Human Series Review: A complex but confounding medical series
Doctors are demons in a well-observed but exhausting show
A post-pandemic medical series has its challenges. To begin with, you can never play down the creeps. The onscreen horror should reflect the devastation outside. Sadly, this isn’t the way of Human, where a doctor shudders at the possibility of eight people dying. Seriously? Eight people? That’s how many COVID-19 took for breakfast—and we are in 2022 now.
The victims in Human aren’t dying of COVID-19. What’s killing them, instead, is a drug. S93R—which Dr Gauri Nath (Shefali Shah) rechristens as ‘saviour’— is a potentially efficient cardiac drug. It’s been banned in Europe, though I guess Bhopal is within testing limits. It has already passed a round of animal trials (with only a few rodents dying). It’s so lucrative that Ashok (Aditya Srivastava), the drug’s manufacturer, wants to fast-track the human trials and sell it offshore. Of course, there are symptoms showing, but Ashok doesn’t care. He has no regard for hamsters or men.
Directors: Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Mozez Singh
Cast: Shefali Shah, Kirti Kulhari, Ram Kapoor, Aditya Srivastava, Vishal Jethwa, Seema Biswas
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
Directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Mozez Singh, Human paints a complex picture. We get a standard protagonist—Dr. Saira Sabharwal (Kirti Kulhari), a cardiologist who joins Manthan Hospitals and its owner Gauri. The other characters, however, are less predictable. Take the presence of actor Vishal Jethwa. The last time we noticed him was as a scary rapist in Mardaani 2. Vishal retains that slimy grin, though his character, Mangu, in Human, is largely sympathetic. Similarly, a doctor conducting unmonitored trials experiences a change of heart. The moral haze extends all the way to Gauri. One night, heavily sedated, she drops her cool mystique and wanders around spookily, like a yesteryear heroine in a reincarnation film.
The show gets monotonous, visually. We are shown glossy hospital floors and the doctors’ homes. This is contrasted with grimy labs, camps, slums and morgues. The characters are rich and well-dressed (doctors) or poor and unkempt (victims). Gauri is polite with her rebellious son; Mangu is initially heckled at home by his dad. More interesting, therefore, are the ‘middle’ characters, like Saira’s conservative parents or the conscientious social worker played by Aasif Khan.
Gauri, despite Shefali’s talents, is a dull antagonist (“I save lives…”). She leans on Saira, who has her own issues. Her relationship with her husband is failing; it’s a conventional track but Kirti and Indraneil Sengupta make it click. The casting is top-notch throughout, from Seema Biswas and Mohan Agashe in minor roles to the little girl from Dibakar Banerjee’s short in Ghost Stories. The young actor has an unforgettable name, according to Google— Eva Ameet Pardeshi.
Does Human blow the lid off big pharma greed? In a telling shot, a camcorder records a man as he signs his consent forms. He’s framed as though on gunpoint—which isn’t far from the truth. Mozez and co-writer Ishani Banerjee trace a complicated nexus, from high-placed politicians to local handlers and sharks. Their grasp of human anatomy, however, is wholly elementary. “The brain has a front part,” Gauri tells her medically-savvy husband, “…cerebrum.”
At 10 episodes, the action kicks in late. There is one great line—Mangu, genuinely surprised, asks if medicines can ever hurt anyone—but that’s about it. Shefali’s last show, Delhi Crime, was a persuasive blend of truth and drama. Human exerts no such grip. Its revelations, too, are nothing earth-shattering. It deserves, as one character puts it, the Deendayal Gulati Award For Bold Investigative Journalism.