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Betaal (Netflix) About  Zombies, For Zombies

Betaal(Netflix, 4 episodes)

Starring  Vineet Kumar, Ahana Kumar

Directed  by Patrick Graham, Nikhil Mahajan

Rating: *(1  star)

 It is deeply saddening to see Netflix  dumping one  dud after  another  on  the  OTT platform. I  thought it  couldn’t get any worse  than the  one-off feature  film Mrs Serial Killer. But Betaal is even worse,  if that is possible. Shallow, shoddy  and ill-conceived,  it tries to pass itself off as a serious-minded  horror show about zombies  from the past, British  India  to be precise, attacking a  corrupt caucus  of law enforcers in the  present  who  want to  usurp the  adivasis of their rightful land.

Plunderers  of  the eco-system get their  comeuppance.  But what about those who mess with home entertainment  by  making mayhem?

 The  messy  blood-splattered battle between the past and the  present is staged in a  gloomy, dingy  wretchedly unhappy  landscape. It is a wonder no kindred  spirit from the  series’  technical crew pointed out the sheer  futility of staging a digital series  in such dimly lit  squalid interiors.Almost the entire  plot unfolds in night light with scores of junior artistes dressed as soldiers zombies and other uniformed  spirits  scampering across  the frames like ants  with ants  in their pants.

Don’t bother with who’s who.  Just pray  for it to be  over.

  The dark  despairing mood is  unbroken  by any sign   of humour, unless you are amused  by Ahana  Kumra’s facial prosthetic which resembles  a brinjal left too long in the sun. We  don’t  know why she needed that  facial  prop, probably to give the  zombies some  company. Or why human characters look so comical when they turn into zombies.Maybe this is meant to be a  funny take on  zombie culture, like Go Goan Gone, except that the brains behind Betaal weren’t trying to be funny.

 The face-off between  the  humans and  the extra-terrestials is  never convincing  , or even remotely engaging.  The  characters , running  around in ill-conceived womb-like  cavernous   spaces, are either  shouting at one another  or  going grisly with grins  and grimaces that  are more foolish that  ghoulish.

It is sad  to see  capable actors  like Vineet Kumar, Ahana Kumra, Suchitra Pillai struggling to give a semblance  of coherence  to their sketchy  characters.Ms Pillai  playing a commanding  officer has  to  look like she has  just seen  all 4  episodes  of this series repeatedly.

Even the  zombies  would flee to a safer place at that prospect.

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