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Grahan review: Disney+ Hotstar series ably switches between timelines despite a scattered script

·2 min read

Language: Hindi

Some wounds never heal. They fester beneath the surface and a small scratch can reopen them. Grahan, the eight-episode drama, is about one such deep wound.

Inspired by Satya Vyas' fictional novel Chaurasi, the series is created by Shailendra Kumar Jha. The fact-meets-fiction story unfolds in two timelines - Ranchi 2016 and Bokaro 1984. Events leading up to and following the assassination of the then Prime Minister on 31 October, 1984 provoked riots in the steel plant town. The chief instigator was the steel plant manager. The horror and shadows of the carnage and violence against the Sikh community that followed this hate-fuelled rampage are still being felt in 2016.

In the present timeline, an upright and dedicated police officer, Amrita Singh (Zoya Hussain) is assigned charge of a SIT (Special Investigative Team) tasked with re-examining the riots in Bokaro in 1984. Elections are approaching and the sitting Home Minister wants to implicate his archrival Sanjay 'Chunnu' Singh (Teekam Joshi), erstwhile Bokaro steel plant manager.

Thirty-year-old Singh lives with her doting father Gurusevak (Pavan Raj Malhotra).

As she and her team revisit the events of 1984 Singh discovers that the prime suspect Rishi Ranjan (Anshuman Pushkar) has a closer link to her life than she could imagine.

The screenplay smoothly switches between 1984 and 2016. Through the police investigation in 2016, we fill in the blanks on the days leading up to that in 1984. Rishi's love story with Manu (Wamiqa Gabbi) is enmeshed with Sanjay Singh's hate-fuelled ambition. In the present, divisive politics continue to drive Sanjay Singh's agenda.

The exhaustive story, directed by Ranjan Chandel, blends the police procedural and politics with Amrita Singh's angst regarding truth and identity €" both hers and her father's, and duty to her badge. In the back and forth, the detailed telling of Rishi and Manu's schmaltzy love story dilutes these existential questions.

Song montages pop up to further the leisurely storytelling that doesn't shy away from extended close-ups, thoughtful moments and repetition. The same information is often delivered more than once to the audience.

The production design and casting, colour tones and costumes neatly distinguish the two timelines, and actors Joshi, Hussain, Malhotra, Pushkar and Abhinav Pateriya (as Rishi's friend Jhandu), in particular, journey with their characters steadily and sincerely, albeit sometimes literally.

The uneconomical, scattered script and lengthy episodes (each one is over 50 minutes) dilute the screenplay's attempt at conveying differing perspectives on the same incident and implications of what transpired in 1984.

Grahan is available on Disney+ Hotstar

Rating: ***

Also See: SGPC president calls for ban on Disney+ Hotstar series Grahan, based on 1984 anti-Sikh riots

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