CAT(Netflix, in Punjabi, 8 Episodes)
Starring: Randeep Hooda, Suvinder Vicky, Hasleen Kaur, Geeta Aggarwal, Dakssh Ajit Singh, Jaipreet Singh, Sukhwinder Chahal, KP Singh, Kavya Thapar, Danish Sood
Directed by Balwinder Singh Janjua, Rupinder Chahal, Jimmy Singh
Rating: *** ½
He is neither a Sikh nor a Punjabi. But Randeep Hooda is firstrate as Gurnaam Singh a member of a former anti-terrorist organization named CAT which is back in business as a new menace, drugs, takes over Punjab.
Remarkably, Hooda’s presence in this arresting series is not about heroism. It is only about survival and selfpreservation, and that includes Gurnaam’s silly immature sibling who gets sucked into the drugs business even as Hooda’s brotherly act tries to shield the boy from selfdestruction.
This is a powerful series, better than any that I’ve seen on Punjab in recent times. Its authenticity level is exceptionally high,primarily because the spoken language in the series is Punjabi, and I suggest you watch the series in Punjabi with subtitles, although a competent dubbed Hindi version is also available.
CAT casts a gallery of authentic Punjabi actors who bring a blizzard of believability into the goings-on.Geeta Aggarwal and Hasleen Kaur are especially compelling in their complex roles. Geeta as a criminal politician brings the right tone of gender-scoffing menace to her role.Her daughter’s crush on a local Punjabi singer has an unexpected closure , a closure that would have been funny if only it were not so tragic.
Hasleen Kaur plays Babita, a starry-eyed idealistic cop who is repeatedly manipulated into compromises by her (male) seniors. Gurnaam, himself heavily compromised by his brother’s misdemeanours, becomes Babita’s bad-time buddy.There is mutual attraction here, unexplored as the series in spite of its vast runningtime has no patience with getting into relationships.
Not everything adds up. Some of the plot points do their damndest to drag down the intensity level of the narrative, for example, a debauched patriarch with a limp who is so awful he seems to have been planted into the plot purely to project poison .
CAT is revved up with detailed production design (Prerna Kathuria, Ranjit Singh) which is credible without making a song and dance of it. I wish the series was edited down by at least three episodes. It runs on for way too long. But it is a journey well worth making. Don’t miss it.