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HomeEntertainmentGaanth Chapter 1 Review: A Murder Mystery That Ties Itself Up in...

Gaanth Chapter 1 Review: A Murder Mystery That Ties Itself Up in Knots

Rahul Desai

Director: Kanishk Verma

Writers: Soham Bhattacharyya, Fahim Irshad, Anagh Mukherjee

Cast: Manav Vij, Monica Panwar, Saloni Batra

Number of Episodes: 8

Streaming on: JioCinema

I’ve never watched a crime drama so long and grasped so little. Gaanth Chapter 1: Jamnaa Paar is the sort of series that’s so desperate to be ‘high-brow’ entertainment like Paatal Lok, Delhi Crime and Kohraa that it ties itself in knots. Ambition and a mouthful of a title aside, it doesn’t have the temperament or technique to construct a slow-burning investigative thriller. The director, Kanishk Verma (Sanak, Inside Edge 3), comes from a mainstream space. There are some telltale signs. For instance, the protagonist (Manav Vij) is a troubled Sikh policeman named ‘Gadar’ Singh, a Sunny Deol-sized ode to anger issues. I half-expected a hand-pump to be a plot point. The co-protagonist, Sakshi Murmu (Monica Panwar), is a psychiatric intern with Savant syndrome whose genius is depicted through that age-old floating-numbers visual. She is bullied by mean-girl-styled colleagues (“that psycho!”) at the hospital for being a lower-caste quota selection. Gadar’s backstory is sad-piano sad; he has an annoying daughter who starts every sentence with a cutesy “Papaaa” like a Nineties’ child artist. There’s a commissioner who is sinister because he eats samosas and spring rolls with a fork and knife. You get the gist.

Chaotic Writing

This may sound like nitpicking, but it says a lot about the tonal disparity between what the eight-episode show thinks it is and what it actually is. In fact, even its ambition is a bit flawed. At first, Gaanth looks like yet another middling plunge into the Burari death case canon after Netflix’s House of Secrets and Hotstar’s Aakhri Sach. A suspended cop is summoned back to lead an investigation that starts with that infamous image of 11 hanging bodies in an East Delhi flat. The initial suspicion is a ritual mass suicide. The family diary and ambiguous flashbacks point to a shared psychosis, led by a son who was distressed after the patriarch’s demise. The pipes protruding from the walls are creepy. So far, so true. But then the series starts to exploit the real-life incident to cast a more conventional net over the mystery. It’s not an adaptation of the truth; it’s an opportunistic milking of it. At some level, it feels like historical revisionism for the sake of popular entertainment. I don’t think the intent is bad, but the gaze leaves a lot to be desired. 

The writing goes in every direction possible – and hence goes nowhere. I will use question marks after the exceptionally surreal elements here. A surviving child who keeps getting trauma seizures. A shadowy black-hooded figure who behaves like they’re in a Mohit Suri movie? A PG room with a peeping tom. A domestic-help angle that critiques the Islamophobia of the police, media and society in general. A half-baked caste angle. A graveyard with an upside-down sadhu? A woman cop (Saloni Batra, in an anti-Soni role) who’s somehow active and passive at once. A senior doctor who speaks like a college girl and becomes Sakshi’s sidekick (in one of the many poorly worded exchanges, she calls her Savant syndrome a ‘sensory tsunami’)? A weird period twist that feels like a budget Da Vinci Code riff. A silver-tongued reporter who has tongue cancer? A severed head in a water tank. A nurse killing patients by injecting water bubbles into their blood? A systemic conspiracy against an incompetent cop (at one point, his daughter’s birthday party guests look at him in disgust and leave when they see a primetime telecast questioning his integrity – who the heck watches the news at a 7-year-old’s birthday?). 

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