People who were getting slightly perturbed by the images of human beings(and other kinds of living being) getting slashed, beaten up and different kind of violent activities being conducted in shows and films on digital streaming platforms, were quite intrigued to see a fiction show arriving on a leading OTT platform which was touted to be a musical drama. What excited one further was the fact that the soundtrack was put together by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who happen to be one (or three) of the most sought after music directors in the Hindi film industry. This is, perhaps, the first time the trio have composed music for a long-format series in the digital space. The album released last week and it is, arguably, the best Hindi (film/non-film) soundtracks in a long time. Does the narrative turns out to be as exciting as the music weaved around it? Let’s find out.
Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik) might have inherited music from his grandfather Pandit Radhemohan Rathod (Naseeruddin Shah), who happens to be a ‘sangeet samrat’ but his passion for music is the kind that would have been ignited even if he was not from a family that boasts of a rich and long-standing legacy in music. Radhe, just like his grandfather, wants to devote his life to music but reluctantly, takes up the job of a staff member in a hotel in the city. Soon enough, Tamanna (Shreya Chaudhary), a pop sensation enters his life and coaxes him into collaborating with her on a song. They team up as a singing duo under the name ‘Bandish Bandits’.
The first episode opens with Pandit Radhemohan Rathod going about his daily routine which largely revolves around music and teaching a bunch of carefully picked young disciples who wish to learn from him. “Yahaan sangeet ki saadhna hoti hai, sirf shauq poora karna ho toh yahaan aane ki zaroorat nahin hai”, he reprimands a young disciple, who he feels is not dedicated enough, and asks him not to attend his sessions henceforth. As you watch the story unfold in the subsequent episodes, you realize the seemingly single-tone character has several layers to it. The same can be said about most of the characters in the show, including the ones which do not have a very elaborate arc. Every character adds a lot of weight to the show and that is one of the major strengths of the show.
The first episode, which has a duration of around 47 minutes, packs a solid punch. You are introduced to a bunch of well etched-out characters and the screenplay has enough meat to keep you engrossed and invested in every scene. Music, of course, plays a huge role in the first episode itself. From the opening credits which feature a rousing folk number sung by Mame Khan to a Jonita Gandhi number which gives a glimpse of the solid performer Tamanna is, the songs play an integral role in taking the narrative forward. A lot is being said or narrated in the first five episodes which also reflects in the fact that the following episodes, barring the finale, are 30-35 minutes long. In fact, while watching the fifth episode, you wonder whether the makers would be able to justify the inclusion of the remaining five episodes. The good news is that they do but the narrative does feel stretched at certain points while watching these five particular episodes and you wonder whether limiting the episodes to, say, eight would have made for a more crisper narrative.
What did need a bid of a build-up, though, was the development of a romantic relationship between Tamanna and Radhe. From ‘role-playing’ to create inspiring music to developing feelings for each other for real – the transition does not come across as very smooth. These are, however, minor aberrations in a show that seldom offers a dull moment.
Ritwik Bhowmik looks the part and understands the nuances of the character he is playing very well. As a young man, who grows up in a restrictive environment and is mature beyond his years, he delivers a supremely confident performance. Shreya Chaudhry brings the spunk and vulnerability of Tamanna wonderfully to the fore. She has a great screen presence and lights up every frame she appears in. After all these years, one is still amazed to see the kind of skills Naseerudddin Shah displays whenever he dons a new avatar on the screen. His transition from being a man who makes his own rules and abides by them to being somebody who owns up to his flaws is incredible. Kunaal Roy Kapur brings in the laughs as Arghya, the music video director. Here is an actor who needs to be seen more. Amit Mistry (in top form as Devendra) is another actor who has been vastly under-utilised. Atul Kulkarni brings out the pain and vulnerability in Digvijay in a wonderfully subtle and dignified manner. Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, Rituraj Singh and Shashi Kiran deliver competent performances.
The show has been created by Anand Tiwari (‘Love Per Square Foot’) and Amritpal Bindra (‘Babboo Ki Jawaani’; unreleased). The duo have hit shows to their credit like ‘Official Chukyagiri’ . Anand, apart from being the co-creator, has directed the show and one sees a huge growth in him as a storyteller from the time he directed his first feature-length film which was just a couple of years back. The screenplay weaves in a mélange of emotions dexterously and most of the moments, some predictable and some which surprise, offer comfort.
‘Bandish Bandits’ is a neatly packaged show that has a good mix of drama, romance and great music. It is the most fun I have had watching a show in the digital streaming space.