Sunday, July 16, 2023

Kohrra is a multi-layered, taut thriller that dares to unravel a web of complexities

Relationships can be complex but with a murder in the mix, the lines get blurred and the pursuit of truth gets harder. Directed by Randeep Jha and created by Gunjit Chopra, Diggi Sisodia and Sudip Sharma of ‘Paatal Lok’ fame under the banner of Clean Slate Filmz Productions, Netflix’s new series Kohrra is not only different but a cut above the rest. Set in the heartland of Punjab and steeped in suspense, this engrossing new show unspools messy relationships due to a violent murder, and the impact of grief, mutual suspicion and hidden secrets of the characters.

Exploring the ‘deceit, secrets and the dramas of dysfunctional families, as well as running a parallel storyline of tracking down a killer vis-à-vis navigating love and relationships; Kohrra kicks off with the discovery of a murdered NRI man just before his wedding. The victim is Paul (Vishal Handa) an expat, who had arrived with his childhood friend Liam Murphy (Ivanty Novak) – a British national, in this small town of Jagrana to wed Veera (Anand Priya). It’s an arranged match, leaving at least one deeply aggrieved soul – Veera’s boyfriend Saakar (Saurav Khurana). The murdered victim, Paul, who is found to have had his throat slit and his head bashed by a rock, invites speculation about multiple perpetrators. To add to the mystery, Liam goes missing after the crime leaving a trail of Kohrra, or fog, hanging over the crime scene.

Two local cops Balbir Singh (Suvinder Vicky) a veteran and his young subordinate (Barun Sobti) start the investigation even as their crumbling personal lives are entangled in a labyrinth of complex truths. While Balbir has a dysfunctional relationship with his daughter Nimrat (Harleen Sethi), Garundi is trapped in a peculiar situation in his own household. He desperately wants to get married before he crosses the marriageable age, whereas Balbir, in particular, yearns for succour, which he finds through Indira (Ekavali Khanna). As the story and the investigation progresses, there are many clues that misleads or distracts from a relevant question leading to dead ends.

As multiple characters act shady hiding behind multiple layers of deceit and lies, they also threaten to reveal simmering secrets putting into motion an unswerving revelation, that's more inevitable than predictable. By the end, the Kohrra lifts not only to reveal the mystery of the murder, but also to clear the fog in their minds, the fog in their lives as well as the fog in their relationships. Many a times, the answer probably lies just right ahead of us but we are not able to see because of the fog that clouds our mind or the fog that we bring into our relationships.

Kohrra is not just a show about the mystery of the murder or the actual truth, but how a story of police investigation touches various aspect of society. A masterful exploration of human nature, depicting the darkness within’, their search for justice becomes intertwined with the politics of interpersonal relationships, male ego, childhood trauma, unrequited love and passion, hidden sexual identities, buried shame, family enmity, and, of course, the over-weaning patriarchy. It's a familiar journey, one where the issues are there for everyone to see, but is brushed under the carpet all the time. However, Kohrra in its exploration of the grey areas of fraught relationships, dares to asks questions making the series a thought-provoking exploration of society and its issues. It not only wipes it clean to show you a whole different world but isn’t afraid to also stare at the sun.

A masterclass in narrative and character development, the layered structure of the series brings forth stories of many broken relationships and unaddressed traumas. Suvinder Vicky as tan ageing policeman Balbir Singh and Barun Sobti as the restless young cop Amarpal Garundi, steal the show with their exceptional and brilliant performances. One of the finest scenes of the duo is when Balbir Singh asks Garundi in drunken stupor “You know what the tragedy of our Punjab is?” and then proceeds to answer it himself- “Our inability to confront the truth.” The two policemen are poles apart as individuals but often get together over late-night drinks for a series of soul-baring sessions, sharing their fears and doubts about life and work. But the experience makes them more alive and wide-awake than they have been in their lives. In another scene, Garundi declares to Balbir, half-drunk, “It’s strange how we don’t understand our own families over a lifetime.” Kohrra is masterful story that somewhat wipes that mist clean. The choice to look at what it reveals, however, remains ours.

Not only the scripting, direction and production values are top notch, but the cast is also one of the show's principal strengths. If Suvinder Vicky impresses with his controlled acting, Barun Sobti is brilliant, spontaneous and versatile as ever as he was as in Asur or Halahal. The script also gives ample scope to the supporting cast to explore their characters. If Varun Badola and Manish Chaudhuri are excellent as unruly patriarchs, Rachel Shelley and Harleen Sethi make their presence felt with some really great performance. Saurav Khurana as Saakar gives his best shot in the series in jail, when he gets bail. However, a one scene wonder was the truck driver's wife when she expectantly asks Garundi if he is married. That one particular scene remains with the audiences.

One of the best Indian web series in recent times, Kohrra may not have the same intense energy as ‘Paatal Lok’, but is deeply moving. Showing many facets of a society and opening up a window onto all things Punjab: migration, feudal skirmishes, drugs, consumerism; it proves that conventional star power is a dispensable commodity when the script is allowed to take precedence over everything else.

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