BOTTOM LINE: An Engaging Tale Where Mysticism Meets Investigation
|Platform: Voot||Genre: Thriller|
What Is the Story About?
Asur is a story of a man fighting his inner demons and troubled childhood in the garb of myth, dharma and religion. They give him an excuse to position himself as a mythical figure in the modern era and to be a mastermind behind a series of killings in India in the name of social justice. Nikhil Nair, a former forensic officer-turned-teacher at the FBI HQ, has his heart at investigation but is forced to stick to an academic role to fulfil his familial priorities.
He’s requested to return to the CBI’s forensic team, an offer he initially denies and later takes up, at the behest of his wife. The very first case he tackles is the murder of Sandhya, the wife of his boss Dr Dhananjay Rajpoot aka DJ, with whom he has a troubled equation. What follows is a cat and mouse chase that has deeper links to his past and that of DJ’s.
Asur would bring the Hindi entertainment industry to shame about how poorly it has utilised the terrific acting range of someone on the lines of Arshad Warsi. It’s a series that makes an important statement about his capabilities – how he’s much beyond the actor reduced to silly gags, loud dialogues and crass humour by most directors. His authority as an egoistic forensic expert is striking enough, so is the composure that he brings to the portrayal. The actor, though late in his arrival in the digital medium, has chosen his first project well.
Barun Sobti is another actor who sincerely surrenders to the vulnerabilities of his role as a forensic expert and an on-screen junior to Arshad Warsi. The confidence in his performance as a man stuck between his professional and familial priorities enhances the impact of the show to a large extent.
Child actor Vishesh Bansal, who played the immensely likeable Harshu in TVF’s Yeh Meri Family, gets a deliciously flawed role to sink his teeth into. A lot of his performance revolves around his expressions – the penetrating glances, the unapologetic body language, the terrifying silences. The series shows how well can the young actor explore his creepy side to validate his performance. The other actors like Anupriya Goenka, Amey Wagh, Ridhi Dogra, Gaurav Arora despite their brief appearances, make a definite impression.
Asur is a timely addition to the digital space in a time where violence and bloodshed owing to religious extremism is on the rise. It explores the delusional mindset of a serial killer who fails to get a hang of the thin line between myth and reality, supposedly owing to his ‘heightened intelligence’. This is an unlikely yet a compelling concoction of myth, science, and investigation, narrated with rootedness and a great eye for detailing.
Popular adman Oni Sen in his web debut creates a cobweb of flawed, complex characters with different motives. The storytelling is precise and edgy – once drawn to this world, there’s no looking back. This universe is modeled with care and reasonable intelligence. There may be certain cinematic tropes within the conflicts of the characters to lend familiarity, but the makers don’t use that as an excuse to forget logic. The emotional angle and the journey of the characters are equally strong enough for a viewer to surrender to its atmosphere.
The series of mythical backstories to understand the various layers of the serial killer’s mind are extremely well-told with the use of artistic motifs and impressive visual imagery. Connecting the tales about the churning of the ocean (in the quest of Amrit), the origin of the Kali-yuga, the rise of the Kalki to a troubled childhood of an autistic boy in Benaras (who’s often named an Asur by his priest father) may have seemed far-fetched on paper, but the mix feels believable due to the conviction of the storyteller in the subject.
Several Indian shows like the CID have reduced forensic science to a joke in the garb of fiction, but Asur gives the field the respect it richly deserves. It’s successful in presenting the various challenges and pressures faced by forensic experts on a daily basis, without succumbing to overt glorification. Of course, there’s a love triangle that the maker could have completely done away with – thankfully, it doesn’t distract him from the core of the narrative much.
The screenplay writers utilize the non-linear narrative to their advantage, packaging enough surprises and revelations around every corner. The mind-games between the forensic experts and the killer are rivetingly constructed towards the climactic episodes. The vastness in the world also means that Asur is very likely to return for a second installment soon. For once, there’s an Indian series that trusts its audience to connect the dots – that alone is a big step forward for the regional webspace.
Music and Other Departments?
The composer Dharam Bhatt makes impressive use of an Indian soundscape to justify the rootedness and mythical element in the story. The writers Gaurav Shukla, Vinay Chhawal, Niren Bhatt connect the diverse worlds of mysticism in religion to the science in investigation with logic, while not dismissing the authenticity of either of the arenas. The cinematography is akin to a quality feature film (or even better than that) and the VFX, CG portions are surprisingly ‘not-tacky’.
Performances of Barun Sobti and Arshad Warsi
The gripping, rooted screenplay
Detailing of the mysticism and forensic arenas
Indulgence with the detailing in some parts (the viewer feels diabetic almost)
The love triangle in Barun Sobti’s story
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Srivathsan Naddadhur