It’s no secret that screenwriters seem to be relishing the digital era that has given the liberty for unapologetic, flawed and even manipulative female characters to exist and even headline a show. The grey shades are only making the women in the shows sexier, as they wear their identity without the fear of being judged. In Hotstar’s latest series Hundred, it’s a relief to hear the female cop say ‘Ghanta farak padta hai’ instead of the quintessential ‘log kya sochenge’ line as she unabashedly manipulates people to rise through the ranks in her department.
It has taken long for filmmakers to realise that these flaws in the women can adorn a story too – despite the delay, we’re glad that such a phase has arrived. Have no qualms about it, Hundred is a jerky ride. It would be fair to say that the writers of the show are obsessed with the quirks of its universe, but it takes some time for the viewers to play the catch-up game. It recovers from a shaky start to be a thoroughly entertaining cop saga.
A cop Saumya Shukla (Lara Dutta) is tired of the sexism she has to face at work daily. She tries to fight the system constantly, only to be involved in a deeper mess every time. It doesn’t help that her over-protective husband Pravin (Sudhanshu Pandey) is a cop (belonging to a different wing) too. Saumya in the middle of an operation gets to meet Netra Patil (Rinku Rajguru), a lowly government official working in the census department, who’s supposedly living the last leg of her life. The unlikely duo is here to shatter the glass ceiling and how!
Hindi entertainment industry’s obsession to perceive government jobs as boring, dull and unexciting professions in buildings that haven’t been painted for years, continues with Hundred. The writers of the show make us feel that Netra deserves all the sympathy in the world to do such a job – the introductory voice-over reiterates ‘boring, boring, boring!’.
However, Hundred is effective in underlining the frustration the rampant sexism in the police department (or generally work). It’s with great pain that Saumya says, she’s perceived as the model of the department – attending cultural events, leading flash-mobs in public spaces and bike-rides emphasising gender equality. While Imtiaz Ali’s Netflix outing She also explored this dimension reasonably well, Hundred is more or less set in the masala space.
This world is full of colour and flavour. Saumya has a toy boy in the form of Maddy, a struggling rapper. Saumya’s husband Pravin is flawed, but tries to make the marriage work despite her wife’s disinterest. Netra lives in a house where the men take her for granted – including a television soap obsessed father, a carefree younger brother and a happy-go-lucky (read irresponsible) grandfather. There’s an Aamir Khan-inspired character from Rangeela who hits on Netra while the girl is interested in Shantanu, a timid heir to an underworld empire.
Corrupt politicians, media debates, affairs, scams – Hundred is an equivalent of a TRP-obsessed television channel that helps the viewer empty his popcorn tub with relative ease. Hundred’s focus in the later episodes shifts towards a political scam that the protagonist uses to her advantage. While the romance between Netra and Shantanu appears forced and uninteresting, it’s the characterisation of Saumya that gives the show many pleasurable moments. This particular sequence where she talks to a politician about her game in the presence of a kid is a true example of smart screenwriting. It’s a relief that Netra’s many adventures aren’t reduced to a cute-girl ticking choices off her bucket list.
Lara Dutta doesn’t always seem at ease in the earlier portions, at least the heavier segments. She’s excellent when a situation compels her to use her aura – the swagger value hasn’t diminished one bit with age. The actress finds greater joy in essaying the greyer dimensions of the part, as she plays many mind games, uses people to fulfil her selfish interests. It’s lovely that the makers have found a chirpy, spirited role for the Sairat girl Rinky Rajguru too – her raw energy is an asset to the show.
Rajeev Siddhartha, Sudhanshu Pandey, Parmeet Sethi and Karan Wahi are cast aptly for their parts, though it’s the women who steal the limelight. The folksy touch to the music, the classiness with which it is mounted, keep the momentum of the narrative alive. Hundred is bumpy, nevertheless entertaining at the same time.