Review: Though Well Intentioned 'Grahan' Is a Missed Opportunity
Review of the show 'Grahan' starring Zoya Hussain, Pawan Malhotra now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
Pawan Malhotra and Zoya Hussain's 'Grahan' Though Well Intentioned Is a Missed Opportunity
Inspired by Satya Vyas’s novel Chaurasi, the show Grahan is as ambitious and expansive in its scope as the book. Creator Shailendra Jha and director Ranjan Chandel bring together a plethora of writers to adapt this novel to the small screen. The substance of the show is tender, sensitive and the wounds of 1984 still raw. There are things people never heal from, the substance of this show is one those things. Grahan's story is two-fold, one, about Amrita Singh (Zoya Hussain), an honest police officer who discovers a dark family secret and two, about a blooming young love story with the backdrop of the 1984 riots.
In dusty, dirty Ranchi, bathed in sepia tones not of soft nostalgia but instead of dust and sand, we go to the past and then, in normal muted tones of dull colour, we enter the present. Patna, Bokaro and more, Grahan like the book travels but it is in fact, not the story about the 1984 riots at all and instead, a love story, which only happens to take place in this context. The book, a Hindi novel, is engaging, the characters wonderfully fleshed out and the story gripping from the get go.
Grahan, on the other hand, is well intentioned and had good material and a great story to make something of memorable here, but sadly, the opportunity is a missed one.
The book Chaurasi has deep, fleshed out details, a universe that breathes and lives and the smells, sounds and sights make it almost real but the show doesn’t use any of that to create an immersive universe. If anything, the universe of Grahan is paper thin, with little to no detailing and density. It almost feels and looks like a film set not yet ready for use. The dialogues are on the nose, jarring and obvious. It’s almost as if everyone says exactly what they feel but only with a hundred times more exposition and explanation than anyone ever would in real life. Machismo and bravado, egos clashing between a burly Sikh man and local Hindu businessman, is all done in a way that seems almost TV serial like. One almost waits for the camera to do that three-time repetition of a moment they do in Hindi soaps.
The music too, like the dialogues, is jarring and melodramatic. For a story with so much real conflict and drama, the music doesn’t need to be so over the top and overcompensate, but it does and because the script fails to make the desired impact, everything else tries to come to the rescue to produce the desired effect.
The script of Grahan is lazy and jumps from event to event, things happen out of nowhere and inconveniently for the most part. The rhythm and flow of the book is natural and the show does nothing to translate the quality of the same.
The discovery of evidence out of nowhere, a house fire with little conviction and sudden deaths - A female officer, communal tension, a story that spans generations - we have it all but the script progresses at snail’s pace and makes all the characters only unidimensional. Amrita Singh, the honest officer, is stressed and morally unrighteous. Her father, who for only a scene or two is a bubbly man who enjoys his beer and encourages love, is suddenly a bumbling confused fool who walks around having forgotten how to stitch together a sentence.
While we get to see a broken system of hierarchy, bureaucracy and identity politics that has for decades held back the true potential of this nation, we aren’t told anything we don’t already know, at least on the surface. Genuine insight is missing.
Amrita’s battles seem to easy come easy go and the script doesn’t allow us enough time with Amrita or gives us enough about Amrita to begin with for us to not only be invested in her struggles but to also care about them.
Zoya Hussain’s accent betrays her too often for us to believe that she belongs to this world and Wamiqa Gabbi’s fake freckles and Instagram filter like make up is far too obvious in trying to sell her as a bubbly, cute and ditzy young woman who transforms into a heroine beyond her years. Anshuman Pushkar is likeable and convincing as a sensitive intellectual with big eyes and shaggy hair. The actors do what they can with what they’ve been given but neither is too memorable in their paper thin caricature characters.
Grahan touches upon what is important, what is pertinent and relevant. It is brave in its context but in its execution it fails to entertain and to also do justice to the universe that it has chosen to show. It hardly engages and for a story with so much merit and meat, the show does a disservice to the very things that probably inspired this endeavour in the first place.
Grahan is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
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