KaalKoot, an eight-part crime drama, director Sumit Saxena and written jointly by Arunabh Kumar and Sumit Saxena, is a hard-hitting series without the regular embellishments that adorn web series on OTT platforms. It’s unsparing but not entirely uncompromising.
Sub-Inspector Ravi Shankar Tripathi (Vijay Varma) is the kind of young cop who you’ll not easily come across not just in small towns such as Sirsa in Uttar Pradesh (not to be confused with the Haryana town), but even in bigger cities and metropolises. He lives with his widowed mother (Seema Biswas) for whom he is the be-all-and-end-all. Her married daughter being away, she has pinned all her hopes on him.
Such ordinary people with a streak of honesty and commitment may be few and far between. Essentially, such modest and obscure men often are mistaken for being average and having low self-esteem.
Things are not what they seem though. On the very first week of his joining the force, he is in no mood to continue and even contemplates resigning. Thankfully, his senior at work, SHO Jagdish Sahay (Gopal Datt) has a ready case for him to sink his teeth into – an acid attack victim is undergoing treatment in a hospital after suffering serious burns and is dealing with the trauma.
For a cop of his temperament, the job comes with a baggage most of which looks like a challenge. The demands of his job impact his personal life to such an extent that his motivation is likely to be shaken. Managing between work and family commitments, Ravi spares no effort to solve the acid attack victim’s case.
When he gets to know about the identity of the victim of the brutal attack, Parul (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), whom his mother wanted him to marry, he gets doubly charged with a concrete objective to investigate the case and bring all those responsible to book.
His enthusiasm and drive lead him to a vortex of dark incidents that reek of issues plaguing the city. The literate but uneducated sector has not one but many ills that are responsible for the stunted growth of middle-class men and women. The inquiry further reveals the patriarchal norms that result in misogyny.
Ravi’s soft side has a detrimental effect on his image as his colleagues don’t think much of him as a doer. He looks more like a victim rather than someone who can take charge. As Ravi gets entangled in the case, his personal life goes through a sea change as he discovers facets that hitherto seemed insurmountable.
The only solace he has is, thanks to the good-natured constable Sattu Yadav (Yashpal Sharma), who does look like a loyalist, but when the right time comes, may not be as cooperative, and can be quite ambivalent in his approach.
As Parul shows signs of recovery in the hospital, the focus is also on her younger sister who becomes an integral part of the investigation. Parul, who is accused of enjoying alcohol, doesn’t seem the ‘homely’ kind, and the needle of suspicion points towards her as cops dub her immoral and not someone following societal norms. Parul’s morals are questioned not once but a few times, often suggesting that she may have been what others suspect she is.
A woman (Suzanna Mukherjee) is introduced as the would-be bride his mother likes. But even when things are almost finalised Ravi gets cold feet and dangles between his own sense of commitment and what looks like love for him.
That said, there are places where the role of the media or the way the common man thinks tells us all about the ways of the world, and how everyone is judgmental.
It may sound improper to compare two series even if they both fall under the category of crime but since we have just seen a brilliant series, ‘Kohraa’, one can’t help arguing that to establish a point, the writing has to be taut with subplots and other occurrences not dragged to reach a point of no return.
There are twists and turns that would keep your interest alive, but it looks slightly tiring to sit through eight episodes where not much seems to unravel. It also is crammed with umpteen issues that are interlinked to contextualise every crime. Ravi is also keen on finding the right match for himself for which both he and his mother do everything to ensure a suitable bride for him.
Chauvinistic men are hell bent upon having their way. The city’s narrow lanes are as much representative of the restrictive values and accepted wisdom as much they seem unseemly and unhygienic. Ravi’s pursuit for justice runs into several obstacles, yet he is determined to deal with all of them.
Vijay Varma is emerging as one of the finest actors we have. His earnest understated performance stands out as he begins to gain confidence and exercise control, never losing his self-respect or his sincere approach to work. He is ably supported by Seema Biswas as his on-screen mother.
The story has been told purely from a male perspective, possibly because it is based in a small town in the badlands of UP, where there are not too many options to choose from.
The script has a certain pace with which it plods through, and as more revelations take place, one realises that the dark and tardy mood is leading to a lot more findings. The music can at times can be jarring, especially when to accentuate a scene’s importance, it turns out to be loud, destroying the flow of the scene.
A dreadful and appalling crime that is common in only this part of the continent can be perpetrated with impunity because of the absence of a detrimental law supporting the victims. Only very recently, such crimes have led to the perpetrators getting punished, though the penalty is still mild compared to the gruesomeness of the horrifyingly sickening crime it really is.
Web Series: Kaalkoot
Direction: Sumit Saxena
Cast: Vijay Varma, Shweta Tripathi, Seema Biswas, Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Dutt and Suzanna Mukherjee
Streaming on: JioCinema
Episodes: 8 episodes of 38 minutes each
–By Arnab Banerjee