Monday, January 25, 2021

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Betaal (Netflix) Review: A complex tale of horror, action, and thriller

Betaal (2020-)
Created by: Peter Graham
Produced by Shahrukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment
Streaming Platform: Netflix India
IMDb: 6.2

Plot: A remote village turns into a ferocious and grotesque battleground when an undead East India Company officer Betaal and his battalion of zombie redcoats attack a team of modern-day soldiers and trapped in between remain the villagers.

The story does not sound free-flowing or cinch and looks complicated, to begin with, there are plots after plots and sequences that could have been avoided by the creator. Earlier too Indian movie creators have rarely dealt with movies on Zombies unlike creators in the West. However, we can recall one such effort made by talented director duo Raj and DK, their movie ‘Go Goa Gone’ released in 2013 remained notable though but received average response from the audience. Even in the genre of horror movies, many Indian creators have not produced genius movies and audiences have not been very receptive to the genre.  Recent Bollywood movie ‘Bhoot’ pulled some audience and the credit for the same goes to actor Vicky Kaushal who’s acting credentials are well established and appreciated.

Created by Patrick Graham, this is another show, that juxtaposes a well-known folktale with mythology and intertwines it further into a modern day’s climate, and the result is an arctic show that keeps you on the edge sometimes but most of the time loses its grip. The plot looks banal but for die-hard fans of horror movies, this could be a good time pass, especially during the lockdown new shows excite you. Watch the show if you are the one to keenly observe technical aspects of a movie and want to check out the fresh techniques of filmmaking, cinematography, and some visuals that remain the key elements of the drama. This was expected from Patrick graham to offer a better show after giving a chilling horror drama ‘Ghoul’ that tackled social change in a startling and compelling way.

The cinematography by Tanay Satam and Srinivas Achary has presented a few bone-chilling and horrifying scenes, which will genuinely scare many, and their deft camerawork has shown signature Blumhouse elements that manage to create a claustrophobic environment. Considering the fact, Blumhouse is one of the producers of the show. The blaring sound design is another highlight, which amps up the overall experience, many times people tend to ignore or pay less attention to this technical aspect which can go wrong very easily and mess up the entire impact of many scenes. Here, it is very well-crafted and complements the visually stunning show. It works well in tandem with Ishaan Divecha,  Naren Chandravarkar, and Benedict Taylor’s (Paatal Lok ) stellar music which heightens the tension and overall impact several times.  The monster design is another vital part of the show and the teams have a commendable job at it. They have worked exceedingly well with the makeup department to give a distinctive look and style to the zombies.

The work of the make-up artists needs to appreciated along with the costume, production, and set designers teams, all of whom have managed to create an authentic world and creatures. Suhani Kanwar and Patrick have carefully blended the well-known folklore of Betaal with parts of Indian history along with some socio-political commentary. The writing also explores some very important themes, gets into the psyche of many characters, and even asks vital questions. Careful edits keep you on the edge of your seat in this mini-series, which spans across four episodes. 

Vineet Kumar, as expected from him, delivers a splendid performance and is the sole highlight of the show, his acting, conflicts are well handled, and he performs the part skillfully. Manjiri Pupala’s mannerisms are spot-on and she puts forth good performance.  Aahana Kumra and Suchitra Pillai render average performance. In addition, the remaining cast does apparent work with their characters.

Some of the dialogues and moments are a bit cringe-worthy and certain creative decisions might put off several people but despite these flaws, the show balances the horror and thriller elements.

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