City Of Dreams review: Nagesh Kukunoor's interminable Hotstar series is riddled with gangster genre cliches
City of Dreams hits its stride only by episode 4 when the battle lines begin to take shape. Like Criminal Justice, it is longer than necessary.
After the clumsy assassination attempt on his life, Ameya Rao Gaekwad and his family should have immediately sacked his incompetent security team. In the opening scene, the politician is enjoying a paan when a wobbly scooter approaches. The guard has enough time to ‘secure the perimeter’ but all he does is watch from the car window until three bullets perforate Gaekwad.
Set in the volatile world of Maharastra state politics, director Nagesh Kukunoor’s 10-part web series travels into the backrooms where puppeteers and kingmakers control the brokering and the optics that make or break political careers.
The show unfolds between the shooting and a crucial rally at which the mantle of the party is to be passed on. While Gaekwad (Atul Kulkarni) lies comatose in a hospital bed, the contest for the rightful heir to his legacy comes down to his two children — the astute and measured but suppressed Poornima and the entitled, hedonistic and ruthless Ashish.
In spite of the oft-season and standard character traits, Siddharth Chandekar and Priya Bapat skilfully bring nuances and emotional gradients to Ashish and Poornima respectively. Themes of discrimination based on gender, misogyny and horse-trading are woven in well, but cannot make up for the predictability.
While this is the crux of the drama, there are side-plots like a commercial sex worker and her unexpected saviour, a tainted encounter specialist itching to get back in the game, and an accountant with a kinky secret.
The cast also includes Eijaz Khan as Wasim, the cop who shoots first and thinks later, Uday Tikekar as Gaekwad’s trusted right hand Jiten bhai, Sachin Pilgaonkar as the shifty Chief Minister Jagdish Gurav, Amrita Bagchi as Katrina, Vishwas Kini as her knight in not-so-shiny armour, and Sandip Kulkarni as the dutiful accountant Purushottam.
The tropes of gangster-style politics and snapshots of Mumbai’s underbelly are intact in this series written by Kukunoor and Rohit Banawlikar, that depends on dialogue and one-on-one conversations more than cinematic crafting. Smoking is a symbol of ‘boldness’, and guns and expletives are used indiscriminately.
Like the other Hotstar show Criminal Justice, City of Dreams is also longer than necessary. In fact, the show hits its stride only by episode 4 when the battle lines begin to take shape.
In the absence of a tight script and edit (several scenes feel dispensable), with a tentative focus on gender politics, and in need of a more imaginative sweep, City of Dreams staggers to the finish.
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