With Amazon Prime Video continuing and actually, only improving ok its glorious run with Indian content lately, obvious rival and streaming giant Netflix is left way behind in that aspect.
After Paatal Lok being probably the most glorious chapter in Indian web history on Amazon Prime Video; Netflix had its own Indian offering in the form of a zombie horror-thriller Betaal.
Produced by Red Chillies Entertainment starring Viineet Kumar Singh and Aahana Kumra in lead roles, here's what we think about the show.
The premise of the show is amazing as anything can sound in terms of people looking for fresh content. A group of officials (Baaz Squad) are hired to do the dirty work of removing a bunch of tribal inhabitants who are getting in the way of a government project. While the task is rather easy for the squad, what they do not anticipate is unleashing an age-old curse thus resulting in the resurrection of zombies from the British Raj in India and the fight of survival for the officials.
It's fascinating and as original as anyone can get. Barring the current dispute related to the infringement of content from Marathi writers, Betaal manages to achieve moments of brilliance in terms of its design and jump scares.
Having complained about having a decent horror outing in India umpteen times now, Betaal does pull off some novel and genuinely impressive jump scares thus making it a treat for horror lovers indeed. With impeccable sound design, inch-perfect cinematography, and production value, the core agenda of the show is fulfilled.
This is all the more catapulted by staggering acting performances. The ever-reliable Viineet Kumar Singh does a phenomenal job as the leading man of the show and of the squad Vikram Sirohi while Aahana Kumra is impressive as the brash, brave and loyal friend, Ahluwalia. Playing a rather stereotypical 'villain', Jitendra Joshi does his best with the character of Mudhalvan, and Suchitra Pillai is the actor who gets the most layers to portray from being the head of a squad to a possesses woman.
However, the biggest surprise of the lot is indeed Manjari Pupala, who plays Puniya, the tribal woman who comes to the aid of the squad in fighting the evil spirit. Apart from being spot-on with her diction of the tribal language, she is brilliant with her expressions and even scary at instances.
The show is indeed a great addition in the rather bleak book of Indian horror history but still doesn't manage to entirely impress with several flaws. The biggest flaw that the show suffers from is being formulaic. This is all the more disheartening given how fresh the premise is.
Be it the treatment of journalism earlier to the leading character having a back story of facing guilt and a rookie coming in seeing an idol-like figure in the leader to always having that one person who has an issue with the leader - everything is predictable and you know how the fate of these characters will be.
To the show's credit, the final two episodes do manage to blow your mind with horror, scale, and amazement but even then there are moments where you will be left scratching your heads. Having characters utter lines like 'ye goli Bhagat Singh ki' and 'ye hua asli Brexit' are intended for a particular purpose but end up being bizarrely funny.
Even with decent positives going for itself, Betaal isn't the actual winner that Netflix would have wanted. It isn't unwatchable and might in fact be a great watch for horror fans but the overall experience might leave you divides.
Rating- **1/2 (2.5/5)