Bestseller(Amazon Prime Video; 8 Episodes)
Starring Mithun Chakraborty, Arjan Bajwa, Shruti Haasan, Gauahar Khan, Satyajeet Dubey, Sonalee Kulkarni,
Directed by Mukul Abhyankar
Rating: *** ½
It is easy to be dismissive and derisive about a suspense thriller that is not derivative or disrespectful towards the conventions of the suspense genre. But if truth be told, a sincere and gripping suspense thriller like Bestseller is hard to come by on the cluttered OTT platform.
Unlike its icky ilk Bestseller , adapted to the small screen from Ravi Subramaniam’s The Bestseller She Wrote, unravels its complicated plot without tying itself into knots.
There is an assured elegance to the storytelling, the interiors gleam even as the proceedings grow murkier by the episode, and barring one actor who is jarring,the rest of the cast gets into the groove of things with guarded gusto.
OTT offers a freedom from the image trap for actors. Arjun Bajwa making a comeback after ages, is cast as Tahir a scummy pulpwriter, a “wannabe Chetan Bhagat” who feels no scruples or remorse in plagiarizing the lives of hapless unsuspecting people who share their stories with him.Bajwa represents that yawning stretch of numbed morality that has seeped into the contemporary competitive societies.
His wife Mayanka(played by Gauahar Khan) chooses to remain impervious to her husband’s low-level ethics because , as Tahir Wazir tells us , she is freed herself from marital obligations for flings , her latest toyboy being an office colleague Parth(Satyajeet Dubey, an interesting young actor who grows with every series) who openly despises Rahir Wazir’s success, much to Mayanka’s amusement.
This is not a marriage. It’s a ticking timebomb. The fissures and clefts in the Tahir-Mayanka marriage become apparent when a smalltown girl Meetu invades their marital mansion . Shruti Hassan plays Meetu with such wide-eyed obviousness that it becomes crystal-clear from the start that she is not what she appears to be.
The complex character and its murky motivations needed someone more subtle and skilled.In fact Gauahar Khan should have played Meetu Mathur. The layers of subterfuge and deception in the character is never brought out skillfully. It’s the one abiding lacuna in this otherwise-engaging show.
Bestseller has a complicated storyline about a disintegrating marriage and the intruder who proves the pretty pebble in the placid pond. It also questions the boundaries of art and just how a work of fiction bleeds into real lives mowing down their resistance and privacy.
Mithun Chakraborty who enters in the third episode play the semi-retired cop with a combination of quirk and caprice. Apart from the ridiculous wig, his character moves confidently from whodunnit to whydunnit, a journey that takes time while remaining fully aware of the pitfalls ahead.
Director Mukul Abhiyankar doesn’t allow the narrative to trip over in pursuit of suspense. Agreed, some of the plot twists are way too implausible to be interesting. But then what is life in a suspense thriller if not an occasion to crack open the codes of conventional conversation and pin down what lies beneath? Bestseller gets there.