Taish Series Review: Rage and revenge reign supreme in Bejoy Nambiar's adequate thriller
The six-part series (also out as a feature film) balances style with a willingness to interrogate violence
Film-watching can be a blandly passive affair, so any measure of choice is welcome. This week, ZEE5 subscribers can take their pick: they can watch (like I did) all six episodes of Bejoy Nambiar's Taish, a pacy, hyperviolent revenge thriller set in London. Or they can catch Taish the feature film, a pacier, hyperviolent revenge thriller set in London. This will largely depend on personal preference and time constraint, though I suggest you settle in with the series. This way, any lingering doubt about the thriller's full potential will be put to rest.
Rohan Kalra (Jim Sarbh) drives down from London for his brother's countryside wedding. The celebrations perk up when his best friend, Sunny (Pulkit Samrat), joins the party. Sunny is easily incensed: we learn this when he tries to dance shirtless with a girl and drags her intervening boyfriend into the pool. Later, at a pub, his hair-trigger temper is put to test. Rohan reveals that he was sexually abused as a child; the offender, Southall gangster Kuljinder Brar (Abhimanyu Singh), is a guest at the bash. Learning this, Sunny follows Kuljinder into the restroom and beats him bloody.
Unfolding in parallel is the story of Kuljinder's brother Pali (Harshvardhan Rane). Over non-linear fragments (a Bejoy hallmark), we learn that Kuljinder had married Jahaan (Sanjeeda Sheikh), whom Pali loves. With his loyalties now questioned — he's suspected of attacking his brother at the pub — Pali sets out for revenge. It soon spirals out of control, as a circle of retribution consumes multiple lives.
Taish, before anything else, is the work of its director. Bejoy's films are known for their frantic construction and obsessive themes. His characters — pensive, brooding — flip out more frequently than in any other filmmaker’s work. What is presented here is not so much a departure as a careful balancing of style and substance. The brawls and bike chases are offset by a willingness to interrogate the nature of violence. Anger, the driving element in much hypermasculine cinema, is treated with a frankness bordering on the uncool. This is by no means the anti-Kabir Singh (the show glorifies what it has to), but it indicates a director willing to check his impulses.
Cast: Jim Sarbh, Pulkit Samrat, Kriti Kharbanda, Harshvardhan Rane
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Out on: ZEE5
Some proof of this can be found in the early episodes. With the series format at their disposal, Bejoy and editor Priyank Prem Kumar bring out the small dysfunctions plaguing both families. At the wedding, Rohan drops his dancing partner when his Pakistani girlfriend Afra (Kriti Kharbanda) turns up unannounced. Later, he takes her side when his father insults her over dinner. Pali is similarly enraged, his hate and emasculation stemming from the odd fact that Jaahan was Kuljinder's sister-in-law when he married her.
The tangled narrative is held in place by a sturdy ensemble. Jim Sirbh is pleasantly atypical as the sole voice of reason ("If only blaming was as hard as forgiving," he cautions Sunny in a scene). Pulkit, while playing to type, extracts moments of intensity previously unseen in his work. Harshvardhan's showy brood would have been disastrous if not for the lush supporting work by Sanjeeda. There's also a variety of accents and ethnicities: "There's nothing else to discuss," says a Sardar character in a Brit accent before ending it with, "Sat Sri Akaal."
From Park Chan-wook's famed trilogy to The Last of Us Part II, pop culture is full of odes to the futility of vengeance. Bejoy’s latest closes on a similar note, a message likely to be lost in all the flash and boom. It's the curse of action cinema that it claims to reject violence — yet is helplessly in thrall of it.