The first few scenes of Kaalkoot feature a group of policemen attending a gender sensitivity training session. Vijay Varma as Sub-inspector Ravi Shankar Tripathi is lurking behind a pillar, gesturing to a fellow cop.
Kaalkoot is a police procedural created by Arunabh Kumar and directed by Sumit Saxena. Despite deciding to quit his job, Tripathi is placed at the helm of an investigation into a horrifying acid attack.
Through this investigation, the show explores the intricate web of patriarchy and misogyny that affects every character in the show. From Tripathi's masculinity being questioned just because he isn't brash and aggressive to the idea of a 'perfect victim', the show explores it all with a deft hand.
There are two other focal points at the Sirsa police station that Tripathi works at: his cynical, abusive, and abrasive boss SHO Jagdish Sahay (Gopal Datt) and his selectively loyal, right hand man who looks out for him Constable Sattu Yadav (Yashpal Sharma).
In more ways than one, Tripathi's life becomes intertwined with the survivor Parul's (Shweta Tripathi Sharma). Even as Parul continues to recover in the hospital, her younger sister becomes a crucial cog in the investigation, becoming her elder sister's voice when her parents are silenced by 'log kya kahenge?'.
In the cavalier ways in which the cops deal with a case like this one, Kaalkoot highlights how ingrained misogyny is into a society like ours: a senior cop yells out a gendered abuse during a sensitivity seminar; the abuse returns multiple times during the show.
Just because Parul doesn't seem like the "ideal woman" who is chaste and respectful and never puts a toe out of line, the cops view the crime against her less seriously than they otherwise would have.
The way women are quick to be judged, even in situations where they're at the receiving hand of abuse and violence has been long discussed in media but it's still an able effort
The writing in Kaalkoot is astute. Vijay Varma brings an earnesty to the table that adds layers to an already nuanced character. After having played the kind of characters he has played before, seeing him play a man coming to terms with his flaws is refreshing, in the best way possible.
One of the best performances on the show, however, is Seema Biswas as Tripathi's mother. Having recently lost her husband, she reverts to asking her son for permission. It's an interesting look into the way agency passes from father to son to grandson in a house, always conveniently missing the women.
But Kaalkoot isn't without flaws. Despite its efforts, the gaze still remains predominantly male. There is a distance between the camera and the story.
Parul's distress is used as a catalyst for the cops' change in heart and at the end of the day, her morality is still used as a 'gotcha!' moment. The background music is too overwhelming in places which cuts the tension in the show, especially in scenes where silence would have sufficed.
Kaalkoot has released at the heels of two other incredibly effective police procedurals, namely Dahaad and Kohrra. This, unfortunately, makes comparisons natural. Kaalkoot lacke the finesse of a Dahaad and the nuance, heft, and expert character work of Kohrra.
These little flaws threaten to detail Kaalkoot at multiple points but the show's heart stays strong.