The scene in the movie Dil Dhadakne Do, where Farhan Akhtar’s character asks Rahul Bose’s character why his wife needed to get permission from him to pursue her dreams, was one of the most shared and talked about scenes in the last decade. That movie came from the duo Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, and they created a really terrific scene that addressed the conditioned sexism in our society. When it comes to Dahaad, the new serial killer-themed series from Amazon Prime Video, created by Kagti and Akhtar, they are exploring that zone of inherent sexism in the format of a pulsating thriller.
A small village Mandawa is where our story is primarily set. Sub Inspector Anjali Bhaati is one of the in charge there, and she gets involved in a missing woman case. The case was sensitive as the political parties interpreted it as a case of religious conversion. Up on investigation, Anjali found out that the way the lover convinced the missing girl to elope with him had a pattern, and to her surprise, there were 27 other similar cases following the same pattern. The investigation to know what precisely happened to these women is what we see in Dahaad.
The theme here is pertinent. But it has been used so many times that yet another preachy take to make men treat women respectfully would even bore women. The smartness of Dahaad is in that packaging. The primary and most evident layer of Dahaad is of a cunning serial killer who uses the shield given to him by an orthodox society to do some gruesome murders. The political layer of the series actually wants to question this mentality of the parents to force their kids, especially daughters, to get married. From SI Anjali to SHO Devi Lal Singh’s daughter, every unmarried woman in the series is burdened by the good image she should maintain.
There is a terrific scene towards the end where Anjali shows her annoying mother a pile of photos of murdered women. It was a brilliantly placed scene, in my opinion. It was something that could have easily been on the loud and preachy side of saying the politics of the series. But Reema and Zoya show us the sleepless 60-hour work of Anjali so effectively that when she criticizes her mother and everyone who thinks like her mother in that scene, the impact is enormous. The choice to remain single for a woman is something that is largely ignored in our society, and it was good to see a serial killer thriller using that idea as a criterion for victim selection.
The creation of the antagonist is also pretty comprehensive for Dahaad. He is obviously a representative of all those manipulative men with this mask of progressiveness and palpable benevolence. The layers of the antagonist are actually used in the series to expose people who are covering up their inherent sexism. And to an extent, the series is trying to examine why such psychopaths are created. The constant abuse of their ego by telling them they are not manly enough, and the way they are told to dominate women at a very young age, etc., are the reasons, and Dahaad mentions all that more subtly. The only track that didn’t really work for me much is the Parghi story. His dilemma of becoming a father to a kid in this brutal world lacked depth.
As the fierce cop who had to tackle casteist remarks and sexist glares, Sonakshi Sinha was good as Anjali Bhaati. The character has those multiple shades, but it was mainly on that Dabangg mode. As the SHO Devi Singh, Gulshan Devaiah delivered one of his career-best performances in the film. From being cool to his kids to being ferocious to his subordinates and wife, the character offers Devaiah a great space to perform, and he utilizes it thoroughly. Sohum Shah as SI Parghi is convincing, but like I said, his character was a bit incomplete in the totality of the script. Zoa Morani as Vandana was a memorable performance.
The show’s real star was undeniably Vijay Varma as the antagonist Anand Swarnakar. The lack of remorse in his eyes, how he suppresses his anger, how he manipulates his kid, the pseudo empathy he shows towards his targets, the dialect switch while dealing with each victim, etc., makes Vijay’s performance easily a top-notch one. As much as I like seeing him master the art of becoming a classy villain, I really hope creative people will develop characters that would give him something beyond this benevolent bad-guy image.
Dahaad is created by two women, and the series is ultimately about the hurdles women face. But instead of making it look like a speech-filled drama that is adamant about fixing the patriarchal mindset, Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar place those debatable elements in various characters and situations, making the viewer think about the lack of progress in our society when it comes to women’s freedom and rights. If you look at it, the critique view actually goes beyond the women empowerment track towards the end, and the series even questions the base of marriage as even our righteous heroes in the tale denied their vulnerability.
When it comes to Dahaad, the new serial killer-themed series, created by Kagti and Akhtar, they are exploring that zone of inherent sexism in the format of a pulsating thriller.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended