Just at a time when one felt regional series were all set to conquer newer peaks by the day, Hawala, the latest Telugu original from ZEE5 brings us back to square one. The problem isn’t with the outlandish story or its intentions, but the casualness with which it is shot. The writing is terribly lazy and nothing is remotely appealing on a surface level. Reeking of amateurishness in every frame - with both the treatment and the performance - the crime thriller series revolving around the betting mafia lacks any nuance. A story that could have been a gripping short film is weaved or rather stretched into a two-hour series, with each of the episodes being short yet exhausting 20 minute-stretch. The story is set in Hyderabad, where a gambler Karan bets big on the loopholes of the cricket betting trade to make quick and easy money. His immediate motive for the same is to woo his girl Vani, whom he spots on a matrimonial site. Karan is scheduled to collect his winning amount in a bet in the whereabouts of Charminar, accompanied by his girlfriend. Their discrete conversations are overheard by Guna, a conman seated in the same cafe as theirs. Guna manages to do the unthinkable by outsmarting the middlemen and running away with the money along with his partner-in-crime Nisha. While the initial episodes, despite their mediocrity, evoke some element of curiosity, the series fails to thrill in the later parts. Stealing a gold necklace in a jewellery shop seems like a walk in the park, another bid to spray chloroform in the runaways’ car reminds you of a similar-yet-largely fascinating episode from Vishal’s thriller Thupparivalan (Detective in Telugu). The action-chases between Karan and Guna don’t provide any adrenaline rush. The seed idea of the series may be interesting, but the writers have no clue in fleshing out the story right for the digital medium. The background score is surprisingly electric for the mood of the series. However, it’s of little use when the situations don’t have any meat at all. The cinematography lacks the fieriness and the zing that one expects out of a thriller. Everything about it is staged so leisurely. There’s no tension in the proceedings, the spectator doesn’t have much to care for the characters in it. The problem is as much with the flavourless acting. Gourish Yeleti hardly has it in him to spearhead a show with redundant expressions while Tarun Rohith as an antagonist is marginally better. Their on-screen romantic interests Anusha and Jayasree Kshatriya, though having interesting character arcs, don’t do much to warrant your attention. The series lacks a clear emotional angle or interesting characters. It’s too happy settling for less. Hawala is a king-size disappointment, especially because it comes after a solid outing like Gods of Dharmapuri on the same platform.