Laakhon Mein Ek season 2 review: Biswa Kalyan Rath creates a dark, compelling world in Amazon's medical drama
Laakhon Mein Ek streams on Amazon Prime Video from 12 April
"Usko bhi karo bhero mein shaamil, Sheron si jiski ho soch,
Phir ujaale pe par gaya taala, chaabi andhere mein khoj."
(Thrust the one in a herd of sheep; the one with a tiger's mind,
Then the light is locked away, the key in darkness you ought to find)
Comedy is serious business. As cliched as it sounds, it also resounds within the best stand-up sets in business. The second season of comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath’s Laakhon Mein Ek steers clear of the genre which made him the brand that he is today. The eight-episode series means business, more importantly, at a time when India fights to elect her next leader.
Directed by Abhishek Sengupta, Laakhon Mein Ek’s second installment features a dedicated junior doctor, Shreya Pathare (Shweta Tripathi), as she tries to navigate the corrupt, power-hungry and apathetic underbelly of the medical profession.
Surrounding a cataract camp, that the government wants to organise just before elections, the narrative of Laakhon Mein Ek deals with not just medicine. Class differences, gender politics, superstition, and ignorance are neatly peppered with greedy media frenzy to give audiences a grim yet hopeful tale.
Shreya is sent to a remote village of Sitlapur to organise the camp under the instructions of chief medical officer Dr Gopal Patwardhan (Sandeep Mehta). A hard-working, conscientious man, Patwardhan genuinely strives to provide the best for his hospital. But even he is a mere pawn in the hands of political biggies like MLA Abhimanyu Kashikar (Pushkar Jog) and his crony Raja Babu (Suyash Joshi). Harried by the constant demands of the leading as well as opposition political parties, Patwardhan has no choice but to transform into the antagonist by the end of the series.
Tripathi’s character unwillingly goes over to Sitlapur and tries to establish a camp against all possible odds. She not only combats mosquitoes and dim-lighting in her shabby quarters but also battles ignorant and narrow mindsets with her perseverance. She implores the village folk to attend the camp and get themselves treated. Accompanied by a (slightly) enamoured assistant Bhola (Rupesh Tillu), Shreya braves the impossible.
Apart from her rigid colleague Dr Palaash (Shaurya Tyagi), Shreya also faces Jagmohan Vaidya (Ramakant Dayama), a self-proclaimed medicine expert who capitalises on the village’s mistrust of medical science to dole out steroids in the name of cure. Shreya, an idealistic and honest professional, cannot tolerate it and immediately gets Jagmohan dada (as he is fondly known in Sitlapur) arrested. This enrages the people and they demand that she publicly apologise to him and withdraw her complaint.
Just when things seem hopeless and Shreya decides to return to town, a rude accident shoves her into action and she saves a man’s life. The villagers warm up towards her and gradually begin seeing sense in her endeavours.
It is at this juncture that the show truly introduces its main glitch - medical supplies, or its lack thereof. Stuck within a hierarchy of money-hungry political honchos, medical stocks are often scarce at government hospitals. As Patwardhan tries cajoling bosses higher up to initiate processes that will ensure proper supplies, Shreya encounters a black market of medicines.
Initially hesitant, she later turns to illegal procurement after witnessing a child’s death due to the untimely arrival of supplies.
She treads towards setting up the camp and enrolling patients in it. After months of hard work and perseverance, the day arrives. Well above 30 patients are signed on and the doctor begins the back to back surgeries scheduled for day one. Things sail smoothly and Shreya’s crew celebrate at night, only to receive a mid-night phone call about a patient showing symptoms of red eyes and pain. Things fall apart the next morning and the patients are shifted to the town hospital. The media gets involved and names get flashed on news channels. While the patients suffer, the scandal begins attracting protesting crowds and hits headlines.
Within the chaos and desperate whitewashing attempts made by the hospital authorities, almost everyone forgets the innocent, elderly people who lose their eyesight, except one, who ultimately takes the fall for it.
Writers Abhishek, Biswa and Hussain Haidry do a brilliant job in bringing to viewers a story replete with reality checks that ought to anger audiences into realisation or contemplation (whichever the case maybe). Thorough research work into the medical profession and its discrepancies by Sneha Vakharia and Dr Manoj Patki, enriches the story into something which will compel the apathetic to sit up and take notice. The plot somehow transcends the barriers of 'right' and 'wrong' to show people how easy it is to do what ought to be done — easy, but not convenient. A few take the responsibility of an entire structure that is faulty; some mourn the martyrs’ absence while some move on with life.
The show’s cinematography is on point. From the dark, dirty government hospitals to the pretty locales of Sitlapur, Akash Agarwal captures the dreary essence of the story. One of the highlights of the series is its music. Poignant and simple, the tracks complement the narrative perfectly. Advait Nemlekar’s compositions with Majaal’s lyrics bring forth an array of emotions. Sometimes viewers are presented with satirical pieces that take scathing jibes at society and at others, an emotionally riveting melody.
The show's protagonist, Shweta Tripathi, is gradually proving to be an eclectic artiste. She plays Shreya with a determined passion. Quixotic, steadfast and propriety-driven, she is ideal to a fault. Drawing heavy references from Amit V Masurkar’s 2017 masterpiece Newton, Laakhon Mein Ek season 2’s protagonist is a failed hero. Tripathi manages to reflect a sense of vulnerability even at the bravest junctures in the narrative. Her seamless portrayal of the undefeated optimist may well be a reflection of her growth as an actor from her days of Disney's Kya Mast Hai Life.
The "labyrinth of corruption that runs endlessly across party-lines and professions" is deftly depicted in Laakhon Mein Ek season 2. In the end, you might be left with more questions than answers, a dilemma aptly captured in one of the dialogues in the last episode: "The politicians own the suppliers; the suppliers own the doctors and the patients own nothing."
Laakhon Mein Ek streams on Amazon Prime Video from 12 April.
(All images from YouTube)
From the mid-2000s onwards, Hindi filmmakers have tried and failed spectacularly to adapt the classics of South Korean cinema, especially in the horror and thriller genres.
The much-awaited science documentary in the classical language, revolving around the success story of India's historic 'Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) alias 'Mangalyaan', would be premiered before a selected audience on August 21 in Chennai.
It is not easy to be a queer artist in India; four LGBTQ artists narrate their experience of beating the trolls with their talent.