Netflix’s zombie series ‘Betaal’, produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, misses the mark by a mile. Written and directed by Patrick Graham along with Suhani Kanwar and Nikhil Mahajan fails to evoke any sort of tension, fear, or thrill. It all starts with a highway scam and you hope this could be more than a generic zombie series, but it isn’t. Scenes drag forever, the story is daft (British zombies are the culprits) and execution, forgettable. The series fails to create fictional make-believe, scary world. The British zombies in uniform from the pre-independence era look anything but menacing.
Creator – Patrick Graham
Cast – Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra, Jitendra Joshi, Suchitra Pillai
Instead, the curse of Betaal is upon us. Patrick Graham who has written the series along with Suhani Kanwar and directed it along with Nikhil Mahajan tries to harness the imperceptible presence of fear to create a foreboding tone, but all we have are a couple of jump scare moments and a lot of gore.
Average: Production Value
The production value is equally average. Deep forests, archaic tunnels, ancient temples and abandoned Victorian structures can make for a good thriller setting, but not here. It all gives an in-studio feel. Also things are over-explained. For instance, while entering the tunnels, the commandos are told — “night vision chaalu karo.”
There’s a scene in the series where an unethical character actually negotiates with a zombie for power and money, hoping the zombie is ethical! Tribals with turmeric powder are more clever than commandos with guns. You wonder how the tribals end up mouthing Mumbaiyya slangs like ‘Lag gayi hum sab ki’.
A special task force named the Baaz Squad, led by a dynamic officer Tyagi (Suchitra Pillai), has been deployed in the interiors of Chhattisgarh to set the area free from the Naxal clutches as the government has given a go-ahead for a highway. The second-in-command Vikram Sirohi (Viineet Kumar Singh) and his deputy Ahluwalia (Ahana Kumra), along with the team, reach the zero ground to realise that it has more to hide than reveal.
Initially, directors Patrick Graham (Ghoul) and Nikhil Mahajan, want to show Betaal as a cursed tale of tribals and how they have become the guinea pigs for corrupt practices in the name of developments. In fact, they go to the extent of suggesting a line made of turmeric and ash to stop the evil. It might be a metaphor for homegrown solutions, but it looks absolutely funny the way it appears on the screen.
The absurdities don’t stop there as Tyagi keeps switching between the human and zombie modes without much provocation. Jitendra Joshi’s all-powerful contractor seems as confused as the audience as to where to stop sounding clueless. The attempt to bring magical realism into play does more harm than good, so much so that the only character which makes sense is that of a half-dead British colonel bizarrely whispering ‘come to me’ in Singh’s ears. On second thoughts, that would have been a better option!
Whenever the show tries to add dimensions, it becomes funnier, like the moment anybody starts taking orders from the corrupt seniors, their hair turns white. Who said OTTs treat the audience’s intelligence differently than the traditional films?
Betaal is too shallow for a serious series on capitalist exploitations and very unfunny for a zombie show. Let there be a line made of ash and turmeric around your phones or whatever device you’re planning to watch it on. Oh please give me a break !!!!