Suvinder Vicky and Barun Sobti narrate the central characters in this murder mystery drama
Barun Sobti and Suvinder Vicky in Kohrra
Last Updated: 06.56 AM, Jul 25, 2023
It is not usual for stories set in the heart of Punjab to not have mentions of mitti ki khusboo, sarson ka saag or suddenly break the narrative with a throbbing bhangra track. Well, in Kohrra too there is a wedding song, but it gets abruptly silenced by a gas cylinder explosion. Netflix’s new murder mystery drama has been tapping into news cycles lately for presenting a distinctly local story with national relevance.
The Sudip Sharma, Gunjit Chopra and Diggi Sisodia creation dabbles in a plethora of themes that are precisely about Punjab (sans the ‘sardar jokes’ though, thank God for that!). Yet these are approached and treated in a manner that you and I or anyone else can relate to - mainly because all these elements thrive on the human factor.
One winter morning, sub-inspector Balbir Singh (Suvinder Vicky) and assistant sub-inspector Amarpal Jasjit Garundi (Barun Sobti) from the Jagrana Police Station find themselves in the middle of a sprawling khet, where the dead body of a brutally murdered NRI has just been discovered. The story begins here.
Ill-equipped and dealing with emotional distress because of their own personal issues, Balbir and Garundi are now tasked to be on top of this case. Identified as Paul Dhillon (Vishal Handa), the man had his throat slit, while he was also hit by a blunt object on his head multiple times, which eventually led to his death.
Paul belonged to an influential family in town. A practising lawyer in London, he had come to India to tie the knot with Veera Soni (Aanand Priya), but is killed just days before the wedding. Paul was not alone that fateful night though. His best friend Liam Murphy (Ivantiy Novak), who is now missing, is also believed to have accompanied him. So, there is an immediate suspect, but what could be the motive?
‘Case jaldi solve karo’
While Balbir and Garundi are still trying to comprehend the clues and evidence they have managed to gather, drone camera footage of the crime scene is already making the rounds on WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms. This prompts higher-ups in the police force to mount pressure on these two to quickly make arrests and solve the case before things go out of hand, and the British Embassy gets a whiff of it.
So, when a random drug addict admitted to hitting Paul that night after a brawl over a packet of cocaine, the Senior Superintendent Of Police instructs Balbir to consider it the prime evidence and close the case. To which, Balbir later quipped that it’s easier to put the blame on a junkie, whereas the main culprit is still at large… ‘That’s Punjab Police for you’.
Gold digger b***h!
Interrogations revealed that Veera had met Paul just two weeks ago, at their engagement. But before that, she was dating a local rapper, named Saakar Khurana (Saurav Khurana). While Veera and Saakar did apparently share a real bond, Veera wanted a better future for herself with someone who’s more ‘settled’ in life. Little did she know that Paul was gay and in a relationship with Liam - a fact that was too disquieting for his ‘dictator’ father Satwinder ‘Steve’ Dhillon (Manish Chaudhary). So much so that he decided that the only way to ‘correct’ his son was to get him married off to a girl. Things take a bitter turn when Liam’s mother Clara Murphy (Rachel Shelley) arrives from the UK, and finds the entire process to locate her missing son too slow and unreliable.
‘Saari zindagi sub-inspector hi bane rahe’
Balbir is a dedicated cop. But his demanding job meant that he could never be around for his wife (who is no more) and daughter, Nimrat (Harleen Sethi) Result: a strained and often violent relationship with his only child.
After her mother’s death, Nimrat wanted to continue with her studies, but Balbir got her married off instead. Now, she is back home with her son Golu, whom she loves dearly but it’s also true that she never wanted to have a child.
Struggling to secure her own mental and emotional well-being, Nimrat reconnects with her childhood sweetheart. While her estranged husband keeps making pleas, she has no intention of going back to her sasural.
Meanwhile, fed up with his rebellious daughter’s tantrums, he even beats up her boyfriend who came to visit her at home. But everytime, he raises his hand at her, she claps back at him, accusing him of dealing with his family the same way he handles criminals in the lock-up. But despite all his sincerity toward his job, he has failed to earn himself a promotion in years.
Like most family dramas, the plot of director Randeep Jha’s crime-mystery series Kohrra also stems from property disputes. The tussle between Steve and his younger brother Maninder ‘Manna’ Dhillon (Varun Badola) over a piece of ancestral property turned out to be the genesis of the entire problem. Desperate to prove his worth over his cousin Paul and get the family plot named against his father, Manna’s son Happy Dhillon (Amaninder Pal Singh) had plotted Paul’s murder, but it eventually did not work out.
‘Mujhe bas Silky nal apna ghar basana hai’
Greed for family land is something that divides Garundi and his elder brother too. And that’s not all, Garundi also seems to have had an illicit relationship with his sister-in-law. While she claims to love Garundi, he doesn’t see anything in it beyond a physical relationship. Instead, he wants to marry Silky, who works at a nail bar.
Unable to make peace with the fact that Garundi wants to settle down with someone else, his sister-in-law sparks a gas cylinder, leading to a blast at Garundi and Silky’s engagement party.
‘Gora mar gaya’
Lorries and dhabas form an integral part of every Punjab-set story, and they do in Kohrra too. The driver (Shinda) of a truck (with the registration plate 6272) and his handyman Totti served as interesting evidence in the case. While they keep running around after committing a hit-and-run crime, their guilt gets the better of them soon.
Speaking of remorse, the crucial character played by Sumit Gulati - Pramod Kumar, a private bus driver, who extorted money from Happy - is in complete contrast to that of Shinda and Totti.
A layered yet poignant script
Amid dappled frames and some compelling performances, it’s the screenplay of Kohrra that’ll blow your mind. The script is penned in a raw and gut-churning style, yet it doesn’t lose its coherence or overlap in any form. Every plot twist dovetails perfectly with the central tenets of the story.
All dialogues are in spoken Punjabi, which helps to keep the narrative edgy and true to the rustic setting and feel. While the slow-burn drama may feel a bit dodgy at certain points, the flawed yet curious characters and their heart-warming performances keep you engrossed in it whatsoever. What kicks off as a police procedural, gradually transcends into a scrutiny of the fraught nature of human relationships.
From society’s hatred toward the LGBTQIA+ community to Punjab’s long battle with drug abuse - in a subtle way, Kohrra pierces through all these issues, without belittling their human cost. The impact of domestic violence, broken families and unfulfilled desires on the human psyche dot the parallel scheme of events that navigate along the main plot. While the characters’ inner demons are exposed with no holds barred, there is a constant attempt to also pitch their empathetic and compassionate side.
Balbir Singh - Kohrra’s clear winner
Suvinder Vicky’s character is a masterclass in restrained acting. With a calm and collected demeanour, Balbir steers a complex and disturbing story of strained relationships and a murder mystery with incredible prowess. He is a brilliant cop - trained, methodical and dutiful - but life deals him many blows. Instead of disappearing though, he decides to make peace with what life has handed him. He began by letting go of his daughter and confessing to Indira Chhabra (Ekavali Khanna) that he is the one who shot her husband Navdeep Chhabra - a police informer.
The camaraderie between Balbir and Garundi and their steely determination to back each other whatever be the circumstances lend Kohrra the feel of an achingly beautiful buddy tale, and occasional comic relief too. Don’t miss Balbir’s response when Garundi asks him about Machu Picchu!