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The Mandawa Mayhem
Aug 12, 2023 12:02 AM 505 Views (via Android App)
(Updated Aug 13, 2023 01:49 PM)



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SI Anjali Bhatti( Sonakshi Sinha) of Mandawa Police Station, Rajasthan, accidentally comes across a case of around twenty nine missing unmarried girls of marriageable age of lower and lower middle class background from in and around the unassuming town. She suspects serial killing but there is no corpse. Nobody believes her. Her boss, Devi Singh, the SHO( Gulshan Devaiah) though acknowledges her loyalty, dedication and sincerity, cannot support her due to lack of proof. Gradually bodies of a few of the missing girls in bridal attire are found in public toilets. The cause of death - cyanide pills.

As Bhatti keeps digging further all evidences or lack of it point towards Anand Swarnakar. But how to catch him? Firstly, he belongs to a respectable family, secondly, he himself is respected as a Professor of Hindi who travels far and wide in his mobile van to impart moral lessons to uneducated and backward villagers and thirdly, he is too cunning to be caught. Thereon begins a cat and mouse chase between Mandawa Police and Swarnakar.

There are many obstacles in the process of investigation. First and foremost, Bhatti's caste credential which prevents her from entering the premises of the upper castes even if she carries a arrest/search warrant. Secondly, she is a woman in a male dominated profession and is nicknamed as'trouble'. Thirdly, she is headstrong, blunt, rough and can't care less yet still eyed lewdly by her superior, asked to spend time on the pretext of having tea, yet not taken seriously when she has a hunch who the culprit is. She is even linked with her boss, the SHO, just because he has some good words of appreciation for her work. And then there is Parghi( Sohum Shah), her contemporary, who is being used by the superior, exploiting his desire to get a promotion.

Dahaad is a fine example of how the police procedural works in small towns. The political pressure, the caste divides, the gender bias, the male ego, the deadline stress, the flexi work schedule which hampers personal life and above all the familial rifts and badgering over crossing the marriageable age which add on to the rest. For a woman, her identity revolves round the vermillion lined in narrow gully of parting in the hair. Her career, her accomplishments, her commitments to her profession are all secondary.

Dahaad is a Zoya Akhtar- Reema Kagti creation. Sonakshi Sinha as SI Bhatti gives a sterling performance episode by episode. Vijay Verma as the docile husband and dangerous killer is mindblowing. Gulshan Devaiah, however, in his understated role, as Devi Singh, leaves an unforgettable mark.

While the social, economic and political milieu of a small town is well woven into the matrix of storytelling, the only flip side is the climactic denouement of the antagonist which should have been handled more meticulously furnishing adequate rationale of the criminal mind behind the series of crimes committed. While the criminal profile is drawn out in detail the specifics of a convoluted thought process provoking such heinous homicides is restricted to minimal explanation. Disappointing!

With this, it is also to be added how the police narrowly misses catching the criminal again and again lengthening the series to eight episodes underscoring the disillusioning inference that evil is cleverer than the law enforcers, howsoever, realistic procedurally or factually justifiable the delay may be.

Dahaad is dark and heavy. If one solely concentrates on the crime per se it is nightmarish. But if it is seen from the point of view of investigative procedure, it illuminates many flaws built into the system requiring imminent overhauling - lack of intent, lack of manpower, a voluntary subjugation to power that be, the mental barriers and biases - are a few.

The web series is streaming on Amazon Prime. It is definitely not a family watch considering the thematic content of the narrative, many intimate scenes, bold overtures beyond present social normative boundaries and rustic colloquial expletives incorporated in the dialogues which is justified in so far as the backdrop and contextual boundaries of the narrative are concerned but not for the viewership and auditory experience of minor age group.

Those who are robust thriller fans its a must watch. The rawness of everything rustic in the storytelling is essentially unavoidable even if you are unprepared for it.

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