Bestseller Review: Shruti Haasan and Mithun Chakraborty shine in this unsurprising thriller
Bestseller, the Amazon Prime Video original is based on the book The Bestseller She Wrote authored by Ravi Subramaniam
A twist every minute, a surprise thrown at every turn — that is not what Shruti Haasan’s Bestseller thrives on. Billed as a psychological thriller, this Amazon Prime Video original is based on the book The Bestseller She Wrote authored by Ravi Subramaniam. It begins with a fan’s obsession for her favourite author and delves deeper into a story that offers insight into the psyche of a purely masochistic selfish man.
Cast: Shruti Haasan, Arjan Bajwa, Mithun Chakraborty, Gauahar Khan
Director: Mukul Abhyankar
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Authors are selfish people, and friends of authors often tend to find their names or their characteristics in fiction novels. Are the writers apologetic about it? Is the transgression intentional? The answer lies only with the author.
Bestseller builds its story from the ashes of a successful author’s novel. Tahir Wazir (Arjan Bajwa), the lead character in the show, is undergoing a slump for lack of a better word. The truth is, he has no story to tell. Tahir's previous book Raand, Saand, Seedi, Sanyasi — title inspired by Kabir’s doha ‘Raand, Saand, Seedi, Sanyasi, Inse Bache Toh Seve Kashi’ — hints at Tahir’s mindset from the way he uses this phrase. While the word Raand here means widow, Tahir uses it to write about a woman who at some point had to sell her body. The modern connotation is a popular swear word.
Tahir is under pressure because he doesn’t have a story that will live up to the expectations of readers and his fans. At this time, he meets a young girl Meetu Mathur (Shruti Haasan), who claims to be his biggest fan. Initially, he is on guard. He even mocks her, because he believes she doesn’t have the best intentions. Yet, three scars on this young woman’s right wrist — seemingly self-inflicted — interests him. So he gives her his email id and gets a sample chapter from her. Just a sliver of possibility for his next book pushes him to go against his initial thoughts about her. That marks how selfish he is.
Tahir sees Meetu as nothing but a vessel that would inspire him and maybe even give him a story that could make him more famous than his previous book. The moment she mentions that she is from the same town as the one that his previous book was set in, it intrigues him. Something about the way she describes her scars gives him hope. He believes that this fan of his will change his life, which she does. Just not in the way he expects.
The show is split into chapters, attempting to make it seem like an exciting novel. While each chapter reveals a new layer, this is no pageturner. However, Tahir is painted as a self-observed, insensitive, temperamental person, who is uncaring about his partner’s achievement. He is someone who belittles his wife Mayanka’s (Gauahar Khan) achievements because of his jealousy over her success and creativity. The show captures his downfall and this setup becomes important then because this build-up is what makes his destruction rewarding.
Now, his downfall comes with a seemingly deranged fan. One who goes to the extent of hurting those close to him. Meetu is the first victim, and with the unwanted attention of this fan, Tahir finds that his life is now upside down. He is unable to ask Meetu the rest of her story, which will ultimately help him complete his book. As his life is unravelling and he is losing control, Tahir is overwhelmed and no one including Mayanka and the investigating CID officer Lokesh Paramanik (Mithun Chakraborty) are able to figure out the motive of this new fan. This fan seems to know more about Tahir than his wife Mayanka, which is how they are able to hack into a fake fan account that Tahir creates as a publicity gimmick. Who wants to destroy Tahir’s life and why they do it becomes the reigning question in all their minds but the answer is no surprise.
It lies with Meetu. Her words, from the very beginning, are designed to lure Tahir in. It is meant to seduce him and enthrall him to lose his sense. The honey trap is so apparent that there is no space for trust to build from a third person’s perspective. So when the surprise drops, to a large extent it is ineffective.
What it does excel in is how it builds Tahir’s ego, to the extent where he can see nothing wrong with what he has done in the past, or what he continues to do in the present. He is a monster created from the attention that has been bestowed on him for his talent and until the very end, he refuses to see the error of his ways. There is no sympathy for what he does, and neither is there a redemption arc.
In essence, Bestseller is a predictable vigilante’s account. But, with the right pace and episodes being short, predictability doesn’t come across as a major obstacle. What does irk are the logical loopholes and minor details that boxes women into set patriarchal roles. Ranade, an assistant officer picking up the dishes after a meal with her boss Paramanik without questions, or requests underlines how there are some tasks that women are expected to do. He also tells her to shut her ears when he wants to swear, continually says “ladies hai” when someone else in the room begins to make rude comments -- all under the garb of a quirk -- and this does nothing but undermine Ranade's authority. This also doesn’t sit too well in an otherwise decently adapted show.
This show is no 'bestseller' that demands a dedicated space on your bookshelf, but it is that fiction you don’t mind reading once in a while.