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Director: Vikranth Pawar
Cast: Tisca Chopra, Saurabh Shukla, Rajesh Tailang, Mukesh Tiwari, Ankur Nayyar
Available On: Disney+ Hotstar
Duration: 9 Episodes, Around 40 Minutes Each
What happens when the force you worship becomes the force you also fear the most? Exploring a story of conflict, ‘Dahan – Raakan Ka Rahasya’ brings a dark tale of myths and superstition in the rustic town of Shilaspura. When a mining expedition threatens the sanctity of the land, its people fear an age-old curse being fulfilled, that can potentially wipe away humanity from the face of the earth.
Tisca Chopra stands out with a stellar act. As an IAS officer, she stands tall against a barrage of patriarchal men. Her character is strong but confused as to what she wants out of life. Chopra has carried that dichotomy very well and come out with a strong performance. Even though there are places where you feel that there are a hundred men working under her, so why does she have to do this on her own, but otherwise, she has pulled off a great act. Wouldn’t call it her best, but yes, this surely deserves a place in the top 5.
Mukesh Tiwari is the best among the ensemble cast. He is the one character you would want to see more of. You’re not sure if he is the good cop or the bad cop, and Tiwari ensures that he keeps you in that confusion till the very end. In the middle of serious scenes, he manages to bring forth a tinge of comedy with a one-liner or a twitch of his eyebrow, which keeps the mood light in the entire storyline.
Saurabh Shukla’s character is patchy and it’s slightly confusing at times. He starts off trying to be the bad guy, then suddenly he was the good guy, and then he left all of it and took retirement, only to come back again as a stronger villain. Even though Shukla managed to pull off a brilliant portrayal with layers of different layers of belligerence, angst, religiousness and patriarchy. Sadly, the character, which had a strong performer, couldn’t leave a lasting impression.
Rajesh Tailang’s character was also perennially confused. He started off as the cop, but just after the first episode, you don’t see him anymore as the cop and he is just one of the bad guys. There are entire episodes when he is absolutely missing without any reason. The only good part about Tailang is that he managed to pick up the dialect the best among the entire cast. The local Rajasthani dialect sounded oh-so-perfect when he spoke, whereas when the others did the same, it felt a lot forced, or rather, rehearsed.
Ankur Nayyar has been completely wasted. There is no reason as to why he or his character is there throughout the show. It felt more like a cameo with not too much meat into the character.
The rest of the ensemble cast didn’t have enough standout scenes to make you want to remember them.
The best part about ‘Dahan’ is the writing. While the performances are not as great as they should have been, the writing of the show by Nisarg Mehta, Shiva Bajpai, and Nikhil Nair is superb. The way they’ve created an entire universe in a small town in India is so good. The writing is so convincing that you’re compelled to believe that all that is actually happening for real. The setting up is brilliant.
Director Vikranth Pawar has done a decent job as the captain of the ship. Even though he messed up a little in the climax trying to leave some things open for the next season, the overall presentation was well-balanced. There are a few things that he should have clarified further – like who is that man who is constantly in a prison cell at the Shilasthal? Why is the dead husband constantly haunting Tisca Chopra? Why was the entire bird sanctuary scene shown? Why was that one guy following the mother-son duo from the very start? There are a few such loose ends. But apart from that, everything else is well-knit and presented visually spectacularly.
Arkodeb Mukerjee’s brilliance behind the camera shows. A lot of the scenes are shown in underground mines and tunnels and caves, yet there isn’t a single place where the lighting is too dark. The way he has presented the Shilasthal and the unground caves below the Shilasthal is brilliant.
Troy Arif’s music is eerily haunting and makes you feel right in the middle of all the action. The background score at some places makes you feel a chill run down the spine.
Dnyanada Samarth’s editing however could have been a bit crisper. Cutting off a bit of the unnecessary parts from every episode could have actually helped bring down the length of the show from 9 to 8 episodes.
‘Dahan’ is laden with a few below-average performances but it is mightily saved by a brilliant script and some adept direction and cinematography. The story indeed gives you chills and makes you not want to stop and finish the entirety in one go. For all the thriller aficionados and connoisseurs of supernatural myths, ‘Dahan’ is a perfect Binge Watch. I am going with 3.5 stars.
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