Naxalbari is another in the slew of mediocre web series that ZEE5 has been releasing recently. It doesn’t impress you or appal you, it just leaves you bored.
Naxalbari gets its name from a village in West Bengal where in May 1967, a Maoist uprising was triggered when the police killed nine poor farmers and two children who were fighting for the rights of their land.
The series itself is set in the present day. It follows Raghav Joshi (Rajeev Khandelwal), a celebrated officer in Maharashtra’s Special Task Force, who suffers from anxiety, has a pill problem and is in a live-in relationship with his girlfriend, Ketki (Tina Datta).
When naxals blow up the envoy of a local MLA visiting a forest in Gadchiroli, Raghav and Mohit (Sameer Roy) are put on the case, to bring in the naxals responsible. Binu Atram (Shakti Anand), the leader of the naxals, who, under the guidance of Masterji (Saiesh Panandikar), and with the help of his right-hand aides, Prakruti (Sreejita De) and Pahaan (Satyadeep Mishra), orchestrate the attacks.
Meanwhile, FICA — a group of industrialists led by Jai Sisodia (Bikramjeet Kanwarpal) and his advisor Ambar Keswani (Aamir Ali), is trying to establish a mining plant in the heart of the Naxalite area.
Raghav finds himself trapped in this war between the police, local goons, naxals and politicians.
Rajeev Khandelwal is adequate as Raghav Joshi. The series attempts to ground this cop and not give him almost superhuman powers, like most Bollywood films, and mostly succeeds in its attempt. Khandelwal has the most etched out character is the series and gives a performance according to it.
Shakti Anand plays Binu, the troubled yet menacing leader of the Naxals. He wants to help out his fellow villagers and revolutionaries but finds himself incapable of doing so as his strings are also being pulled by Masterji. Anand gives an excellent performance and is maybe, the only character with some actual depth in the show.
Aamir Ali plays the shrewd genius, Keswani. Ali really tries to come across as cunning or passionate at times but does it in the most routine and impactless way. When he tries to be cunning, he simply sits silently, giving a snide grin and when he’s passionate, he merely wrings his hands and shouts a lot. Ali does the work but never connects.
Sreejita De as Prakruti and Satyadeep Mishra as Pahaan, the two aides of the naxal leader, and Harish Dudhade as Joshi’s junior, have limited screen time but are excellent in their respective roles.
Most of the supporting cast and minor characters in Naxalbari are outright terrible. Almost all background artists with one or two lines of dialogue are awful to the point they shatter the illusion of watching a web series, every time they utter a word.
Naxalbari becomes thrilling and engaging in the last three episodes of its nine-episode run. The protagonists have to rush to their next objectives while new twists and turns are being revealed to the audiences simultaneously.
Most action scenes and effects related to it are done adequately.
The writers of Naxalbari do not pass a judgement on anybody and simply tell the story they wanted to.
Naxalbari’s biggest problem, as with most action web series, is in its writing. The characters are plain stereotypes. They are dull and boring. One character tries to make a statement on “caste, gender discrimination, unequal opportunities and religious wars” but is very juvenile in his attempt. The writers try hard to include any social commentary but when they do, it’s too on the nose and yet very muddled.
The series is also chock full of plotholes. Most characters can solve their situation by simply thinking for a minute. But the director, Partho Mitra feels the need to spell out every little thing for us. Nearly a tenth of the series is just callbacks and flashbacks to previous incidents and episodes. This lack of faith by the director in his audiences make the scenes lose all tension and emotion.
The series also has plenty of twists. Not a single one of them has been set up early in the series or been hinted at. These twists are out of the blue and totally uncharacteristic making them annoying instead of thrilling.
Naxalbari loses all tension it builds in the last few episodes and ends with a dud cliffhanger that one could have care about had the series actually connected.
To top it all off, the editing is also unimpressive. Scenes are stitched together in a haphazard way. It doesn’t even seem like any of the makers watched the series in its entirety as there are quite a few glaring production errors. Many times, it’s evident that some key scenes were removed from the series. Basic visual effects are also abysmal.
Naxalbari is another run of the mill action web series. The show definitely had potential. It tried to tackle the Naxalite issue while addressing the politics surrounding it.
But the hollow execution on each and every single front left a lot to be desired. Watch this if you’re in the mood for a decent police action flick.