Finally, Afsos Is Here…
It’s a little late, but 2020 is here. A new year means more stories and more content to consume across various platforms. One of the biggest OTT platforms in India, Amazon Prime Video had promised us some incredible new shows this year, starting with one of their biggest web series (in India) so far, The Forgotten Army, which released last month. While everyone was thrilled, hyped and focused on this show, a small show (comparatively) titled Afsos produced by OML (Only Much Louder) productions, was announced to be released on 17th January. However, sadly not many realized that this show didn’t come out on the said date and many people including myself, who got to see just the first few scenes before the show was taken down, were quite upset. Bada Afsos hua tha hume.. (Had to use this wordplay!)
Nevertheless, Afsos, a black comedy thriller web series, (what a combination!) finally managed to see the light today, as all its 8 episodes have released and are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s rare to see the creators in India taking the route of writing something that has a fusion of dark, absurd and funny at the same time, as the majority of the audience doesn’t prefer (read understand) such genre. But kudos to the team of Afsos, who go all out with this mind-boggling, twisted, dark and funny show, and never hold back in telling a unique story, filled with some amazing characters and incredible storylines.
I don’t know if you have noticed a different style that I have adapted in writing this review, but since the show often breaks the fourth wall (Google it), and gives us an in-depth understanding, I have chosen to try and do the same (not a cover for my bad writing skills!). Let’s delve deep into the world of Afsos and understand what all works in this show and why I feel this show is one of the best shows created in India so far (some will argue, but my review, my rules).
A Simple Story Of Complicated Characters
The story of Afsos begins with Nakul (played by Gulshan Devaiah), a writer by profession and a loser by everything else, who is desperate to die but hasn’t been able to, despite several attempts. Tired of trying everything he can to die, he approaches Maria Gomes (played by Ratnabali Bhattacharjee) who runs an agency, which ‘helps’ people in committing suicide (what a noble work!). Maria assigns the job of killing Nakul to her best hitwoman Upadhyay (played by Heeba Shah), whose passion is to paint people with both paintbrush and guns (To a few of you -- I mean to say, she loves killing people). But, Nakul falls in love with his therapist, Shloka (played by Anjali Patil), who is the only person in this entire world who cares for Nakul, and hence Nakul now finds a purpose to live in this otherwise useless world (Not my opinion).
Pretty straight forward story right? No. This is where the story just begins and from here on we see the cat and mouse chase between the characters, while more subplots open introducing different characters across the world, who at the end of the day, are somehow related and are affected by each other unknowingly.
The show created by the talented duo of Anirban Dasgupta (does this man need an introduction) and Dibya Chatterjee is adapted from a Bengali book titled ‘Golper Goru Chaande’, which is written by Kalponik Bandopadhyay. The writers Anirban Dasgupta, Dibya Chatterjee, and Sourav Ghosh do an incredible job in creating a world that deals with a man’s wish to die, and how it can be seen as a normal behavior. They never shy away from taking risks in telling an honest story and go all out even if they have to kill people left, right and center. All these things carried with consistent jokes (some very dark) and funny situations make the show an all-round entertaining package, giving us a satisfying experience.
Fully Fleshed Characters Is The Key
The writers understand the importance of developing fully fleshed characters and don’t rely just on a meaty premise. Nakul’s character is so well developed that after a point you start understanding his ideology and the reason why he wants to take this drastic step of killing himself. And the brilliant use of breaking the fourth wall constantly makes us feel sympathetic towards Nakul, which he keeps messing up, in some way or the other. One of my favourite characters, Shloka, who is Nakul’s therapist, is brilliantly developed. It’s amusing to see that the character’s behavior never changes, and her therapist instincts kick in, given any situation. A shade of grey given to this character, adds a lot of depth and makes her look more human.
Upadhyay is another well-written character, who is a difficult person to understand in the beginning, but starts making sense, as the show progresses. The way she keeps killing people is ruthless and cold to watch, but surprisingly funny on a few occasions (trust me, it is), given the well-built context of the scenes. Maria and Vikram (played by Ujjwal Chopra) add their own sense of messiness and propel the story forward while creating conflicts at various junctures in the story.
It’s heartwarming to see some of these and the other characters like Inspector Bir Singh (played by Aakash Dahiya), Fokatiya baba (played by Robin Das), Dr. Goldfish (played by Jamie Alter), Ayesha Mirani (played by Sulagna Panigrahi), etc., have their own plotlines, part of which clashes with the main story on a few occasions. The character arcs developed for some of these characters are superb and give you enough to know about the story of their life.
Since the characters are properly developed, the scenes are seamless, the jokes are organic, and the conflicts and the solutions come at a good pace. On many occasions, I really laughed out hard, with the kind of jokes that came out as a surprise. The makers truly go all the way, leaving no stone unturned. Even the twists that are thrown to us out of nowhere (I mean you don’t see them coming), are brilliant, and some of the cliffhangers, at the end of the episodes, are just outstanding (look out for the ending of the second episode), forcing us to go for the binge-watch.
