Hostages Season 2 review: This racy Disney+ Hotstar show is hit-or-miss, but the twists and turns may hold you captive
Hostages is the sort of show that takes generous liberties with logic and possibilities, but that hardly comes in the way of you moving to the next episode.
First, quick claps for Applause Entertainment, which has been regularly churning out well-produced, fairly binge-able Indian original shows (in Hindi) across streaming platforms over the last couple of years. After the recent Avrodh: The Siege Within on SonyLIV – a fictionalised take on the Uri attacks and the subsequent ‘surgical strike’ – Applause’s latest offering is the second season of Hostages, a largely faithful adaptation of the Israeli show of the same name.
Both shows mentioned above, and indeed some of Applause’s prior presentations – such as Tigmanshu Dhulia’s stab at a Criminal Justice adaptation and Nagesh Kukunoor’s City of Dreams – make for decent binge viewing, even if the writing or execution leave you underwhelmed once in a while. (Indian streaming shows are still in their infancy, so hopefully these will evolve soon enough.)
Make no mistake, Hostages is the sort of show that takes generous liberties with logic and possibilities, but that hardly comes in the way of you moving to the next episode. They have mastered the art of keeping you interested one way or the other. Season 1 saw an ordinary family’s life get upended when a group of masked kidnappers hold them hostage within their own house, as a murky game unfolds. Helmed by veteran director Sudhir Mishra, the season was a twitchy cat-and-mouse game between Dr Mira Anand and Prithvi Singh, played by the dependable Tisca Chopra and Ronit Bose Roy respectively.
A rapidly unfolding back-story of the hostage situation (with a case of undocumented rape from decades ago, among plenty of other layers) held the tense moments together, as you were potentially invested in both sides – the hostages as well as the kidnappers. Both were pawns of circumstances around them. The moral dilemma was tantalising, a big politician’s life was at stake. And with conspiracies and betrayals at every turn, plans never quite seemed to go to well. The brisk pace was an added bonus, never mind any cringe moments the show offered you. (Ultimately, there were too many close calls and crunch situations for one to take seriously all the way to the end.)
The Dr Mira & Family track found closure in season 1, but the show still picks up almost exactly where it left off, because there is an even larger plot at play. This leads to yet another hostage situation for Prithvi and his crew, this time in a dilapidated, abandoned, Independence-era bungalow as the setting for the drama.
Season 2 amps up proceedings significantly, with a slew of familiar faces and big names joining the scaled-up production. Ronit Roy’s supercop-turned-hostage-situation-creator Prithvi Singh remains the anchor of the show, while Divya Dutta joins proceedings as ace hostage negotiator Ayesha Khan.
Shweta Basu Prasad plays a young intelligence officer who discovers a trail, and chases after it with gusto, her character quite similar in personality to her turn in The Tashkent Files. Web shows have given a new lease of life to good-looking non-actors, so Dino Morea gets to smoulder and preen as the mysterious bad guy, a foot soldier for the shadowy folks pulling the strings.
A number of little offshoot tracks tie in to the main story. In fact, there are little back-stories all over the place. Prasad is sexually harassed by her senior at work; a minor, almost unnecessary, character reminisces about his son and broken family while in captivity; new characters appear late in the season; there is even an elaborate angle involving geopolitical relations with Bangladesh.
It is all meant to add some texture to the show, and they are all hit-and-miss, depending on how much you are willing to indulge them. I thoroughly enjoyed Kanwaljit Singh’s turn as the dignified Anti Terrorism Squad chief who is never in control of the situation. He seems awkward with abuses, but the actor always had an endearing presence. (Of course, feminism-dissing or casual queer-phobia tend to pop up in small talk for no apparent reason, to the point that you want to woke someone up.)
If you are interested in anything, it is the main plot. The show never lets you forget its title, with hostages becoming the currency that moves the plot forward. So over and above the main hostage situation, the various sides resort to taking other people hostage at multiple points through the season. As usual, episodes end on intriguing hooks, even if the journey towards an episode climax is uneven. (If all else fails, you can always get a hacker into the mix to keep the story moving.)
My favourite bits of this season were the moments when Roy’s ex-cop Prithvi comes up against Dutta’s negotiator Ayesha – you expect sparks to fly. Unfortunately, though the two experienced actors make every such scene worthwhile, there are just too few of them to savour thoroughly. As a result of all the threads the writers attempt to explore, the plot is in perpetual motion. Still, the 12-episode season could easily have been a couple of episodes shorter, with a sharper focus on the main plot.
Sudhir Mishra is credited as ‘Series Director’ this time round, with individual episodes being shot and directed by Sachin Krishn, who has largely done a decent job, particularly as cinematographer. The high key backlight technique – often overdone these days to make something look instantly eye-catching – works well in this show for depicting proceedings inside the dim, crumbling mansion. (Personally though, I would pick a grimy, realistic frame from Delhi Crime or Paatal Lok over the glossy Hostages look any day.)
New Hindi original shows always pique my interest, because of the immense possibilities in the space. Few turn out as good as Made in Heaven or Paatal Lok, so it is hard to recommend too many of them. With language no longer a barrier, and the gigantic collections to choose from, most Hindi originals can be safely skipped. And Hostages is no exception. But for some quick bingeing, and now with two breezy seasons to take up your time, the Disney+ Hotstar show might just hold you captive for a weekend or so.
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