Kaala Review: Avinash Tiwary’s Crime Thriller Is A Snoozefest Barely Saved By Acting!

The queer story has our attention!

There’s nothing like a good crime thriller that can leave our hearts thumping and blood rushing as we sit on the edge of our seats, hooked to our screens, waiting to know what happens next. And if that’s the kind of entertainment you’re looking for this week, I’m sure you already have T-Series’ debut web series Kaala on your radar. Directed by Wazir and Sweet Kaaram Coffee fame filmmaker Bejoy Nambiar, Kaala is a crime thriller starring Avinash Tiwary, Rohan Vinod Mehra, Jitin Gulati, Nivetha Pethuraj, Taher Shabbir and Hiten Tejwani among several others. This 8-episodic series releases on Disney+ Hotstar on September 15.

The Plot Of Kaala

This Avinash Tiwary starrer series is of the same name as Rajinikanth’s 2018 action drama film Kaala. Starring Avinash Tiwary in the lead role of IB officer Ritwik Mukherjee who is chasing a businessman who is believed to be engaged in reverse hawala. FYI, hawala is an illegal way of sending money to someone aka money laundering or smuggling. Hawala is also used to turn black money into white. However, this show deals with reverse hawala where white money is turned into black and used to bride people. IB Officer Ritwik Mukherjee discovers a huge money laundering racket and goes on a mission to uncover it with the help of his source only to find out that this racket has ties to his dark past and also of his source. How will Ritwik handle everything when the truth comes to light? Will he be able to catch business tycoon Naman Aarya who uses his business as a front for his illegal activities? Or will Ritwik’s dark past catch up with him?


Avinash Tiwary as Ritwik Mukherjee: We’ve known Avinash Tiwary for his nuanced acting skill and the actor puts it on display for us to see his skillset once again. Despite the problems with the writing, the actor has still managed to bring Ritwik alive and embody him with honesty.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Disney+ Hotstar (@disneyplushotstar)

Taher Shabbir as Naman Aarya: While we did not get to see enough of Taher Shabbir’s Naman Aarya, the actor did his bit to play the role of the antagonist who is just the face of the operation and is a puppet. However, knowing the actor’s skillset, it was disappointing to see him play a character with no personality or character arch.

Rohan Vinod Mehra as Shubhendu Mukherjee: Rohan Vinod Mehra has outdone himself. In this show full of actors who couldn’t make themselves seen, Rohan’s Shubhendu managed to grab eyeballs when he was on the screen (which should’ve been more often).


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rohan Vinod Mehra (@rohanmehra)

Also Read: Scam 2003: The Telgi Story Pilot Review: Gagan Dev Riar As Abdul Karim Telgi Holds Up This Slow Paced Drama

Nivetha Pethuraj as IB Officer Sitara: While the South actress did her 100% to play her role, there’s no changing the fact that her character was shabbily written and again lacked a personality until the very end of the series.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Nivetha Pethuraj (@nivethapethuraj)

Elisha Mayor as Aloka: Elisha Mayor makes her presence known and owns her screen space and time. Elisha’s Aloka is one of the few characters who will make you feel invested in their lives and stories. The actress shines in this dark and gritty show.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Elisha Mayor (@elisha_mayor)

Hiten Tejwani as Bismil: Known for his work in the television industry Hiten Tejwani needs no introduction. The actor has time and again proved his mettle in acting. However, with a heavy heart, I would like to report that the actor hardly has any screen time in the first 5 episodes. It’s only after that you see him play his character and not just be another actor who you just spot.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hitten Ttejwani (@hitentejwani)

Jitin Gulati as Balwant (Antagonist): We’ve all come across antagonists who we hate from the bottom of our hearts like we hated Komolika (but secretly loved her sense of style). And Jitin Gulati’s Balwant won’t make you hate him but feel for him. The series showcases Balwant’s backstory and that’s all you need to understand where he’s coming from and what made him do all that he’s doing. There will be moments when your heart will go out to his character and you’ll want him to win. No offence but chances are that you’ll be more invested in the antagonist than in the hero in Kaala.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jitin Gulati (@jitin0804)

Shakti Kapoor has a cameo sans dialogues in the series which is rather interesting. The supporting cast including Vinil Mathew, Danish Aslam, Shruti Seth and more did offer support. However, it’s essential to note that there’s hardly anything the supporting actors could do to uplift the story. Neither of the supporting cast had a properly written character or character arch.

