Dahaad Review: Vijay Varma, Sonakshi Sinha Series Is Clever And Gripping, But Roars Too Subtly In The EndA promising journey to an anti-climactic ending.
At the end of the 8-episode series on Prime Video created by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar and marking the digital debut of Sonakshi Sinha, I pondered hard over why it was named Dahaad. The series employs clever details with pointed social commentary instead of overly unreal, emotional moments; its characters feel subtle and real rather than loud and performed; and its glacial treatment of time perfectly syncs with its setting. And yet… The ending, which neither has any major reveal (we already know Vijay Varma is the serial killer) nor a big payoff, left me underwhelmed. Where was the roar that was promised?
Dahaad stars Sonakshi Sinha, Gulshan Devaiah, Sohum Shah, Zoa Morani, and Vijay Varma in prominent roles. In keeping with its theme of details you have to be observant to catch, the credits for each episode reveal that apart from Kagti and Akhtar, the episodes have been written by Ritesh Shah, Sunayana Kumari, Mansi Jain, Chaitanya Chopra, and Karan Shah, with dialogues by Sumit Arora. Apart from Reema Kagti, Ruchika Oberoi also directs a couple of episodes. The cinematography is by Tanay Satam, the editing is by Anand Subaya, the sound by Neeraj Gera, and the music is by Gaurav Raina and Tarana Marwa.
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In small-town Rajasthan, Mandawa, sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati and her fellow offices discover that a series of mysterious suicides of women in public bathrooms, which seemed unconnected at first, could all be the work of a serial killer. While they solve this case, they must also deal with rampant communalism, caste-based discrimination, and the usual red tape that slows them down quite a bit. The fallout affects their personal lives too. Meanwhile, we’re also shown the parallel life of the killer himself, as his modus operandi is gradually revealed, and how he evades arrest with schemes of his twisted mind.
Also Read: Sonakshi Sinha’s Debut OTT Series Dahaad To Premiere At Berlin International Film Festival
First impressions, Dahaad looks pretty good, is mostly gripping till the end, and has a cast that’s able to deliver what’s on paper.
The one aspect where Dahaad truly shines is its social commentary, which really is the silent hero of the series. A cop in the Mandawa police chowki lights agarbattis every time Sonakshi’s Anjali Bhaati, who is his senior but from a lower caste, passes by. A man from a lower caste exploits the flaws of the very system that is rigged against him to make them pay attention to his missing sister’s case. It misleads the police and is one of the many social obstacles that slows down their capture of the killer. When Anjali is called Lady Singham by some random dudes on a bike, she shuts them down. Dahaad encompasses a laundry list of social evils that plague small-town India—bigotry, patriarchy, corruption—but the writers have weaved them in masterfully without making it look performative.
We get some truly dimensional characters in Dahaad. Sohum Shah’s Inspector Parghi is perhaps the most wholesome character arcs of all, depicting how the professional can bleed into the personal. For cops, who see the horrors of what humanity is capable of every day, this is a difficult struggle. Shah plays it with utmost sincerity and you’ll be happy for him in the end. Gulshan Devaiah as the righteous senior cop Devi Singh gets some interesting dilemmas. But it’s his personal life—being a father to a teenage daughter, a husband to a conservative woman, and as a male boss to a promising female junior—that gives him plenty of chances to do what Super Gullu does best—impress. I was paying close attention to the accent, and he passed with flying colours.
The other silent hero of Dahaad is Sonakshi Sinha’s sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati. As a woman, she has so many reasons to be angry at the world and much pressure to constantly prove herself. Yet, she finds her strength in being khaamosh (I couldn’t resist!) and doing her work, efficiently. She’s good at it, she knows it. There are few things that’ll rattle her and by the end of the eight episodes, she learns to even conquer those. The way Anjali matures in the course of the case is well written. I thought her character was cool, in a way women find other women cool for their gumption and how good they are at their work, you know?
But her’s was the roar I was truly waiting for…. Sonakshi is good, but she gets few moments to really go great. The one that matters the most comes much later in the series, and once I got the taste of it, I craved more. Alas, we were out of time.
The one who truly roars is, of course, Vijay Varma as the creepy, slithering serial killer, Anand Swarnakar. After Darlings, it looks like Varma’s got the act down pat because he really is *chef’s kiss*. His Anand is so convincing in his devious sincerity, that you cannot help but fall for him; a true mark of a charming killer’s irresistible lure. Everything about him is so carefully curated and adds to his vibe, from his shirts to the sinister way he asks his prey to “Smile,” and right down to the rehearsed lines he tells them.
But in his arc also comes my biggest peeve with Dahaad, which takes its ‘silent roar’ a bit too far. Call me a traditionalist, but there are two things I absolutely love in my serial killer stories: The moment when his MO makes total sense and explains to you why he did what he did, and the big serial killer v/s cop/profiler showdown at the end. And the series doesn’t quite give me the payoff that I wanted and deserved (having invested 8 long hours into it). The end feels a tad anti-climactic, especially since there’s no big suspense being lifted or revelation being made. Yes, the killer hates women, but nothing explains why he began, why he kills them the way he does, and why he targets a particular type of woman. Lots of loose ends remain, and that makes me hope there’s another season coming that might just give me closure.
Go ahead and give Dahaad your weekend, you won’t be disappointed.
As a thirty-something woman, I thought Dahaad gave me two things that women want from their watch list: Impactful social commentary on how the world really sucks for women through the lens of the female protagonist, and a good serial killer story to binge late into the night. Agreed that it didn’t give me the payoff I wanted, but that only makes me want to see more of it because this girl deserves closure. Plus, plenty of social evils in the sea. Let’s take our pick, and get Anjali (not Bhaati anymore?) on the case again.
Dahaad, produced by Excel Media & Entertainment and Tiger Baby, is currently streaming on Prime Video.