Dahaad: A Gripping Thriller That Goes Much Beyond The Usual Police Procedural

Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti script a serial-killer story that also looks at important social issues plaguing our society.

Dahaad (Hindi)
  • Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah, Vijay Varma, Sohum Shah and others
  • Director: Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi
  • Music: Gaurav Raina Tarana Marwah
  • No. of episodes: 8
  • OTT platform: Amazon Prime

Zoya Akhtar has created a niche for herself in the industry with her strong storytelling skills; whether it is stories about the elite (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do) or the underdogs (Luck By Chance and Gully Boy).

Audiences expect a certain quality when her name is associated with any project.

After co-directing the blockbuster web series Made In Heaven, Zoya delivers another winner, Dahaad.

Though she isn’t the director of this one, she is one of the creators and also has written the additional screenplay.

For those who are not aware, Dahaad is inspired by real-life serial killer Mohan Kumar, also known as Cyanide Mohan.

Synopsis

The story of Dahaad is set in a small town called Mandawa in Rajasthan.

Sonakshi Sinha plays Inspector Anjali Bhaati, an officer who belongs to a backward caste.

She gets the case of a girl who is said to have eloped with a Muslim man taking along cash, jewellery, and other things.

She initiates the investigation with her fellow officers Devilal Singh (Gulshan Devaiah) and Kailash Parghi (Sohum Shah).

During the investigation, the cops discover many similar cases of girls eloping with anonymous partners, which raises the question of whether they were all linked.

Eventually, Anjali finds that all the eloped girls died by consuming cyanide.

Anand Swarnakar (Vijay Varma) is the prime suspect. However, Anjali is not able to gather strong evidence against him.

Meanwhile, Anand plays many tricks with the police and poses as a victim who is being harassed by Anjali.

The rest of the story follows Anjali’s pursuit of the case. Where her suspicions about Anand right? If so, how does she and her team manage to arrest Anand red-handed?

Also. why is the killer attacking girls from only a particular social stratum?

The presentation

The best thing about Dahaad is how the Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, and Ruchika Oberoi team uses the town of Mandawa and Rajasthan.

Both these become a character in themselves, and the social issues have been presented in a hard-hitting manner.

For example, despite being a police officer, on more than one occasion Bhaati is reminded of her lower caste.

Anjali has to fight against both sexism at the workplace along with questions about her lineage.

A scene which deserves particular mention is the one when Anjali lashes out at a wealthy man who doesn’t allow her to enter the house because of her lower caste.

There is also a subplot of how people are used as scapegoats. It is brief but Ruchika Oberoi and Reema Kagti make some important points.

Standout performances

Gulshan Devaiah’s Devilal Singh is a character that stands out the most along with Vijay Varma’s Anand Swarnakar.

We see Devilal Singh not just as a determined police officer but also as a husband and a father who is weathering a storm at home.

He has a progressive outlook on how his daughter shouldn’t confine herself to being a housewife in future. He wants her to be strong and independent.

His wife on the other hand isn’t so progressive and as a result, there are constant tussles.

Devilal Singh is so progressive that he even makes his son understand that curiosity about sex is natural at his age and that there was nothing wrong with that. However, he also tells his son to be careful.

Gulshan Devaiah steals every scene he is in with a magnetic performance.

The antagonist

Vijay Varma is a veteran at playing socially deviant characters; whether it is Pink or last year’s Darlings.

Still, the actor makes a huge impact with his character in this series. Anand is a complex character as he appears to be a do-gooder on the surface.

Apart from being an excellent Hindi professor he also runs a mobile library for the underprivileged but soon enough the viewers can understand how calculative he is.

He spends most of his time outside the home and his equation with his father is not great as there are severe daddy issues.

Vijay Varma is in fantastic form. Both as a middle-class married man struggling to make out ends meet and also as a serial killer who has unresolved issues with his father.

Striking aspect

Another striking aspect of the web series is how it doesn’t paint all men as monsters.

Certain women characters in the web show are equally regressive.

This particularly comes out in the scenes when Anjali talks to the parents of the eloped girls. All of them think that it was good that their daughters eloped instead of being a financial burden at home.

They declare that they had nothing to do with girls.

It must be mentioned that Anand only targets women from the lower strata of society and whose parents were not in a position to pay a big dowry.

He camouflages himself as a different person and seduces them by talking sweetly. Once they fall for him and agree to have sex, he thinks they are loose characters and eliminates them with cyanide.

Slightly off

One of the areas that Dahaad slightly falters is the climax.

After all the cat and mouse game the confrontation between Sonakshi and Vijay could have been more impactful.

Another issue with the web series is the casting of Sonakshi in the role of Anjali Bhaati. Sonakshi is adequately fierce in her demeanour but is rather one-dimensional in how she approaches the character.

The cinematography by Tanay Satmam is of the first order. He does a wonderful job of capturing the rusticness of the terrain. The Rajasthani dialect used is also mostly flawless.

Final verdict

Dahaad is definitely a worthy roar and a noteworthy addition to the career of Zoya Akhtar.

(Views expressed are personal)

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