A large number of Hindi films have been shot in London till date and majority of them have shown the brighter, glamorous side of the city. London has been used as a backdrop of several popular and some forgettable romantic films. Yes, a couple of thrillers, too, have been shot here. But, none of these films have portrayed London in the manner in which the makers of ‘London Files’, the new series on Voot Select, have projected the city. While one is not sure the extent to which real-life incidents have used as a base for the narrative of this show, its USP lies in the fact that it shows a dark, grim part of the city which most of its viewers would not be familiar with.
The series starts off by offering one a glimpse of the happy and content life detective Om Singh (Arjun Rampal) leads in London in the comfort of his family and friends. We see an elaborate birthday party being planned for a character and then, something happens that turns Om’s life upside down. To know what exactly happened, one has to wait for a while as the story cuts back to the present where the senior detective is trying to trace a young college student named Maya Roy (Medha Rana) who has gone missing. Maya happens to be the daughter of Amar Roy (Purab Kohli), a London based media tycoon whose life is mired in endless controversies. One of the things Roy is known for is pushing an anti-immigration bill that has been the subject of many TV debates and protests organized across the city. As Om starts collecting clues that would lead him to Maya, he realizes the case he is working on has a direct connection with a past incident that changed his life forever.
The six-episode series moves at a good pace and does not offer too many dull moments. Each of the episodes is around 30 minutes long and offers you a lot to be invested in. The second episode ends with a shocking revelation and then, most of the episodes conclude with a cliff-hanger that makes you look forward to the proceedings of the next episode. The way Om’s past is unravelled is very interesting. You feel the pain he has endured and as a viewer, you wonder what could have caused a key character in the show to make certain decisions. The third episode, in particular, solidifies the connection between the past and the present and compels the audience to work towards joining the dots.
On the downside, some of the familiar tropes used to make the narrative more engaging fall flat. Some of the twists have not been incorporated very smartly and that hampers the narrative. Some of the tropes, however, have been used rather well. We have seen cops, trying to navigate through a case in the recent while dealing with the demons of his past, in countless films and shows. However, in this series, this particular narrative tool has been used rather imaginatively. The character of the detective has been etched out very well and his backstory has been developed quite nicely too. While his sharp mind will make you connect with him instantly, his troubled past will make you empathize with him.
The screenplay, written by Prateek Payodhi, is not without its flaws but manages to engage you. The editing (Parikshhit Jha) is sharp. The grimness of London, as portrayed in the show, has been captured very well by the lens of cinematographer Arun Kumar Pandey. While the Sneha Kanwalkar’s background score is impressive, the songs composed by her, too, linger in your mind. In episode 4, watch out for a beautiful melody in the form of ‘Dhuaan Dhuaan’ that has been rendered by Papon. Another memorable song is ‘Hai Khaas Yeh Roshni’ which features in the sixth episode. Both the songs have been written by Gopal Datt who plays the antagonist in the show.
In Detective Om Singh, Arjun Rampal gets one of the best roles of his career. He brings in the kind of intensity that was required for the character and delivers a good performance. Purab Kohli gets ample scope to perform and does very well. Gopal Datt, as always, leaves a mark with his acting. However, his character has not been developed as well as it should have been. Medha Rana has a good screen presence and shows a lot of promise as an actor. Sapna Pabbi, who looks too young to play the mother of a teenager, gets limited scope.
One of the strengths of ‘London Files’ is the fact that it explores a subject that has not been taken up by many filmmakers in the past. Though the narrative goes through several familiar paths, the show offers enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. In the next season, one hopes detective Om Singh faces a mightier opponent.