If all the worst forms of violence could be ranked, riots would have easily sat on top of it. History has been a mute witness to countless riots that have engulfed many lives. Riots usually occur in the form of a reaction to a certain event. It could be a conflict between ethnic groups or a grievance to certain government policies that is detrimental to a specific group of people. Whatever may be the cause, it’s usually innocent people who lose their properties and lives, to a frenzied mob. Based on the infamous riots against the Sikh community that occurred in the aftermath of the assassination of the-then Prime minister Indira Gandhi, Disney Hotstar’s new show ‘Grahan’, explores the mind of a rioter. Adapted from author Satya Vyas’s book ‘Chaurasi’, a story of love and betrayal that tells you how heinous politics can become that it goes to destroy lives for its gain.

‘Grahan’ begins in 2016 in Patna, where a reporter is immolated in front of a newly onboarded IPS officer. Her efforts to bring the accused to justice goes in vain due to political interference as she’s removed from the case and put into the team looking into an old riot case against Sikhs in 1984 in the town of Bokaro. As part of her investigation, she stumbles upon an old picture of a rioter that resembles her father! After failing to get any information from her father about his involvement in the riots, she continues her investigation, albeit with a troubled mind, whereas her father, seemingly hiding darker secrets in his heart, goes back reminiscing the pages of his darker past. Going back and forth between the two timelines, ‘Grahan’ puts together the chain of events that became the crux of the fateful night when everything went wrong. 

The anti-Sikh pogrom is one of the shameful events of our country. Countless eyewitnesses and shreds of evidence point fingers towards the apathy of the government and the involvement of the then ruling party members in the genocide. ‘Grahan’ very effectively highlights these two. Political mileage and personal gain become the primary motives of people, who then unleash hell on innocents, on the pretext of blind justice. The show also goes deep inside the mind of a rioter. It explores why a meek person, suddenly gets into a blood lust and becomes a killer. Blending subtlety along with the main topic, the show also touches the raw nerves of casteism that’s still so prevalent in the 21st century. Well written and well researched, ‘Grahan’ finds its place between films like ‘Parzaniya’ (2007), ‘Firaaq’ (2008) and ‘Tamas’ (1988) for its authenticity. For that credit solely goes to the writing team of ‘Grahan’ and the director Ranjan Chandel.

Other than the core theme of riots, the show works primarily because of exquisite chemistry between the leads i.e. Anshuman Pushkar who plays the young Rishi Ranjan and Wamiqa Gabbi who plays the young Manu. A charming, young soulful love that gets engulfed into the ugly inferno of politics, would break the heart of the viewers with its eventual calamity. Anshuman and Wamiqa Gabbi play the star crossed lovers so wonderfully that you automatically root for them, despite knowing that they’re not meant to be together. The old school romance between the two leads, adorned with the music by Amit Trivedi heightens the mood almost immediately. Varun Grover literally pierces the heart with his lyrics of ‘O Jogiya’ and ‘Chori Chori’. From the rest of the leading cast, Zoya Hussain gets the meatier part of the IPS officer and does well, though she could have done much better considering the predicament of her character. Pawan Malhotra who plays the older Rishi Ranjan displays his authority as a seasoned actor, as he gets immersed into the character of a man living with an explosive secret in his heart. It’s a treat to watch him playing this role with so many nuances. He brings in his A-game into the act of a desperate man whose murkier past threatens to destroy his present. From the ensemble cast, Tikam Joshi, Satyakam Anand and Saharsh Kumar Shukla are brilliant in their respective characters.

Do watch ‘Grahan’. It’s a poignant tale of love, betrayal and repentance. It tells you that each crime that is committed, gets its due in time. It’s a reminder of the fact that karma, indeed is a bitch. 

P.S – There is a wonderful ode to ‘Veer-Zaara’ (2005) in the show. Do check it out!

All 8 episodes of ‘Grahan’ are now streaming on Disney Hotstar. Each episode runs between 40-50 mins. Rated adult for violence and strong language. 

The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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