- BOTTOM LINE: a Genre-Bender That’s Too Inconsistent to Impress
|Platform: Amazon Prime||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
Based on the Bengali novel Golper Goru Chaande, Afsos is a web series about a 20s something man Nakul who feels he’s unfit for life. From his shaky ties with his family to poor luck in relationships, a mediocre academic stint and failed attempts to publish his manuscript, he confesses about having never lead a good day in his life. His psychiatrist Shloka tries to help but he’s convinced that suicide is the only option.
Even death seems to be mocking him as he miraculously finds a way to survive every suicide attempt using various methods across multiple locations. He takes the help of an agency named Emergency Exit that guarantees death to all of its clients at any cost. Upadhyay, an assassin is hired to kill all the customers who come to the agency for help. Meanwhile, there’s news about an elixir that could make you immortal even as 11 priests are found murdered in the quest of the magic potion. A journalist, an assassin, a failed writer, a sadhu and the cop are in for a wicked ride ahead.
Gulshan Devaiah has always been the man to break norms and surprise audiences with his unconventional choice of roles. Nakul is an interesting addition to his filmography, a vulnerable character with suicidal tendencies who discovers his zest for life in the middle of a crisis. The actor does well to establish the confusions he has with life, immortality.
Anjali Patil, after her brief-yet-impactful appearances in Kaala, Naa Bangaru Talli and Newton, comes up with another assured performance as a psychiatrist in what’s probably the best-written role of the series. The tricks she employs to empathize with each of her mentally traumatized patients, even if it means lying to them, provide an interesting tweak to her characterization.
Heeba Shah, whose body language, appearance and aggression remind you of Seema Biswas, slips into the part of an assassin with the right amount of nonchalance. Aakash Dahiya, Shyam Bhimsaria, Sulagna Panigrahi, and Dhruv Sehgal have brief-yet-impactful roles.
Afsos is an unlikely blend (and a social commentary) of ideas – of immortality and death – in the garb of a thriller. The series extends the promise that the trailer had in its initial portions, revolving around the suicidal tendencies of its protagonist, discussing hopelessness in life and an agency could help you die. But, the director doesn’t quite prepare you for what’s to arrive ahead – a tech-major that could help you become immortal, digging deep into the mind of an assassin who has completed 86 murders, the mystery behind the murder of 11 priests at an ashram in Uttaranchal.
The series tries to do too many things and still be profound about it. It wants to discuss how cops are corrupt and indifferent to the plight of the common man, it wants to spark off a debate whether immortality is worth it, after all, it tries to portray the extent to which a psychiatrist could go to help his/her patient, it attempts a fictionalized spin to the entry of British in India and to even discuss internal office politics within a media house. Agreed all of these aspects are worthy of a discussion, but why tie up so many things in one narrative when you can’t discuss even of the threads with enough depth?
The premise is unbelievably quirky and the narrative proceeds at a breathtaking pace. The jumps are, however, too frequent. There are elements of psychology, crime, the philosophy that don’t sit pretty together. Had the storytellers primarily stuck to the plight of the protagonist who intends to set up his death-plot through an agency and goes back at his decision later, exploring the complications surrounding it, Afsos would have still been an engrossing ride without much fuss.
The idea of immortality that it ambitiously speaks about is quite vague, restricted to a few monologues, poorly established characters. The character study of a psychopath who has a fascination for painting is interesting, but the portrayal lacks any nuance and her backstory is restricted to a truth-and-dare reference in an art school. It tries to poke fun at itself during the action sequences where the cops keep discussing the number of people left to attack the antagonist like the score of a tennis match. Later, an international villain suddenly starts speaking shuddh Hindi, several protagonists rubbish the idea of immortality theory that the priest suggests (of the wind blowing from all directions when the immortal human arrives).
The tonal consistency is missing, albeit intentionally, to keep the unpredictability in the show alive. The viewer is engrossed yes but confused at the same time. Afsos is too inconsistent to be the intelligent show it tries to be. It’s the slick pace, arresting performances that help you scrape past the eight odd episodes, lasting about three hours.
Music and Other Departments?
Afsos’ jumpy dark comedy-cum-thriller-like narrative doesn’t make it an easy prospect for a composer to come up with a soundtrack. However, the show has an interesting metal-twist and equally well-orchestrated music portions where the score is not necessarily racy but soulful. The cinematography doesn’t try to spoon-feed the story to the viewer and the visuals are interestingly metaphoric, working well in tandem with the sharp dialogue.
Impressive performances of its cast
Slick screenplay (despite the inconsistencies)
Vagueness in exploring its subplots
Absence of a strong emotional hook
Did I Enjoy It?
Only in parts.
Will You Recommend It?
Afsos Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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