UNDEKHI (2020)

Dibyendu Bhattacharya in a still from Undekhi
  • Release Date: 10/07/2020
  • Cast: Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Surya Sharma. Harsh Chhaya, Abhishek Chauhan, Ayn Zoya, Ankur Rathi, Apeksha Porwal
  • Director: Ashish R. Shukla

A delightful thriller that is elevated by stupendous performances and intriguing plot and interpersonal drama

DSP Barun Ghosh (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) is investigating the murder of a police officer in the Sunderbans. The evidence on spot leads him to search for two tribal girls who are from the village near the spot of the murder. The girls, as he learns, have been sent to Manali to perform as dancers in a high profile wedding. Barun Ghosh decides to track them down and heads for Manali. Meanwhile in Manali, while performing, the two girls, who are apparently sisters, endure a terrible tragedy. One of them is shot in the head by the powerful businessman/patriarch of the family whose son’s wedding they were performing in.

This man, known only as Papaji (Harsh Chhaya), shoots one of the girls during a bachelor party for the reason that she was not dancing with him and was resistant to his improper advances. Rinku (Surya Sharma), the adopted son of Papaji and someone who would go to any lengths to cover-up Papaji’s crimes, set into motion a series of events that not only piles on the miseries of the remaining alive girl and her guide but also threatens the safety and security of a large gamut of characters who all have their own agendas.  A vicious circle of deceit, cover-up, money, power, torture, and murder is created around the events and it proves nothing less than an enigma to solve. It is at this juncture that Barun Ghosh enters the scene and begins his investigation into the matter and tries to find the two missing girls. What happens next is what Undekhi is all about.

Undekhi is unlike anything that we have seen in the Indian OTT space in recent years. I started off with the series at about 11 pm one night and just couldn’t bring myself to leave it unfinished to be completed the following day. The proceedings are gripping, intriguing, and shocking at certain junctures. Every character is well crafted and equally well realized by the actors. The audience knows at the very beginning of the show who the murderer of the girl is. There remains some doubt pertaining to who might have killed the inspector even though there are enough indications to the fact that it might have been the two tribal girls. The plot anchors itself on how Barun Ghosh unearths the murder of the girl that the entire family of Papaji, with the help of some of the guests at the wedding, is trying to hide. He is poised to find about the murderer of the inspector only after he has tracked down the girls. There are moments when he is close enough to crack the case but then something happens that takes him far away from the truth. These sequences are tense and brimming with energy and surprises.

Harsh Chhaya and Abhishek Chauhan in a still from Undekhi

Apart from how well the story unfolds with twists and turns in every episode, it is the brilliant acting and the interesting characters that ensure that the interest in the show is sustained throughout. Rishi (Abhishek Chauhan) is an aspiring filmmaker who joins a film crew entrusted with shooting the entire wedding. Shockingly, he documents the murder perpetrated by Papaji and his conscience doesn’t allow him to sweep the incident under the rug as advised by his team leader and friend, Saloni (Ayn Zoya). Every effort that he makes to save the life of the surviving girl and ensuring that the discriminating footage finds its way to the police, takes him a step closer to his end. Abhishek Chauhan does a fantastic job of bringing to the fore the fear, frustration, angst, helplessness, and to a certain extent the heroism of Rishi who can be sighted as the only good character in the entire series.

Saloni played by Ayn Zoya is under the duress of a huge loan and the wedding film is her only shot at making out of the hole that she has dug herself into. In addition, the person she owes the loan to has reached her house and is threatening the safety of her mother unless she pays up. It is at this juncture that the murder at the wedding happens. After remaining oblivious to the incident, Saloni sees a chance to benefit out of the situations and colludes with Rinku which takes her down a dark path. Ayn Zoya had to ensure that her portrayal of the character conveyed the chaotic and nervous state of her mind and she does a commendable job at achieving that. She is also someone who knows how to use her sexuality to her advantage and tries to use it in her favor. Zoya excels in these sequences as she keeps it subtle but gives out just enough vibes to ensure that the audience gets what her character is getting at.

Surya Sharma as Rinku is path-breaking. He will be an instant hit for his style, gusto, devilish charm, and brutal act. He not only gives the right vibes as the ruthless Rinku but also has the kind of mojo that makes him an instantly detestable and yet noteworthy character. His character too is under a lot of stress owing to the fact that the only person he cares about in life might be at risk if the murder was to come into the light. Surya Sharma effectively shows us the effects of that stress and pressure on his actions and mannerisms as the show progresses. However, even in that, his character doesn’t lose its power, control, and the occasional urge to satisfy his lust. Surya Sharma paints an interesting and engrossing portrait of Rinku that grasps our attention instantaneously.

Abhishek Chauhan in a still from Undekhi

Harsh Chhaya as the vile, lewd, and ceaselessly drunk Papaji is terrific. The man is unrecognizable in certain portions and disappears behind the crass and hyperbolic character that is Papaji. Ankur Rathi as the disillusioned son, Daman of Papaji is hilarious. He has come to India from the US only for the marriage and starts off by declaring to Rishi that he has got used to the ways of life of his family within days. What follows is utterly hilarious as it becomes evident that he doesn’t have a clue to what is happening in the family and how it will influence his future, his marriage and his future relationship with his wife to be. Ankur does a tremendous job of conveying the emotions that his character is going through.

Dibyendu Bhattacharya’s character takes some interesting twists and turns towards the end. His affinity to Hindi film music and penchant to details adds a dash of likeability to his character. He is a DSP but he is called out throughout the series as an inspector by the different characters and he continues to correct them without losing his temper. This along with certain other subtle comic nudges helps make the character hilarious, interesting, and engrossing. Apeksha Porwal as Koyal, the Adivasi girl from Sunderbans is terrific. Her character evolves into a Rambo-esc adversary as the story progresses and this is something that I wasn’t expecting from the character. The character has the element of surprise on its side.

I am not a fan of leaving off a series on a cliffhanger and that was one of my only issues with the series. I would have loved for the series to have culminated. I am sure that we will be getting a second season to it and that should tie off all the loose ends. Another issue that I had with it was that, as the series progressed, the proceedings progressively got over the top that didn’t go down too well with how the series started off and the realism that it maintained for at least 5-6 episodes. The transition to this new way was neither smooth enough nor was it warranted. Having said all that, Undekhi is still a thrilling and entertaining series that merits a view for its stupendous performances, intriguing material, and effective execution.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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