- BOTTOM LINE: Partly Crass, Mostly Watchable Crime Drama
|Platform: MX Player||Genre: Thriller|
What Is the Story About?
Madhuri Talkies is a relevant revenge drama that has timed its entry in the digital space well, given its focus on a burning issue, condemning atrocities committed against women in a vigilante-like tone. The series is about a Banaras-resident Manish’s quest to avenge the gangrape of his love interest Puneeta.
His blood boils noticing a widely circulated video of her rape, after which he vows to kill every man involved in the crime. The list seems long and even includes loyalists of politicians, a cop among a few. How Manish takes law into his own hands, with help from his best friend Kali, a forthright yet good-hearted cop Gajraj and hopes to start a new life afresh with Puneeta sets the platform for an adrenaline-pumping ride.
Sagar Wahi’s casting as Manish is among the best decisions taken by the makers for the vulnerability he brings to the role of a lover. He’s excellent in the softer moments and reasonably efficient in the no-nonsense action segments, acing the lingo of the region with impressive confidence. Aishwarya Sharma’s understated portrayal of Puneeta works to her advantage and she internalises the pain of her character than depicting it outwardly.
Varun Kashyap, Ravi Jhanghu impress with the quirks and wide range of histrionics that they lend to their characters. Basu Soni gets ample footage to shine in the role of the protagonist’s friend and the actor brings an underdog flavour to the portrayal that adds sheen to the character. Darpan Shrivastav is cast in a significant role of a cop whose loyalties keep you guessing and he doesn’t disappoint either. Other supporting actors too fit well within the milieu of the show.
This is a season for rustic crime dramas – the popularity of shows like Mirzapur, Rangbaaz, Gods of Dharmapuri is proof of the same. The shows expose viewers to terrains that don’t often make it to mainstream cinema with its nuanced focus on language, culture and behaviour. Madhuri Talkies, a Bhojpuri-cum-Hindi show set in Benaras may not be as well made as the above-cited examples, but it’s a hat tip to the 80s styled Bollywood revenge dramas packed with flavoured dialogue baazi and straightforwardness in narration that isn’t much in vogue today.
The show’s initial minutes are unsettling even for those who’re well aware of what its premise will offer – a gang rape followed by a bunch of youngsters circulating the video of the incident among their peers for ‘personal joy’. When the protagonist Manish enters and tells them to show some decency, you wonder if Madhuri Talkies is about a protagonist’s attempt to transform a bunch of sex-addicts who seek pleasure out of such videos. The show would have been path-breaking then, however the director chooses a different route – the populist one, trying to ensure social justice to a victim through his protagonist.
Mind you, the tone of the series is crass and (patriarchal to an extent) with the unpleasant premise, Madhuri Talkies isn’t an easy watch by any means. The director Arvind Babbal yet creates an interesting cobweb of characters that Manish has to traverse past, en route his ultimate goal. His transition from a happy go lucky, irresponsible youngster to a man who goes to any extent to guard the honour of his girl is aptly portrayed. Though the series fails to address the larger issue about rape-videos being sold to online parlours in small towns for a huge sum, the pacy narrative has the right sense of urgency in getting the viewer to root for the protagonist.
At several instances though, one wonders what’s the point of a series like this when almost every character in the series feels heroic by hurling profanities in the name of the sisters and mothers in each other’s families. There’s excessive skin show of women that feels more like an attempt to titillate than to stay true to the essence of the story. The rape video is repeatedly screened from various angles, sometimes beyond necessity. Minus all the problematic segments, the show would have been a cracker of a crime drama.
Among the better parts, the show poignantly mirrors the humiliation that a victim has to face after a rape, for no fault of theirs. The alienation from society, the reactions from immediate family members, the suicidal tendencies of a victim are depicted with a rare sense of realism. The romance between Manish and Punita isn’t at all rushed – the main focus is on the revenge and the show is at its best when it sticks to that motive. The later episodes are racily executed and are surprisingly well-detailed too. The ending comes with an interesting twist throwing all hints of a round two.
Music and Other Departments?
Technical finesse isn’t what you ideally expect out of a series made on a shoe-string budget. The music score, despite the racy nature of the plot, is repetitive for the most part. The cinematography isn’t always in the best interests of the story and it’s unfortunate, given the message it wants to suggest. The dialogue baazi between the characters, however, provide unprecedented joy even in the tensest of moments. However, the show would have benefited a lot by doing away with a handful of expletives. Yet, the rooted writing (the story) is still one of the series’ biggest strengths.
Sagar Wahi’s performance
Racily structured screenplay
The rooted Banaras setting
Overdose of skin show, expletives that rob the focus away from the theme
The crass treatment in the initial episodes
Did I Enjoy It?
Partly during the last few episodes
Will You Recommend It?
Unsure, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea
Madhuri Talkies Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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