The universe of filmmaker Goldie Behl's latest directorial Rejctx is completely driven by a host of coloured, cinematic characters. Every character in the series is grappling with a mysterious past or an internal conflict. The backdrop of this series, Jefferson World School in Singapore, is akin to a Karan Johar production in terms of visual appeal and scale but the concerns are different.
Here are a bunch of teenagers, who're children of super-rich parents from India, removed from their comfort zone and have to live their way through college, come what may. There's love, lust, romance, music and teenage angst cosily wrapped in a thriller-like space and yet, it's still not a series you'd call 'desi' by any stretch of imagination.
It's highly likely that the fiesty ways of these characters, their privileged backgrounds completely throw you off guard in the initial portions of the series. To start with, everything in their world has a manufactured vibe to it.
A supposedly happy-go-lucky Harry Sandhu is a porn addict. Maddy has a former porn-star mom. Aarav Sharma is the son of a CM, deemed unfit to tackle life. Kiara is intentionally sent to the same school by her parents to date the CM's son. Parnamitra is a foster-child of two gay-parents. A Muslim girl Sehmat is coming to terms with her gender-fluid identity. A counseller Anushka has the hots for a student. Their inner demons, their inability to succumb to persistent societal norms, find an outlet through music.
The series takes off with Aarav Sharma's sudden disappearance from the concert of their band Rejctx at a local music fest. As the band counterparts try to find answers and leave no stone unturned to reach out to him, the series shifts between their present and the past. Give this problematic world some time and chances are that you won't be disappointed.
Everything that seems irritating to begin with – their concerns, the aspirational world, the non-linear narration, the high-brow ways of a few privileged kids – starts making sense as you delve deeper into the series. There's always a sense of intrigue to each character and you never know anyone completely. Just when you think you've deciphered something, there's always a surprise around the corner.
At its heart, Rejctx is a story of teenage angst, about a bunch of youngsters coming to terms with harsh realities of life. Beyond gender identities, problematic pasts and their flaws, people here are figuring out love, friendships, dealing with betrayal, manipulation and rejection. It's even poetic that music allows them to confront these barriers. The humanly nature of these characters draws your attention only in the latter part of the series. The mushy exterior is only an antithesis to its dark theme. It's at its nail-biting best during the thriller-portions than the drama aspect.
The series is especially poignant with Maddy's character – watch out for the sequence where he's haunted by his mom's porn-star past when he's making love with his girlfriend. Also, you feel for Sehmat when she talks about dating a guy and a girl at the same time and not getting to make any sense out of her bodily desires. The character that's framed as an antagonist too has a perspective that you nearly empathise with.
The better things that the series could have done? Probably, toning down the internal complications of the characters. It would have been completely okay to have a sorted-out heterosexual teen helping their friends in the time of crisis. The sexual charge of the characters didn't have to be played up so much that it turns raunchy many a time.
The music in the series – in moderate terms – is an insult to the senses. The rap lacks rhythm, the singing abysmal, the lyrics pointless, the jamming sessions are very poorly shot. In what could have been the series' huge strength is its biggest turn-off now. The basketball portions, in contrast, are shot with great precision – you feel adrenaline rush of the players, the tension of the game.
Kubbra Sait (as Anushka) is yet again the star of a series even when the story does not entirely revolve around her. She carries an element of mystery in her eyes throughout and when the volcano bursts, the actress is in supreme form. Sumeet Vyas (as Hussain, the dean of the school) plays more of a supporting role in the series and his words of wisdom to youngsters towards the conclusion are heart-wrenching.
Ahmed Masi (as Aarav Sharma) appears gawky and uncomfortable but that's how his character demands him to be. He, however, needs to let go off the restraint in his performance and explore his body-language better. Other faces Ridhi Khakhar (as Parnamitra), Anisha Victor (as Kiara), Saadhika (as Sehmat), Ayush Khurana (as Maddy), Pooja Shetty (Misha) and Prabhneet Singh have lively moments where they shine. Khalid Siddiqui's role is too limited for a man of his acting calibre.
The ship is however steadied by director Goldie Behl, who has possibly made his most personal work to date. The series may have its own set of issues, but you can't deny its affecting and intriguing quality. There is rawness in its lead cast and yet it's to Behl's credit that they appear sincere. Rejctx is a timely addition to the web-space, have some patience and you're in for a trippy ride.
(Watch the series here)