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Kaala review: Bejoy Nambiar crafts a layered financial crime drama with standout acts by Avinash Tiwary and Jitin Gulati

Kaala is a well-crafted series with an engaging storyline, compelling characters, and a complex narrative.

Kaala review: Bejoy Nambiar crafts a layered financial crime drama with standout acts by Avinash Tiwary and Jitin Gulati
Avinash Tiwary in a still from Kaala

Last Updated: 09.32 AM, Sep 15, 2023


Kaala is a story about a father (Rohan Vinod Mehra) and son (Avinash Tiwary) set against a complicated financial crime and a little-known time in India and Bangladesh's past. It's all about the black-and-white world of money and the forces that will do anything to get what they want.


The era of OTT is that of how complex a series should get. The more layers there are on a character and the more subplots there are, the thicker the narrative. Kaala is one such series where complexities start from the beginning and only conclude once we reach the end of the seventh episode. Another series on financial crime is the Bejoy Nambiar-directed Disney+ Hotstar series, and this one uses money with so many zeros that I have no idea.


The show has Avinash Tiwary playing Ritwik Mukherjee, an IB officer investigating a financial scam called "reverse hawala," where white money is converted into black money. The person behind this scam is Naman Arya (Taher Shabbir), who has a clean public image, but the reality is the exact opposite.

Being an IB officer, Ritwik, of course, has many sources, and when one of them dies, his life takes a 180-degree turn, with the ghosts from his past coming to haunt him. The centre point of Kaala is set in 2018, but the timeline keeps jumping from the 80s to the 90s, then to the 60s, and then back to the present.

In the first few episodes, you might scratch your head, as the story doesn't just revolve around Ritwik but also Shubendhu (Rohan Vinod Mehra) and Balwant Singh (Jitin Gulati). However, the slow-burning narrative worked to a great extent as Bejoy, along with the writers Francis Thomas, Pryas Gupta, Mithila Hegde, and Shubhra Swarup, cooked up the story well to make it delectable.

The suspense that has been created since the beginning is revealed in the fifth episode, the longest one of the series at 56 minutes. Well, that makes the series tolerable, as it doesn't carry an empty vessel with just dialogue and brings on more characters unnecessarily. However, roping in Shakti Kapoor and not having him say any kickass dialogues was one of the biggest letdowns in the series.

A still from Kaala
A still from Kaala

Moving on from that, the "reverse hawala" concept, introduced in the very first episode, lasts only a couple of episodes before biting back in the last two episodes. However, the Rs. 14,000 crore that is supposed to be taken out of Indian borders is just a catalyst to the story, whereas the bigger picture is the emotional complexities of these three main characters, played by Avinash, Rohan, and Jitin.

The concept that everyone is a hero in their story and circumstances make them the villain is explored sporadically in each of them. However, the only one that outshines disturbingly is the character arc of Jitin as Balwant Arya, an ex-army official. It outshines because the actor plays the part so well that you will not be ready to witness what happens to his character eventually, which is disturbing because whatever happens is quite different from what one would have seen of a character in recent times.

Talking about Avinash, he is definitely one of the most talented actors we have in this generation, and his serious demeanour is too good to miss in the series. The actor's take on emotional complexities works well, as often he is the man of few words, but his presence creates maximum impact. There are certain scenes in which he is grappling with his past, and he shoulders it so amazingly that most of the time he lets his eyes do the talking.

Jitin Gulati in a still from Kaala
Jitin Gulati in a still from Kaala

Rohan is also yet another revelation, and I wish there were more scenes added to his storyline. The actor's portrayal of an ageing spy as well as a court-martialed army official brings more depth to the series and plays a tight knot that tightens the plot further.

Other supporting characters, mainly Nivetha Pethuraj as Sitara, an IB officer, and Elisha Mayor as Aloka, perform well in the scenes and make for great screen presence. However, if there's a second season, these characters deserve better backstories. So does Hiten Tejwani, who has limited screen time but does a good job.

Rohan Vinod Mehra in a still from Kaala
Rohan Vinod Mehra in a still from Kaala

Kaala delves entirely into complexities that unravel eventually, and kudos to Bejoy Nambiar for untangling these loops gradually without any loose ends. The filmmaker is known for creating complex anthologies like David and Solo in movies; however, Kaala also feels like one as he brings all the characters into one story with a lot of twists and turns. The bizarreness is limited here and doesn't leave a lot of questions like his previous outings did.

If you are searching for a financial scam in Kaala, that's just on the surface. The series is like Gangs of Wasseypur, where we go to the actual beginning of the story, but you have to keep up with the jumping timelines.


Bejoy Nambiar has created Kaala into a well-crafted series with an engaging storyline, compelling characters, and a complex narrative. However, the series will have you jumping through timelines faster than you can count zeroes in Rs. 14,000 crore.


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