A story Unheard. A crime Unseen. An unimaginable Act, in a world driven by power!
Sony LIV’s new thriller ‘Undekhi’ is inspired by real events. This detail has been established right away at the beginning of the show, and it immediately puts the viewer into a unique disposition. The premise may seem reminiscent of some mildly notorious cases that one has read about in the newspaper, but the viewer doesn’t really know if the show will necessarily have a happy ending.
Within the first few episodes itself, the show’s grim reality sets in - how crime impacts those who revolve around it, sometimes much more than those who endure it. How some people want to rise above their circumstances but can’t, how some have to make supposedly immoral decisions, how people who show the courage to take a stand don’t necessarily get rewarded. Undekhi’s grim reality is the strange power dynamics that exist in our country - families with social standing versus bureaucracy versus the jurisdiction versus the media, and how all of it affects common people.
A plush wedding between two rich families at a resort in Manali turns nasty after a freak drunkard accident results in the death of a dancer at the sangeet ceremony. All of it is caught on tape by a group of wedding filmers, not to mention seen by hundreds of wedding guests. All would be conveniently swept under the rug had the dancer not been a tribal runaway and a murder suspect herself. When one of the filming staff decides to do what’s right, it opens a Pandora’s box of secrets and lies which involve all of the show’s main players.
At the core of it, Undekhi has a rather reminiscent premise. How many episodes of Crime Patrol have we seen already? What was No One Killed Jessica or Jolly LLB (both based on famous true crime cases) about? They were about powerful people using their social (and sometimes political) standing to keep those people in their pockets, who were meant to serve the law and order of the country. When ‘Papaji’ (Harsh Chhaya) shoots the dancer point blank, it takes Rajender ‘Rinku’ Singh Atwal half-a-second to get his goons to dispose of the body and ask everyone to get back to dancing. That’s just how things are - crimes happen. Rinku sambhaal lega.
It is the humanity of the characters and all that they endure, and how the writers weave a larger plot around it, is what sets Undekhi apart. Manali is a small town plagued with an unmotivated police force. DSP Ghosh is sent all the way from West Bengal (because the tribal girls are from Sunderbans) to investigate the case. With each episode, he tries harder to solve the case. The frustration of even being undermined (he is constantly called ‘inspector’ not DSP) is real and giving. The bride is a proud army brat who isn’t scared to speak her mind, even in front of her fiance’s family. How she regains the reins to her life after being shown her place shows compromise. The worst-hit is Abhishek Chauhan as one wedding filmer Rishi, who is on the run from Rinku’s men because only he believes that he is in the right to have protected the girl. From the moment Rishi starts running for his life into the forest, even as Papaji pees nonchalantly on his property with another peg in his hand in front of a spineless tight-lipped groom, you know you want to stick on just to see what happens next. Who will win?
The story itself feels like it was best suited for a miniseries. And there are parts towards the end where the action slows down a bit, especially when the police indulge in a cat-and-mouse game with Rishi, the tribal girl Koyal (Apeksha Porwal) and their companion, in the forest. It’s a real shame that the last few episodes of the first season are slow because the finale is pretty action-packed. That, however, may be deliberate because Undekhi is not a miniseries, and the show’s story will definitely continue if it is renewed. But as a stand-alone season, I was hoping for slightly better pacing considering how many parallel stories are running simultaneously. The other disadvantage the show has is that it lacks a heavy investigative sub-plot or any shocking twist. The narrative is rather straight-forward with only some subtle surprises.
Undekhi boasts of a highly competent ensemble cast led by an unrecognizable but incomparable Harsh Chhaya as Papaji. It is perhaps the first time we will see him indulge in such a ‘no f**** given’ role and it is certainly tailor-made for him. Surya Sharma lives Rinku, the typically brain-washed young man of the house who knows how to play all the cards in his power. Dibyendu Bhattacharya breathes life into the hard-working but helpless policeman who bears occupational hazards left, right, and centre. And Abhishek Chauhan’s fear in the whole show is palpable. Anchal Singh, Ayn Zoya and Ankur Rathee all shine in small, important, and pivotal roles. Former Miss India Apeksha Porwal’s turn as an actress may seem a bit distracting, though.
Undekhi is well scripted and executed with a good cast, and has extremely realistic (sometimes meaningful and sometimes deliciously sly) dialogues by Varun Badola. It’s the biggest highlight is that in spite of not having any unexpected twists and turns, it is still engaging and enjoyable. The characters have been etched well and hold a lot of promise for season 2.
The lack of character depth may seem like a big flaw, and since the season’s end hasn’t been able to explain much of the motivations (save one big mystery), that may be an issue for the viewer. If you are able to get through the dull pacing towards the end of the season, you will eagerly look forward to the next season. But I wished for a more shocking season finale this time around.
Music and Other Departments
The music adds to the slow burn thriller element and the character devastation of the show and blends perfectly well with the scenes without getting unnecessary or overpowering. Undekhi has great production value, shot on location across Manali, that too with a wedding at its heart. The cinematography, production design, and costumes all reflect the opulence and filthy showmanship of a North Indian wedding, while also doing justice to the simplicity of the rest of the city and especially the impoverished state of the forest.
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes. In spite of some narrative issues, the people of the Atwal family and the poor unfortunate souls stuck at the fatal wedding are pretty interesting.
Do I Recommend It?
Yes. You can certainly give this one a shot for its characters, and you may just stick around the whole way through.