance might have made some sense but that was not the case.

One of the most critical aspects of the series is the identity of the kidnapper and why he wants Avinash to kill some specific people. The writers again go overboard here and falter at giving a justifiable reason for the kidnapper to do what he was doing. The reasons behind his motivation for going after the specific people also made little sense. The kidnapper and Avinash are integrally linked to each other. There are a lot of things about how the kidnapper planned and executed the kidnapping and how he was carrying out his mission from a logistic point of view that couldn’t be explained. The kidnapper then gets into a romantic relationship with a prostitute played by the vivacious and brilliant Saiyami that was bound to complicate matters and pushed things to the limits of unbelievability. The kidnapper suffers from a unique mental condition that switches on and off in a manner that is conducive to forwarding the plot of the series and keeping things under control. This aspect of the series reminded me of the cheap executions of a scientific phenomenon in the 80s and 90s films that were far from reality.

Amit Sadh, Hrishikesh Joshi, and Shrikant Verma in a still from Breathe: Into the Shadows

The director, Mayank Sharma must take the blame for most of the issues mentioned above. The rest will have to be shouldered by his co-writer. In a series like this, the viewers must connect with the characters. Their actions and emotions must resonate with the viewers for the story to appeal to them at an emotional and functional level. This is why Paatal Lok was such a rousing hit even though it had a straightforward story and simplistic execution. The characters resonated with the viewers. The story, screenplay, and executions were close to reality and there weren’t too many portions where one could point a finger at how things were or unfolded. In addition, the makers displayed a tendency of building up characters and story arcs that they give us a notion of assuming importance in the narrative but then abandons unceremoniously. This was an aspect of the series that got on my nerves towards the end.

Speaking of the performances, I know for sure that Abhishek Bachchan can do ages better than what he does here. It was not so much a miss-step on his part as it was a poor depiction of direction from Mayank Sharma. Having said that, Abhishek Bachchan still shows some of his old acting guiles in a scene or two. I found some of his sequences with the prostitute played by Saiyami Kher extremely warm and I really wanted to see that portion of the story develop but it was abandoned in a flash, undermining a lot of good vibes that the two had generated. Nitya Menen is perfect as the dis-illusioned mother of the kid. One look at her face and one would know that she was under a lot of emotional duress and was not in her elements. As the story progresses, her trauma takes a different turn. It was moving to see Nithya bring her version of the battling mother to the screen.

Saiyami Kher is vibrant and haunting in tragic character. I seriously think she should have passed on this role as it had nothing for her. Even at that, with her sheer presence, she elevated her character. Her signature tune undeniably adds to the dreamy feel of her act. Amit Sadh is one of my favorite actors of recent times. I feel that the man hasn’t got his due in Bollywood. He proves once again; how effective he can be when he is utilized efficiently. I would have loved to see the brutal side of the man a little more but that is a minor complaint. He remains loyal to the mood and feel of the character and that serves him very well. Plabita Borthakur is efficient in her performance.

The kidnapper from Breathe: Into The Shadows

Breathe: Into the Shadows had an interesting story to tell. It had the right actors who could have breathed life into that story, but some lackluster writing and poor directional choices don’t let the series achieve the kind of heights that it was destined for. Having said that, it will still be engaging enough and enjoyable for all those who want to sit back and enjoy a thriller where they don’t have to apply their brains to much and are able to ignore lapses in logic, reason, believability and realistic portal of medical conditions. 

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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