Also Read: Jawan Review: One South Step For Shah Rukh Khan. One Giant Leap For Art Delivering Message With Mass

Verdict: The Antagonist Stole The Show!

So, Kaala is a crime thriller with 8 episodes of about 50 minutes each. To begin with, the low production value doesn’t make it an interesting series to watch. Now, I get it. It’s a gritty crime thriller and the screen has to remain dark but does it need to be so dark that you can’t make out faces? Yeah, no. In terms of pace, the series epically fails to catch or hold your interest. The first 4 episodes are dragged and do not pique your interest. The story takes too long to build up and hold your interest. I mean, it’s not like I had a choice, I had to sit and finish or I probably would’ve just hit the bed (I did snooze a little). If you do end up watching this series (which you probably should because the other 4 episodes are totally worth it), you’ll spend 4 episodes trying to your head around what is happening. Thanks to the complex storytelling, it takes 4 episodes for the show to set the background and give you enough context to understand what happens next. All the switching between timelines, characters and locations doesn’t help either.

However, from the fifth episode onwards, the series starts getting interesting and you won’t have to force yourself to stay awake. The reason is that the identity of the real antagonist, Balwant aka Shakti Aarya has been concealed until then (FYI, they used very 90s-style tacky ways of hiding the identity, ugh). Played by Jitin Gulati (who completely, absolutely shines and steals the spotlight), Balwant aka Shakti Aarya is a queer character and the antagonist. The series delves into Shakti’s backstory and connection with Avinash’s Ritwick and his source and mind you, the story blows your mind and makes you feel invested in the antagonist. It shows Balwant exploring his identity, sexual orientation and sexuality. But did they explore the queer theme well? Not really. Was it necessary? Not really. The makers did just what was needed without going overboard.

Also Read: Haddi Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui Shines As Transgender In This Meaty Revenge Drama With A Satisfying Climax!

This is one of the rare few shows where you might feel more invested in the antagonists’s story than in the hero’s. It’s heart-wrenching when Balwant’s sins and karma come back for him only to drive him insane with guilt until he finds his way out. While Balwant’s story makes Kaala interesting after episode 5, it also becomes predictable thereon. And no, you don’t have to be a crime/thriller/mystery fanatic to figure out what’s happening. However, the story does have several loopholes and leaves you with a lot of ‘WHAT?’s and a lot of ‘why though?’. Another thing to note is that while the show does make an attempt to explore the interpersonal relationships between characters, it’s not an honest attempt because the characters and their interpersonal relationships are filmy and shallow. If only the makers tried to dive slightly deeper.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rohan Vinod Mehra (@rohanmehra)

Apart from a hard-to-follow plot, Kaala is not your average crime thriller that will get your blood rushing and heart racing. While Avinash Tiwary is the lead, he’s not a standout character due to the shoddy writing. FYI, you might do a facepalm when he states the obvious every now and then (the dialogues could’ve been done better). Anyhow, the end of the story is that kids can do better than IB officers when it comes to fighting crime and solving cases. Erm, yeah! But I would still encourage you to watch Kaala for the queer antagonist that will make you empathise with him and feel invested in his story. Kaala is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

What To Watch This Week of September 11 to 17: Bambai Meri Jaan, Kaala, A Haunting In Venice, And More

Janvi Manchanda

​​She uses her pen to slice through patriarchy. She could be Geet one day, Wednesday Addams next. Writing is the bane of her existence and the object of all her desires!

Read More From Janvi
Seen it all?

We’ve got more!