How do you feel as a viewer when the storyline is interesting and you want to know what happens next, but the narrative is patchy and performances uneven? It hurts, and this is what happened to me when I watched Grahan. By all means, this web series boasts of one of the most interesting stories to be told. Based on the novel Chaurasi written by Satya Vyas, this one has its setting in the 1984 riots. However, what makes it different is the fact that it is based out of Bihar and Jharkhand (instead of Punjab) and tells the tale of what happened there.
Grahan starts with a bang. A reporter has a major scoop in hand and while he wants to hand it over to the right people, he is kidnapped by the goons and eventually murdered. What makes it all the more heartbreaking is the fact that this happens right in front of IPS officer Zoya Hussain who rushes to the spot, only to find the man engulfed in a ball of fire. Even as she begins to investigate the killing, there are a lot of events that start happening around her, which involves her superiors, Chief Minister, opposition leaders, her colleagues and a lost mother.
However, what ties it all is the man at the center of affairs, her father [Pawan Malhotra]. There is past and present connected to his character even as it is revealed (no spoilers here) that he was the mastermind of the anti-Sikh riots that had taken place in Bihar back in 1984. Director Ranjan Chandel takes the story back and forth in time with the younger self of Pawan Malhotra [enacted by Anshuman Pushkar] comes to the forefront even as his love story with a Sikh girl [Wamiqa Gabbi] is revealed. As it turns out, he is the man who burnt down her house!
While this intrigue sets the base for Grahan, the trouble lies in the first two episodes which test your patience. A major reason for that is the slow treatment by Ranjan as well as the production values which are akin to that which one used to see in Doordarshan serials back in the 80s. Though outdoor scenes are still decent, the ones shot indoors are practically ‘on your face’ due to excessive use of close-ups. In fact the entire set design too is below par and that’s truly jarring.
However, around the third episode it’s the story that starts catching up with you, and the flashback sequences involving Anshuman and Wamiqa (who have the lengthiest part to play in Grahan) really win you over. The antagonist [Teekam Joshi] also starts showing his true color and by the mid-point of Grahan, you are truly hooked. This is the time in the narrative when sequences featuring the riots begin to arrive and that truly send a shiver down the spine.
Things do keep moving forward well and though there are interruptions in the excitement level here too, you still go with the flow. The prime contributor towards that is the manner in which black and white starts taking the shape of grey and you are truly invested in the storyline. Of course, indoor visuals are still a sore sight, and even the performances are patchy (Zoya too is impressive at some point and dull at few, whereas Pawan Malhotra – who has the least screen time amongst all – holds his expressions for so long that it tests your patience at times).
Nonetheless, one has good hopes from the climax and while it is shocking for sure with some revelations been made that you couldn’t see coming, how one wishes that the execution too was equally hard-hitting. Yet again, with the limited framing that Grahan carries, the finale doesn’t quite hit you like ton of bricks, though you do feel for the characters and what they went through.
If your idea of catching up a web series is to experience a wonderful storyline and you aren’t as concerned about the visuals, then do watch Grahan.