Betaal review: A wakeup call for humanity

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The series raises a lot of controversial questions on politics, deforestation, corruption, and humanity

Anurag Singh Bohra |New Delhi

In the midst of lockdown watching dark genre, especially horror may not be for the faint-hearted. However, Netflix and Red Chillies Entertainment bring much more than the supernatural element for a quarantine binge watch. ‘Betaal,’ an original horror series co-written by Patrick Graham and Suhani Kanwar redefines horror through its unique and engaging screenplay. Apart from the thrills and terrifying visuals Betaal is a thought-provoking series on the theme of humans v/s nature, relevant to the present times. Graham and Kanwar depict the cruelty of human beings for their vested interests which appears to be far more horrific and gruesome than ghosts and predators.

Graham and Nikhil Mahajan have got the best from each and every actor on board. Graham and Mahajan ensure to reflect their cinematic vision and craftsmanship in terms of character portrayals. The mannerisms, body language, dialogue delivery, and chemistry among actors is a fine blend between scriptwriters and directors. They along with composers Naren Chandravarkar and Benedict Taylor as well as cinematographer Tanay Satam create the most believable dystopian narrative. Each and every frame shows the sheer brilliance of team-work by the directors, composers, cinematographers, and actors. Abhijit Deshpande’s editing for the four episodic series makes Betaal binge-worthy in order to retain audience engagement.

Vineet Kumar Singh comes up with one of the most noteworthy and memorable performances post-Mukkabaaz and Gold. Vineet as Vikram Sirohi is convincing from start till the end. The actor looks tough as an army officer yet enacts vulnerability and human plight with artistic finesse. Aahana Kumra as DC Ahluwalia gets to play yet another challenging character post ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha.’ Aahana delves into her character and sets a new benchmark for herself.  The actor’s intensity, timing, and subtle nuances are commendable while sharing screen space with Vineet, Suchitra Pillai, and Jitendra Joshi. Graham, Kanwar, and Mahajan pave the way for strong female characters with no room for clichés and stereotypes. Manjiri Pupala as Puniya, Savita Bajaj as Mausi, and Syna Anand as Saanvi are show stealers. Without diving much into the spoilers Manjiri, Bajaj and Syna are prominent in making Betaal a memorable watch. Pillai gives is exceptional in her power-packed avatar as the shrewd and insensitive Tyagi. Joshi surprises and shocks as he plays Ajay Mudhalvan, one of the most hateful fictional characters on-screen. The love and respect for Katekar in Sacred Games turns into hatred for Mudhalvan as Joshi embraces his role with utmost dedication and sincerity.

Ankur Vikal as Bhunnu proves his range and versatility as an actor and is impactful in a brief yet significant role. Richard Dillane, who plays Colonel Lynedoch portrays an evil British officer who embraces his role by essaying one of the most dreadful villains in Indian horror series. Yashwant Wasnik as Sarpanch combines the character arcs of mystery and fear in his character. Jatin Goswami as Akbar and Siddharth Menon as Nadir Haq live up to the scriptwriters’ and filmmakers’ vision. Menon showcases multiple psychological aspects in an unpredictable character without getting overboard. Akhilesh Unnithan, Ratan Nag, and Meena Kapoor diligently enact their scenes.

Betaal raises a lot of controversial questions on politics, deforestation, corruption, and humanity. The oppression of downtrodden and tribal communities, Naxalism, liberal-left media, and credibility of powers that be is much more traumatizing than the horror narrative. The series is a wake-up call for humanity in the present times to question and retrospect its priorities and aspirations. For children, the elderly and faint-hearted not a recommended watch during the pandemic. But a must-watch for those who wish to see the change in society and dare to question social atrocities. A far more captivating and meaningful horror-thriller than Netflix’s previous stint, ‘Ghoul.’