Hostages review: Sudhir Mishra's Hotstar show is a series of improbable, unintentionally comedic events

Sonali Kokra

Jun 03, 2019 08:42:18 IST

Give me a week and a few duffel bags full of cash to get the job done and I could probably come up with a better plan to pull off a kidnapping-murder. No, I am not a criminal mastermind.

Hostages, Hotstar’s new original series that dropped on the online streaming platform on 31 May, is just that full of gaping holes in its plot lines and character arcs. Director Sudhir Mishra’s first web outing is less firecracker and more damp squib.

Hostages review: Sudhir Mishras Hotstar show is a series of improbable, unintentionally comedic events

Tisca Chopra in a still from Hostages. YouTube

Which is a pity, because the premise is pretty compelling: Renowned surgeon Dr Mira Anand and her family are taken hostage by four masked terrorists on the eve of a career-defining surgery. The only way to save her family is by agreeing to kill her patient — CM Khushwant Lal Handa — on the operating table. The ring leader of the operation, a former celebrated police officer, Prithvi Singh, assures her that she will walk out of the debacle with her career intact. All she has to do is splash a few drops of an undetectable poison on her scalpel before the start of the surgery and no one will be able to pin the blame on her. But can Mira, a principled and committed surgeon, agree to kill a patient knowingly?

The show is fast-paced and taut, even if the script defies logic and reason, and asks its viewers to take giant leaps of faith. Within the first couple of episodes itself, the characters are well established. Dr Anand (Tisca Chopra) is the unflappable surgeon who holds the family together during the crisis, but has no idea what has been going on under her nose in her own family for a while now. Her husband, Sanjay (Parvin Dabas) is in dire financial straits, having gambled away all their savings and indebted to some pretty dangerous people. Her 18-year-old daughter, Shaina (Malhar Rathod), is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby. Her younger son, Shovan (Sharad Joshi), is a budding hacker who has leaked his school exam papers in the hopes that his girlfriend will be impressed enough to sleep with him. Prithvi Singh (Ronit Roy) has been tasked with ensuring that the plan moves forward, but he clearly has a personal stake in the proceedings. His motley crew of kidnappers — Hyma (Anangsha Biswas), Prince (Surya), and Aman (Aashim Gulati) — are all so distracted by their own emotions and ulterior motives that they find themselves unequal to the task of guarding an unarmed family of four.

Hostages could have been an edge-of-the-seat psychological crime thriller that delves into the fascinating intricacies that impel people to make the decisions and behave in the ways they do. What it is, though, is a collection of increasingly improbable — even unintentionally comedic — events stitched together to create a narrative so implausible, it would make you too impatient to soldier on after the first couple of episodes. It is tough to feel tense or invested in a hostage situation when two of the four hostage-takers are forever sneaking away to find empty rooms to make out or have sex in.

It is not the only time the principal characters display behaviour that completely eludes the understanding of rational people. If your family was being held at gunpoint and you chanced upon a mobile phone that had escaped the notice of your kidnappers, would you use it to call for help or to flirt with your girlfriend? As the kingpin of the operation, if the most important component of your high-profile murder plan — the doctor — suddenly went missing, would you move heaven and earth to locate her, or pop on over for a quick visit with your daughter? Amid the hodge-podge of unbelievable events are sub-plots that involve Aman looking longingly at the pregnant Shaina, and Hyma plotting against Prithvi using Shovan to hack into a hard drive that Prithvi went to great lengths to hide. With the kidnappers so preoccupied with other tasks, Mira manages to hatch and execute an elaborate plan to uncover Prithvi’s identity. All of them waltz in and out of the house with an ease that makes a mockery of the supposedly tense crime setting. By the time you arrive at the cliffhanger that signals the end of the first season, you have probably already connected the dots and have a pretty good idea where the show is headed.

To be fair, Hostages is honest to a fault about sticking to its mandate of being the official Hindi adaptation of a hit Israeli show by the same name. Like the original, the first season of the Hindi iteration is exactly 10 episodes long, each one recreated almost scene for scene, with scarcely any alterations in the dialogue or the screenplay. But while the original was saved from drowning in the absurdities of its script by stellar acting and a determined cast, the Hindi version offers no such respite. For the most part, the actors playing the characters look as unconvinced as the audience feels, and struggle to manufacture the tension the script demands. Tisca tries valiantly to keep Hostages from suffocating owing to its own lack of creativity, but ultimately succumbs.

Every story requires some suspension of disbelief in the interest of jarring twists and unexpected turns. But there is a difference between suspension and absolute annihilation. It is a difference that the makers of Hostages need an urgent crash course in, if the show is to have any hope of being renewed for another season.

Rating: **

Watch the trailer here

Updated Date: Jun 03, 2019 09:23:35 IST