Dahan crams too many ideas into one story but is never not intriguing

Dahan is a supernatural mystery that will always have your attention, even if it throws far too many ideas and sub-plots into the mixer.

Manik Sharma September 16, 2022 12:18:30 IST
Dahan crams too many ideas into one story but is never not intriguing

Dahan

In a scene from Disney+Hotstar’s Dahan, Bhairo Singh, played by Mukesh Tiwari, tells a local landlord of his ilk “Shilaspura mein apne saare mar chuke hain”. Singh bemoans the treatment of ‘his people’ in a town where historic clans are embroiled in an age-old conflict. It’s also a scene that is enacted well in a series brimming with so many ideas that by the end it indulges far too many for its own good. There are eerie caves, ghosts, greedy corporates, occult practices, zombies, teenage drug-addicts and so much more. Dahan is never not interesting, and even though it builds mystery over mystery with modest control, the sum total of all these ideas neither settles for a rhythm, nor does it fail to entertain.

Dahan follows IAS Avani Raut, played by Tisca Chopra, who takes up a dicey case in Shilaspura, a small town in Rajasthan besotted by what seems like mythological hokum. A wealthy corporate company wants to mine an area that is considered sacred by the locals and is protected by the local priest Pramukh (Saurabh Shukla). Raut arrives, with the baggage of her late husband’s mysterious death and a teenage son who is both naive and rambunctious. In one scene he bribes a ticket collector twice of what he asks, for the heck of it. Raut’s duty, as most bureaucratic duties entail is to make way for the contested site’s calm takeover by the corporates. The environmental hazards of such a move are never quite explored. Disaster, however, befalls the site however when Raut forces an inauguration.

It’s hard to describe the direction Dahan takes because there are frankly so many sub-plots that it makes this sprawling show both a bit of inspired genius and a bit of a mess at the same time. A group of misguided youngsters that Raut’s son befriends push forward a thread of the story, while she deals with her own demons on the go. Subsequently, there is also the mysterious history of the place, at times fascinating and at times ludicrously elaborate in the way it is argued. A survivor from the day of the inauguration, for example, becomes possessed, thrusting a needles zombie-ish angle into the story. There is frankly too much happening in a series that has never feels flat but doesn’t quite settle into a rhythm either.

Possibly the most interesting sub-plot of the series concerns the locals and their divided ritual history. Tiwari is colleagues with another policeman, played by the confident Rajesh Tailang who belongs to the ‘other’ group. The word caste is never quite used in the loaded sense that it could have been, but there is enough subtext here to understand what makes Shilaspur a place brimming with envy and hatred. The occult practices, the sexist nature of their origin, all pale in comparison to the poisonous narrative that turns man against man in this town of far too many inconvenient secrets.

Dahan always holds your attention despite some oddly bemusing choices. The story is aided by some good direction and foremost of all, some excellent cinematography. That said, not everything feels fresh and ably created. Raut’s memory of her late husband, for example manifests in the laziest form possible and her trauma itself fails to educate the reality of her choices. Sure there are moments when she’ll walk around disoriented, scream into thin air etc, but it doesn’t amount to the kind of nuance an actress like Chopra can import into this world. The show could have used sturdier anchorage.

The only problem Dahan suffers from is that it has far too many things happening, and far too many threads and digressions to be able to reach a point where the story feels like a coherent mesh. From the troubled mother-son dynamic to the hyperlocal politicking of a place impossible to ascertain one way or the other, the series had ample ground to cover on the surface but instead chooses to tunnel deeper, at times aimlessly. Even these digressions are fascinating in some sense but ultimately draw you away from the core of a story that could have, quite simply been driven by its characters, instead of the randomised, imprecise events that happen one after the other.

Dahan’s revelations can be divisive, but until that point, it holds you by its will to never stick, but perpetually twist. It combines the mystique of the supernatural, local politics, bureaucratic burdens, intimate strife with some acutely relatable teenage angst thrown into the mix. From mutilated bodies to lakes full of dead fish, Dahan attempts the push the envelope and may only be a victim of playing on the front foot all the time. Other than Raut and her son, not many characters are offered the time to embed themselves into the story with anything other than their blatant, uncouth selves. That said, like a good ‘mystery’ series Dahan holds its cards well, even if it wants to over-ambitiously, hold too many at a time.

Manik Sharma writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.

Read all the Latest NewsTrending NewsCricket NewsBollywood NewsIndia News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Updated Date:

also read

Vadh Trailer; Sanjay Mishra, Neena Gupta's film will keep you hooked to your seats
Entertainment

Vadh Trailer; Sanjay Mishra, Neena Gupta's film will keep you hooked to your seats

The trailer has kept us immersed and at the edge of our seats throughout. While we have seen Sanjay Mishra play multiple roles in his career, this is for the first time we will see him go all menace.

Kim Kardashian and Ye reach a settlement in their divorce, averting a trial
Entertainment

Kim Kardashian and Ye reach a settlement in their divorce, averting a trial

The judge declared the two legally single at Kardashian's request in March, ending their eight-year marriage, but issues of property and custody remained that were to be worked out in a trial starting Dec. 14.

Disney and Pixar's Elemental teaser trailer is both endearing and entertaining
Entertainment

Disney and Pixar's Elemental teaser trailer is both endearing and entertaining

An all-new, original feature film set in Element City, where fire-, water-, land- and air-residents live together.