Dr Khusi Pattanayak

Kalkoot: F.I. R Ke Kaale Panne (Hindi, 2023) is a slow burner. It takes its own time to draw you into its world. But once you are part of that world there is no going back; you sit through to know what happens next.

The web-series is the latest police procedural drama on OTT that takes a humane route while investigating a crime. Like any good work of art, Kalkoot decides to address the myriads of complex factors that turns someone into a criminal and someone into a victim.

Kalkoot is about a young inexperienced cop who must solve an acid-attack case, where the victim is one of the potential marriage candidates that the cop was introduced to; making the situation personally chaotic and professionally difficult.

The web series holds a pro-feminist and anti-patriarchal stance. It also talks about social perception and a liberty to live one’s life as one desires to. Very engaging conversation, especially given the times we live in. Yet to Kalkoot’s credit it does not create a black and white world. It creates a world that accommodates various shades of greys where each individual has his/ her fair share of secrets to unfold and evolve as an identity to understand the dilemma of living in a morally ambiguous world.

Subtlety is key to Kalkoot’s narrative – from mise en scene to dialogues – Arunabh Kumar and Sumit Saxena as writers have done a commendable job. As director, Saxena shows immense sensitivity while portraying not just the acid victim, but also other patients who are either admitted or move in and out of government hospital.

Sensitivity as a theoretical program is utterly unsuccessful in Kalkoot. The seminar on dealing sensitively with female victims was all about samosas and exchange of politically incorrect phrases on dais. But interestingly the characters are not heartless per se. Their context makes them appear so. Their compassion and conscience mature as the 8-part series progresses.

Kalkoot has many songs. The lyrics and the music are fun and peppy (for some reason they reminded me of Gangs of Wasseypur) and would make for a good stand-alone music album. But they had no place in the narrative.

A special shout out to the make-up artist Shilpa Shah who has done commendable job in creating those vitiligo patches. They are an interesting shade of brown which is consistent throughout the series. Though it remains unclear what was the need for introducing them to the script. And since we are discussing medical conditions, seems epilepsy is suddenly a favorite among mainstream filmmakers from Hindi industry (just few weeks back Bawaal too had a similar subplot). Any clue why?

The series casting is top-notch. Vijay Varma had an intricate role to deliver and he is solid (far better than Lust Stories 2 & Dahaad outing). Yashpal Sharma and Gopal Dutt were remarkable in their role and had the most entertaining dialogues. Seema Biswas as always is effortless. The rest of the cast is impressive too.

The over-the-top dramatic climax might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it worked perfectly well for me. It kind of balanced the understated voice that the series had used until then.

Despite the positives, the series has its own flaws.  Kalkoot struggles to keep its tone consistent – from dark comedy to serious social commentary. It isn’t sure what it wants to be. The series is lengthier by at least 3 episodes and at times, it does feel that the makers are struggling to meet the length protocol of the streaming platform. Some social issues are too on the face and continues explaining itself while the ending is rushed (a weird trope plaguing many OTT offerings these days).

Kalkoot is the other name for Halāhala, the poison that was generated from the Ocean of Milk when the devas and the asuras churned it in order to obtain amrita. In Kalkoot this poison is both physical and metaphorical. If you are free this weekend, watch Kalkoot on JioCinema. It is available in various Indian languages.

(The author is an internationally published writer & corporate communication specialist. Views are personal)