Technical Brilliance On Point
It is relieving to see the sharp, clean and crisp cinematography by Krish Makhija. The frame on many occasions is static and allows us to grasp the information and details filled in the scenes. The movement of the camera in some scenes is deliberately kept simple for us to make amends with the complexity of the characters and the story. Few scenes just stand out in the way they are shot, bringing a fresh and innovative approach to the story. This is very well complemented by a sharp, and a well thought edit, done by Prerna Saigal. The length of the scenes is usually very important as the more or less of it, can make it clumsy. Prerna does a great job in maintaining the accuracy of the length of the scenes, while the transition between the scenes looks natural.
The music by the extremely talented Neel Adhikari is a treat to the audience. The background music really makes the tone of the show stand out and helps us understand the eeriness and thrill of Afsos’s world, hence keeping us hooked to the show all the time. The two songs composed by him in the show, ‘The Kill’ sung by Patti Amor and ‘Afsos Hai’ sung by Arijit Singh are excellent and speak a lot about the scenes they are played in. I’m already hooked on to ‘Afsos Hai’, given its quirky lyrics, written by Neel Adhikari and Sameer Satija. This song, in particular, makes me like it a lot, as it comes when Nakul is enjoying the last day of his life (Not a spoiler) and we see him in his happiest state. The lyrics stay true to the theme of the show and are written in a way, that they break the fourth wall, making it more interesting. Kudos to them for coming up with such an innovative idea.
The captain of this ship, the director, Anubhuti Kashyap is in the middle of everything, who on one side has to transform a well-written script to visuals, and on the other hand, has to bring together all the brilliant work done by the crew members. And she does it like magic. The fourth wall breaking, a concept that is done successfully in a film like Deadpool, is a difficult thing to pull off. But Anubhuti does a great job in doing that while making sure that it comes organically, and doesn’t look out of place. The pacing of the show is well maintained, and she creates beautiful imagery on many occasions while engaging us in an outstanding display of storytelling. Looking forward to seeing more of her work, as she is a talent that is going to explode with some great work.
Actors Elevate The Show
The star of the show is the astonishingly talented actor, Gulshan Devaiah. This show belongs to him, as he takes us through a weird, thrilling and adventurous journey of Nakul. Nakul has given up on his life and nothing can cheer him up or give him hope. Now, this is brilliantly done by Gulshan, who maintains the hopelessness of Nakul on his face all the time. There are scenes, where Nakul is confused, irritated and frustrated by the happenings around him, and Gulshan portrays all these complexities, with the utmost ease. There is a scene, where Nakul messes up something and has to show his frustration, but he can’t do it fully. Gulshan performs it a convincing manner making you feel extremely bad for Nakul. It is a testament to the extreme talent he possesses. Gulshan is one of the best actors we have right now, (a fan of your work) and I am so ecstatic to see him perform his art in Afsos followed by a great performance in Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota. I hope he gets to portray more roles similar to Nakul, where he gets to offer various skill set he carries.
Heeba Shah does an amazing job in maintaining a blank and expressionless face, which her character demands. She maintains the balance between hating the character to the core and just not liking her, very well. She is complemented well by Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, who does a great job in calming the havoc created around her character. Anjali Patil really stands out in the portrayal of a therapist whose ideology is very unique. She is incredible in making Shloka look harmless but at the same time, manages well to intimidate the audience with just her eyes. Her character has a lot to explore, and Anjali brings out her A-game, hence making Shloka a lively character.
Aakash Dahiya will leave you more than impressed with his acting. He portrays the character of an inspector who comes to a different city to solve a case and is frustrated and helpless in this selfish world. The way Aakash brings out the emotions of his character, it is purely remarkable. Aakash shows the range of talent in various scenes, like the one where is mentally beaten down but has to stand up to his senior. Aakash has a very strong screen presence and he knows how to use it to his advantage.
Jamie Alter, Danish Sait, Dhruv Sehgal, Shyam Bhimsaira, Sulagna Panigrahi, Robin Das and Ujjwal Chopra feature in almost all the episodes and leave their mark with their extraordinary talent. Danish, Dhruv, and Sulgna, in particular, have good characters, and they make their presence feel with their incredible portrayal of their respective characters. Hats off to Parag Mehta for getting the cast right and on point.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it’s rare that we get shows with such good quality in all the departments. It is evident that the makers want to tell an honest story, without creating too much fuss or decorating the show with some illogical but cool looking scenes (yes that’s the trend these days). You are bound to enjoy an incredible and intelligently written show, will get to witness amazing filmmaking, and are guaranteed to laugh on many occasions (need to pay attention to some jokes) by the end of it. Look out for some amazing cameos by the popular names from the standup comedy world (pay close attention). The show ends on an ambiguous note, hence creating an opportunity for another season, and I hope we get to see it happen. All in all, I want to end this long (hopefully not boring) review by saying, “Afsos nahi dekhoge toh Afsos zaroor hoga…”
Afsos available to stream On Amazon Prime Video
(Editor -- Overaction in writing ke paise kaato iske..)