Kala Pani(Netflix , 7 Episodes)
Rating: ** ½
Like the muddy poisonous waters that the characters on the Andaman Nicobar Islands—and that includes hundreds of tourists who have descended on the island for a local festival—the intentions behind this interesting but over-populated series are never clear.
Is this a cautionary tale or survival drama, or maybe both? The mood suggests considerable research has gone into the project. Dates and data are dropped into the dialogues to suggest the writers(Biswapati Sarkar, Nimisha Misra, Sandeep Saket, Amit Golan) ar not in this for fun and thrills. But the overall feeling is that of a survival drama with various characters being torn apart and others coming together in permutations that afford a dramatic surge.
Somehow the territory opened by the cautionary drama remains under-explored in spite of so much space(seven episodes) and actors who know how to bring their characters alive without much ado.
The scale required to make the drama look impressively epic is largely missing. The crowds brought together for the festival fiasco seem to be running helterskelter in search of lottery prizes rather than searching for a way out of a grave medical crisis.
Making matters worse is the contrivances in the plot. A former nurse Jyotsna(Arushi Sharma) sees red(literally) each time she remembers a gruesome incidence of a mob lynching from the past. Her redemption is so manufactured , it feels like factory-made.
A spirit of spontaneity would have gone a long way in taking the characters to that stage of selfrealization that the plot craves to achieve. Still, it is not all a loss. Some characters rise above the water level, thanks to the fine actors who seem determined to make the series slightly more special than it seems.
I especially liked actor Vikas Kumar as a simple godfearing doting father trying hard to bond with his son during a holiday under the sun. He has a well-rounded character with a graph unlike many other characters who seem caught between the Devil and the Andaman-Nicobar sea.
Worst hit is Mona Kapoor who appears in the first episode as a physically disabled doctor who is on to something major . After her death, the plot loses its grip. We never get to know why Sukant Goel’s taxidriver character is involved in a crime that he wants no part of , or why Ashutosh Gowariker’s character feels so morally superior when he is clearly blinded by the same emotion as the writers of this series: ignorance and arrogance.