Undekhi Web series Review: Competent performances power this thriller about ever-changing morals
Undekhi, driven by impressive performances and earnest writing, is a worthy addition to the growing number of Indian thrillers thriving in the OTT space
At what point do we stop turning a blind eye to the crimes around us? Each of us has a different threshold for ignoring crimes. Road rage doesn’t affect us till it happens to us. An influential person getting away with a crime doesn’t bother us till it directly affects us. But aren’t decency and ethics all about siding with the right irrespective of who the wrongdoer is? Which is that one criminal act that makes us understand that all crimes cannot go unpunished? These are the questions posed by writers Mohinder Pratap Singh, Sidharth Sengupta, Umesh Padalkar, and Varun Badola through Sony LIV’s new series, Undekhi, directed by Ashish Shukla.
Cast: Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Surya Sharma, Harsh Chhaya, Ayn Zoya
Director: Ashish R Shukla
Streaming on: Sony LIV
Although the series begins in the Sunderbans, it soon shifts base to the luscious and seemingly less-dangerous Manali where the proverbial hell breaks loose. Two girls, accused of killing a cop, are on the run from Sunderbans and find refuge in Manali. There is a lavish wedding happening in a resort that sees these girls dancing at the boorish stag party. A Michael Corleone-esque Daman Atwal (Ankur Rathee) is set to marry Teji Grewal (Anchal Singh). Both Teji and Daman don't like the outlandishness and brashness of the Atwal family. The perfect set-up for what's to come. There is one murder. A subsequent cover-up. One dogged inspector, I mean, Deputy Superintendent of Police, on the chase. Unscrupulous political power in all its glory. Patriarchy, misogyny, class, and caste discrimination all rear their ugly heads. As I said, all hell breaks loose.
Undekhi plays out like a triangular crime story. There are the extremely rich and powerful Atwals at one end. The scared and on-the-run girl from Sunderban, Koyal (Apeksha Porwal), on another end, and the persistent cop, Barun Ghosh (A brilliant Dibyendu Bhattacharya) completing it. The series is on a firm footing and hits the ground running, wasting little time to get us acquainted with the power dynamics in play. Undekhi is essentially about Rinku Atwal (a scarily effective Surya Sharma), the troubleshooter of the family, who employs every crime in the book to save his perennially sloshed, bad-mouthed uncle (Harsh Chhaya having too much fun), the patriarch of the Atwal family, from his “indiscretion.” DCP Ghosh wants to follow every rule in the book to bring the criminals to justice. Koyal is clutching at straws to save herself from the goons.
The three main characters being increasingly one-note is somewhat negated by the colourful secondary characters. It is these peripheral characters that prove to be an interesting case study on what is best left unseen and unheard when it comes to crimes in big places. It is easy to wax eloquently about doing the right thing. But when presented with the option of doing the right thing and saving yourself, what would you choose? I particularly liked the character of wedding photographer Saloni (Ayn Zoya). While her friend Rishi (Abhishek Chauhan), a witness to the murder, wants to be there for the victim, Saloni is more interested in wriggling her way out of this mess. Is she wrong? Yes. But what would we have done?
Undekhi delves into the psyche of people who are forced to decide between the greater good and morals. A fight that people often face on various levels. The best part about Undekhi is that the series is extremely non-judgemental. It just provides us with facts about all its players without taking a moral stance on anything. Even DCP Ghosh, who is made to run pillar to post trying to be ethical and morally upright, is forced to question his stance when other cops are swayed by influence and put him down constantly. However, he doesn’t rattle off punch dialogues about the corrupt nature of the society. Ghosh just tilts his head above, closes his eyes, and sings a Hemanth Kumar number. He knows how the system works; he knows whom it favours. Ghosh knows he is just a pawn in the system. This calmness doesn’t come from a place of confidence. It comes from a place of resignation. Undekhi is also about how various players in the series slowly reach that place of resignation where they know nothing can be done except adjusting to what’s happening. No retaliation. No struggle. Just adjust.
Undekhi effectively manages to weave out a tale of ever-changing morals despite portions that seem too stretched out. Certain conflicts are resolved in such a convenient manner that it is laughable. Some twists, including the final one, seem too far-fetched and dampen the close-to-reality-helplessness seen till then.
Nevertheless, powered by impressive performances and earnest writing, Undekhi is still a worthy addition to the growing number of Indian thrillers thriving in the OTT space. In an already crowded territory with a lot of competition, Undekhi will do for Sony LIV what Asur did for Voot — turn people’s heads.