26 episodes of 30 to 35 minutes each!!!
Yes, that’s the monumental length of—not a TV serial but a web series—and its name is “Shrikant Bashir.” Whazzat? Well, this title mentions the names of the two protagonists, both of whom work for a Special Operation Team, that is, who crack cases across domains—espionage, terrorism, drugs, simple crime, scams—you name it, they do it with elan.
Is there a communal angle because of their names? Shrikant is clearly Hindu (speaking quite a bit of Marathi) and Bashir a Muslim. In what seems like an exaggerated comment on the two religions itself in India, a point comes when we hear this line: “We can manage with each other, but we cannot be friends.” There is a time when Bashir angrily growls, “I do not want to be your sidekick.” And Shrikant replies without a shred of condescension or appeasing tone, “Not sidekick—partner.” In the light of what follows, we know that they cannot work without each other.
We do not know if this was a comment on Hindu-Muslim relationship, or/and a sop to separate the latter from the Pakistanis, including the ultras. Why do I go on this philosophical track? Simply because the original chief of SOT, who is murdered early on, is named Anthony D’Costa (Bikramjeet Kanwarpal) and a key agent, also a medico, is named Carla (Priya Chauhan).
Amar Akbar Anthony, anyone?
The series combines elements of our “filmi” thrillers as well as fictional Hollywood cinema (Bond obviously included) with the reality of terrorism-hand-in-hand-with-politicians-and-businessmen. Initially, with every third episode or so, the story changes tracks from terrorism to a threat of a deadly Ebola virus and ruthless business deals to a tycoon’s brattish son raping a pub waitress to the internal politics and friction between the two lead players.
Shrikant, the new SOT chief, follows the dictum of “No rules, no commitment, only adjustment!” while Bashir goes by the book (“Laqeer ke faqeer” as he is described). Bashir, simple and in such matters more than somewhat dense, cannot figure how Shrikant keeps the baddies happy while actually working for the country and the good people, despite the many proofs he finds, and that in a way goes against the convincing construction of an intrepid intelligence officer’s character.
Shrikant also lives in an ultra-posh apartment, which cannot be possible through honest means, and has an “eidetic” or photographic memory, which helps him recall tiny details he has seen just once without really noticing. He also seems to do all the wrong things, but stubbornly gives all credits for his triumphs to the team, and is incredibly far-sighted and devious.
At even 26 episodes, as we said, the series catches your interest and never lets go, so it was ironically a difficult task not to watch more than a few episodes a day. The grip was good, the execution even better. I don’t think there has been an Indian series whose action— by Kaushal and Wasim—can be bettered, as it betters in most ways even the VFX-heavy action in “The Forgotten Army.”
Technically outstanding, it has standout VFX—by Paresh Studios, Pixel-D Post Pvt. Ltd., Digikore Image Devices (I) Pvt. Ltd. and Flying Toads VFX—and Srinivas Ramaiah’ camerawork is also of high standard. The production is lavish, with excellent shots of locations supposed to be Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, among others.
Shiraz Ahmed, co-writer of films like “Humraaz” (2002), “Aitraaz,” “Wanted,” “Rowdy Rathore” and the “Race” franchise, deftly executes the 13 hour-plus narration, bringing all its angles skillfully together in the end. But it is in the last episode that the incomplete angles of the unscrupulous businessman (Manish Chaudhary), his son (Tarun Dudeja) and the ruthless mastermind Parker (Mantra) rankle. And Bashir’s final rage at Shrikant after a mega-triumph together leaves a cliffhanger that should have been better devised.
Director Santosh Shetty deals out a taut and tight game, and gets help from powerful performers on the whole—especially Gashmeer Mahajani as Shrikant and Yudhisthir Singh as Bashir. Manish Chaudhary is menace personified, and Mantra is a born natural as the most devious and slightly psychopathic devil Parker. By contrast, Tareeq Ahmed Khan as the indulgent father and terrorist Hafizullah is almost likable!
The women make a mark too, as per their roles, like Pooja Gor as Raveena, Ashmita Jaggi as Chandrika, Priya Chauhan as Carla and Vivana Singh as Shalini Kaura. A standout, hate-inducing (as should be) performance comes from Pooran Kiri as Sujit Rawal, the anti-terrorist officer from Delhi.
Decidedly long by web series standards, you will not find “Shrikant Bashir” short of entertainment.
Rating: ***1/2 (A half star lost due to the last cliffhanger!)
Produced by: Rajesh Gosavi & Banijay Asia
Directed by: Santosh Shetty
Written by: Shiraz Ahmed
Music: Sandeep Batraa
Starring: Gashmeer Mahajani, Yudhistir Singh, Pooja Gor, Ashmita Jaggi, Imran Javed, Kunal Pant, Bikramjeet Kanwarpal, Tareeq Ahmed Khan, Mantra, Priya Chauhan, Sahil Chadha, Pooran Kiri, Tanuka Laghate, Bharat Patni, Shivraj Walvekar, Chirag Bhanot, Saurabh Agarwal, Tarun Dudeja, Manish Chaudhari, Savita Malpekar, Sushil Johri, Vivana Singh, Arun Gosani, Rasik Dave, Gargi Joshi, Mohd. Khaliq & others