GHOUL – the new Netflix miniseries disappoints on multiple accounts.
While it delivers on atmospherics purely due to good cinematography, it fails majorly on drama due to rather poor writing and messy direction, and hence fails to tell an important story that it wanted to. We get glimpses of all the subtext it wants to establish, but none of that is developed or given the desired depth, and hence the entire experience remains non engaging.
There is very little background established, and there is practically very little to justify why this should be set up in a near dystopian future, possibly just to stay away from controversies of making a statement on current socio political environment. All that it wants us to believe will happen in the future in the name of religious hatred and political terror is pretty much a reality today. But the makers want to play it safe and also want to jazz it up by making the statement on dystopia, but make no effort again to further establish a world that is likely to be very different from today.
There are also several gaping holes in the script. Most of the action that happens in the undercover interrogation unit is haphazard and some of it feels outright stupid. Such poor security cover, easily compromisable cells, deserted alleys when such dreaded criminals are staying there, an absolutely caricaturish Faulad Singh and his histrionics makes you really question the writing heavily. And in which world would they ever put in a lady with a gang of hardcore criminals in the same locker cell?
Also, the setup is built on heavy cliches and need for convenience. Since there is a bengali (or somewhere from East) lady officer, she has to go wrong on her hindi grammar while speaking. The unit has to have all Hindu officers except Apte, who of course is Muslim, and Kaul just needed to be Christian for the entire unit to go against him. Also, the darkness within has to be forced in because of all night and indoor shots, and the only one shot in daylight is when the protagonist has to serve her justice.
Its so unfortunate then that a pretty good performance by Radhika Apte gets lost in a writing like this. She doesn’t have a script that could stand with her performance. Even poorer is the writing of Manav Kaul‘s character. His is possibly the most unsure performance of them all. In the smaller roles, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee stands out. Mahesh Balraj fails to arouse the nemesis that he needed to.
We had a well made Pari earlier this year that had taken the horror genre to another level by layering it with deeper subtext and more meaningful drama than just being a jump scare offering. Ghoul intends to do that, but unfortunately takes quite a few steps backward in the effort, and fails to expose the demons within.