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UAE Review: Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein

An unlikely female antagonist leads a small-town man down a spiral of twisted love and destruction in the new pulp fiction-meets-mindbender Hindi series



by

Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 8:26 PM

Someone was telling me the other day she’s tired of watching the slew of web series (and movies) set in small-town India. I, on the other hand, feel exactly the opposite: I believe the genre has come of age in a way that outclasses urbane offerings by leaps and bounds. Increasingly, the heartland (when it comes to Hindi serials) has proved to be most fertile in the creativity and out-of-the-box stakes whose ante is a morass of amorality and ambiguity. They are mostly propped up by stellar ensemble casts who bring to life both flaws and quirks with resounding aplomb.

In Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein, the badlands of (the northern Indian state) Uttar Pradesh provides the incubator for a grittily stunning crime-cum-romantic mindbender that turns practically every single ounce of tired predictability on its head, and ends Season 1 on a veritable cliff hanger — that promises an imminent Season 2 (yay for that!).

Gun-wielding politicians and ineffectual (and sold-out) law and order are so smartly juxtaposed that you don’t even question the legitimacy of it. It’s par for the course, everything else has to follow suit — so the moment you embark on the binge, you hit the ground running, don’t think twice of shootings (and stabbings) in broad daylight and rigged elections, you almost see them coming, they’re all “by the way”. The exposition of this nexus, therefore, is not the moot point, and what helps here is the liberal use of humour to make the rite of passage that much easier.

You now come to the story of a woman named Purva (Anchal Singh), who’s an unlikely antagonist. She’s not really a femme fatale in the trite sense. She only has eyes for the unexceptional Vikrant (played exceptionally well by Tahir Raj Bhasin, who I realised played the part of Sunil Gavaskar in 83). Purva is not even medically delusional, like, say, Shah Rukh Khan’s character was in Darr. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and there’s a clinical workmanship about her — fanned by her proximity to the system, being the daughter of ‘ruling’ politician Akheraj Awasthi (a brilliant Saurabh Shukla) and having at her beck and call her father’s gang of crooks — as she sets out to fulfil her mission: own the man.

Flanking this determined obsession is the outlay inhabited by Vikrant’s true love, Shikha (Shweta Tripathi — remember her from Masaan and Haramkhor?), who is bubbly and cute and linear and safe, the entire antithesis of Purva. Caught in the middle of diverse vortexes and with an engineered motor force of his own is Vikrant, a man caught in a spider’s web so tangled that you cannot glean whether it’s of his own making… or not.

Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein, as you must already know, has its title ‘flicked’ from one of the early 90s’ ultimate pulp fiction swag song: Yeh kaali kaali aankhen from the SRK-starrer Baazigar, that made a hero out of a morally ambiguous antagonist. In many ways, the series is a slick tribute to Bollywood pulp fiction mise-en-scènes while reinventing them with new-age sensibilities.

And, finally, Arunoday Singh: why doesn’t he act more often? You’re bound to ponder over this too. It may be a long shot, but if ever there is a “hunt” for an Indianised version of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men), his character (he only onboards towards the end unfortunately) would definitely be on the shortlist.

sushmita@khaleejtimes.com


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