Asur starts off with striking and suffocating visuals of a murder committed many years ago. A troubled young boy and his father perform a pooja on the holy ghats of Varanasi only for tragedy to occur. Soon enough, the boy is surrounded by a group of extreme ascetics, and we are introduced to the basic theme of the show through the age-old albeit chilling tale of the ‘Asur’ (deities who in the modern era manifest as humans who have lost all humanity).
Barun Sobti plays Nikhil Nair, a former forensic expert who was forced to change professions in marital pressure. He is the recipient of some vital information regarding a few seemingly unrelated murders which follow a similar pattern. With a serial killer in the midst, Nikhil is forced to return to his job and face his senior colleague Dhananjay Rathore (Arshad Warsi) with whom he has had a falling out in the past. The two men, along with a team of expert CBI officers, use their knowledge of science and forensics to find the link behind all the murders and trace it back to the right killer.
In the era of some fantastic writing for the web in India, Asur shines through due to its unique concept. From the get-go, it is a gripping psychological cat-and-mouse game with a smart and impressive combination of myth and science seamlessly worked into the screenplay. If you are a fan of police procedurals or have already been binge-ing on the many true crime shows available online, your brain is already in overdrive as the first episode comes to a halt. In just the first two episodes, we already have a prime suspect with all the evidence pointing against him. It is obvious that this is far from the truth, but what is distinctive about Asur is that in every episode that follows, your doubts would point to a different culmination. How the writers keep us gripped for eight episodes (the mystery is revealed right at the end) is the biggest strength of the show.
Asur is testament to the wonders a good director can do with an actor of Arshad Warsi’s caliber. This truly underrated actor is, of course, known for his comic timing but also has great dramatic work to his credit. Here, he performs with just the right amount of frustration and restraint, and the web series format is perfect in aiding him in providing consistency in the personality of the character. Barun Sobti’s character has also been fleshed out extremely well. Nikhil is interestingly linked to the overall mystery of the show and this means he dabbles with an array of emotions, especially when he is forced to change sides for a while. These two actors might be the biggest draw for you to watch Asur. However, each actor in the ensemble cast gets small moments to shine - Sharib Hashmi and Amey Wagh, who steals the show in the climax, and Anupria Goenka and Ridhi Dogra who add to the strong yet emotional vulnerability of the team.
Perhaps the biggest disservice that is done is to the women of the show, who are also thrown into an unnecessary romantic triangle subplot. The most predictable part of the writing is portraying the personal lives of all its police officers in shambles, as it usually happens in shows and films of this genre. Asur also loses a bit of tonal consistency in the middle as more characters are introduced. At some points, the connection established to mythology, religious scriptures and the teachings of karma and truth can get a bit overbearing. This is especially jarring in its climactic episode which may seem a bit convoluted.
Asur uses mythology to make important comments on how religious teachings may have been misused and misinterpreted over time. It portrays a plethora of characters who are all forced to face their inner ‘Asur’ over the course of the show. The thin line between emotion and duty, hatred and love, good and evil is thinly veiled. This is especially relevant in this testing time where the country is dealing with immense religious intolerance.
For viewers who have been force-fed decades of mumbo-jumbo in the name of science in shows like CID, Asur is at par with any Western forensic police procedural. It uses forensic investigation well without it becoming confusing for the regular viewer, and it becomes a rooted screenplay by adding the local flavour of myth and religion as such a core part of the concept.
Music and Other Departments
Asur boasts of a taut screenplay and editing. It has a hauntingly subtle background score keeping in mind the tonality of the show. It has just the right amount of violence and gore, and the cinematography really highlights the dark and gruesome reality of the murders.
Did I Enjoy It?
Mostly. The first three episodes are really strong, but Asur dips a bit in the middle and the climax is not at par with how well the build-up towards it has been so far. Overall, however, it has good plot twists that keep you guessing, and some great actors carrying it forward for you to be invested enough.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes. If it isn’t as much the mystery as the thrill of the chase that keeps you going, and if you enjoy watching murder mysteries as much as the making of the murderers, then Asur is for you. It would also be very appealing to fans of Arshad Warsi and Barun Sobti.