Breathe: Into The Shadows review — How much Abhishek Bachchan is too much Abhishek Bachchan?
Abhishek Bachchan is the whole and soul of Amazon Prime series, Breathe: Into The Shadows, which is perhaps why we have 12 long episodes, 50 minutes each.
Abhishek Bachchan is the whole and soul of Amazon Prime series, Breathe: Into The Shadows, which is perhaps why we have 12 long episodes, 50 minutes each, in which he smoulders a whole lot, in different ways: angry smoulder, creepy smoulder, charming smoulder, fatherly smoulder. And all of this smouldering comes in handy, because as we get deeper into the show, the deeper we are getting into Abhishek Bachchan's character. It's all a dramatic labyrinth with Abhishek Bachchan's omnipresent voiceover following you around, telling you a story you want to stop listening to, but just can't, for some bizarre reason.
Speaking of bizarre, Breathe: Into the Shadows has nothing in common with the first season; it's merely a thematic sequel that tries to answer the same question that the first series, starring Madhavan and Amit Sadh among others, also posed: how far will a father go to save his child?
Avinash Sabharwal (Abhishek Bachchan), a well-to-do psychiatrist living in Gurgaon, and his wife Abha (Nithya Menen), who is a chef, find themselves embroiled in a nightmare, as their 6-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The kidnapper approaches the couple a whole nine months later and asks them to carry out a series of murders on his behalf, in order to save their child. The murders seem to have some sort of thematic connection to the mythology of Ravana and the 10 negative emotions that complete him: anger or krodha, lust or hawas, ego or ahankara, fear or bhay, and so on.
Alongside, Inspector Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) continues his run in the second season, wearing the mantle of the one character that will get to the bottom of things, one way or another. Because when there's a serial killer involved, the originally-problematic but eventually-righteous cop always comes to the rescue. Avinash and Kabir get into a cat-and-mouse chase trying to capture and uncover the kidnapper/serial killer, and this chase takes several mind-boggling twists episode 5 onwards.
By mind-boggling I don't mean the kind that stumps you. The mind is truly boggled at the audacity with which the next 7 episodes of Breathe: Into The Shadows function, with an outlandish mix of predictable murder-mystery tropes squeezed into a psychological thriller and garnished with religious symbolism of the fight between good and evil. A psychological condition — that I cannot mention without spoiling The Big Twist; but you may see it coming from episode 1 —has been forced to fit the fictional contours of a plot that just doesn't know where to stop.
Several sub-plots are introduced into the series randomly, only to be abandoned in favour of more screen time with Abhishek Bachchan.
We never find out, for instance, what toll the murders take on Abha and Avinash. Surely, two murders that they conspired and carried out should affect their relationship? The murders are framed from a sensationalist perspective, with no constructive reasoning about how it ties into the serial-killer's larger aim.
Furthermore, the killing and kidnapping is routinely abandoned in favour of backstories and elaborating character arcs. This is done with the help of a terribly executed non-linear narrative. Now normally, digging deep would be a good thing from a writing perspective, but Breathe: Into The Shadows has no definitive direction.
In the middle of all this drama, Kabir Sawant gets back in touch (out of guilt? who knows?) with a wheelchair bound girl, Megha (Plabita Borthakur), who he pushed from a building terrace in a completely different case, and briefly went to jail for. Megha's manic-pixie-dream-girl portrayal is tiring, honestly, and I really struggled to connect with her unnerving enthusiasm about "being happy to be alive." What was the point, really?
As Kabir moves from Mumbai to Delhi in this season, we get a peak into the systemic politics between the two cities as far as the Police is involved. But before we can get into this welcome break in plot — there's even a track involving a female police officer Zeba (Shradha Kaul) who fights for her due in a male-dominated department — we're dragged back to, you guessed it, Abhishek Bachchan.
When Breathe season 1 released in early 2018, the Indian digital content universe was just at its beginning, waiting to burst open with new possibilities. Despite its obvious flaws, the first season brimmed with a new story-telling voice and was extremely watchable. This very universe in 2020 is populated with all kinds of stories and genres, pushing the boundaries of what is "watchable." Breathe: Into The Shadows demands too much from the viewer, but doesn't give anything cohesive or authentic back.
The cinematography, background score and pace of editing in Breathe: Into The Shadows all fight for your attention, flaunting technique to cover up for too much indulgence. To their credit, Abhishek Bachchan, Nithya Menen, Amit Sadh and Saiyami Kher perform their parts well, but it is the overall writing that lets them down.
In a bid to be The Next Intelligent Web Show ™, Breathe: Into The Shadows stifles its own potential, by taking itself too seriously and not committing to a unified intent.
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