The word ‘Betaal’ means the devil. For the lovers of the Indian folk tale ‘Vikram and Betaal’, the stories that the Betaal told king Vikramaditya, hanging on his shoulders, were mesmerizing. These tales often had the stories of valour, intelligence and sacrifices. The word ‘Betaal’ also has another meaning – Out of rhythm. Unfortunately, the Red Chillies Entertainment and Blumhouse, an international production house responsible for horror flicks like ‘Paranormal Activity’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Purge’, backed Netflix show falls into this trap only. An interesting story, which could’ve been a game-changer for the horror genre, gets reduced to a gimmick of a show. Whether it was intentional to limit it to a four-episode mini-series or it was the handiwork of an overzealous editor, nobody knows! But it’s quite evident, that the meaty content got chopped off at the editing table, resulting in half fleshed stories and characters.

An elite military unit, led by commander Vikram Sirohi, is tasked to sanitize a Naxal infested area, for opening up a British made tunnel and connect it to the modern world. Upon reaching the place, they encounter a group of villagers guarding the tunnel and asking them not to open it, for it harbours an evil spirit. The military unit forces their way through the tunnel and gets attacked by an army of the undead, led by the spirit of an evil British commander. Rest of the story forms the crux of how the commander deals with the undead.

The series begins with a lot of promise. I’m sure the story on paper must’ve been quite decent. It talks about the privatization of military, fake news, post-mission traumatic stress among the army men among others. The lead characters have a backstory which’s never discussed at large. In fact, if these could’ve been portrayed taking a couple of more episodes, the series would’ve been way better. In an attempt to show the events that occur within 24 hours, the makers seem to have edited off many sequences, which could’ve fleshed out the storyline a little better, giving it some more authenticity.

Among actors, Suchitra Pillai and Ahana Kumra show promise. Vineet Kumar comes as earnest as one could but fails to impress. He’s a great actor yet looks completely out of place here. Jitendra Joshi, who was in a great form in ‘Sacred Games’ has been made a caricaturish token bad guy. Director Patrick Graham, who’s also credited for another Netflix horror show ‘Ghoul’, fails to scare. The writing is poor and it reflects in the show. The dialogues are unnecessarily funny at times. At one point of time, an officer while shooting at the undead zombies proclaims that the British had the audacity of stealing the country’s riches, now they’ve gone a step ahead, stealing the country’s ghosts as well! The series ends with a twist where the entire country seems to be under a zombie apocalypse.

Time to do a hard Brexit then!

 

The Cinemawala Rating- 2/5

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