Suvinder Vicky and Barun Sobti’s able performances keep you invested enough to power through this painstakingly slow crime drama. Read full review...
Suvinder Vicky and Barun Sobti in Kohrra (Image via YouTube/Screengrab)
On a foggy morning, Paul Dhillon – the NRI son of Steve Dhillon, is found dead a couple of days before his wedding, amidst the fields of Jagrana in Punjab. Two local police officers – Balbir Singh (Suvinder Vicky) and Amarpal Garundi (Barun Sobti) are tasked with catching the killer. It soon comes to light that Paul’s English best man – Liam (Ivanty Novak) is missing too.
As the investigation progresses, a number of secrets, ranging from – dysfunctional families, land inheritance issues, infidelity, hidden sexualities, failed marriages, and toxic parenting among others, come to the forefront. Will Balbir and Garundi be able to solve the murder mystery while dealing with their own inner demons and problems forms the crux of this latest Netflix series.
When you start watching Kohrra, a crime drama co-created by Pataal Lok fame Sudip Sharma, the expectations are bound to be quite high. But Kohrra, which is co-written by Gunjit Chopra and Diggi Sisodia along with Sharma, is no Pataal Lok. In the hands of the helmer Randeep Jha, Kohrra takes a stark opposite approach, especially when it comes to the pace of the narrative.
On the surface, it appears to be dealing with the police procedural of Paul’s murder and the missing case of Liam, but it actually offers much more than that. Do not be fooled by the fast-paced and extremely well-edited trailer. The show takes (much more than) its own sweet time for the resolution that is only offered right at the end. Frankly, as the mystery gets resolved in the concluding episodes, you aren’t really left with any afterthoughts about the whodunnit as enough hints about the perpetrators have been sprinkled throughout the six-episode-long series.
Instead, what you’re left pondering over is the various elements dealing with the intricacies of human relationships with hidden secrets and inner demons of its characters that make Kohrra an engaging watch. There are two parallel narratives in the show. One involves the murder investigation and the other involves the exposition of the flaws within each of the characters that inhabit this world. While the police investigation track is painstakingly slow and really tests your patience, the writers have managed to give enough meat to the characters for the viewers to be invested in it.
The attempt to humanize police officers while portraying them with all their flaws is laudable. It’s refreshing to see that the investigating officers often fail, before actually catching hold of their leads, unlike what we’ve witnessed in most crime thrillers. What adds another layer to this freshness is the fact that our leading man Balbir – shows the same fit of rage and emotions when it comes to him handling his family matters, which may have been the primary reason behind the murder of Paul. As for Garundi, who is as much a man of action as that of words, the lines between morals and family relations get blurred as he lives with his brother while being involved in a physical relationship with this parjai ji. As the series progresses, we get to know that both the leading men are looking to redeem themselves in some way or the other.
Another interesting aspect is the treatment of father figures in the series. Paul’s dominating father Steve (Manish Chaudhari) won’t think twice before thrashing him for cutting his hair short (because how dare he malign the Sikh pride right?) but will not bat an eyelid before beating the hell out of a journalist who dared to ask him questions about his dead son. Similarly, Steve’s brother Maninder aka Manna (Varun Badola) is perfectly fine singing praises of Paul while making a fool of his own son Happy (Amaninder Pal Singh), but will not hesitate to threaten the police officers when they try to interrogate him as a possible suspect.
Even our leading man Balbir is far from being perfect – while he blames his daughter Nimrat (Harleen Sethi) for walking out of her marriage despite her husband being a good man, he also ends up beating her boyfriend blue – dismissing the fact that the two are in love. The tough exteriors of these fathers are not only reserved for their own kids even though it ends up costing the lives and well-being of their own blood. All these and much more complexities of the human mind are explored with nuances in the writing and it translates pretty well on screen. At one point, Barun Sobti’s Garundi even ends up saying that when they couldn’t understand how to deal with their own families, how on earth are they supposed to solve the case at hand?
Moments like this, or the one where a female nurse wants to take a lunch break at 11 am when the doctor mentions fellatio being performed on the victim, or a prying journalist constantly one-upping Balbir, a jilted lover-turned-musician Saakar (Saurav Khurana) making the use of his rap songs via an Instagram live to call his ex-girlfriend Veera (Anand Priya) a “Gold digger bitch” (for picking Paul over him), a young female-constable casually ordering a hazelnut frappe in front of his senior at a diner, among others stand out.
The show is shot well by Saurabh Monga whose cinematography captures the rustic feel of small-town Punjab brilliantly. The grim storyline doesn’t lend itself to the lens to venture into the sarson-ke-khet wala bright and sunny Punjab. The background music by Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandravarkar ably complements the narrative and effectively enhances the gloomy circumstances. Bonus points for the background score not being deafening. However, at times the characters speak too softly because of which it becomes a bit difficult to understand, exactly what they say (that’s when the subtitles come to the rescue!).
In terms of performances, Suvinder Vicky delivers a stellar act as Balbir. There are so many layers to his character that Vicky portrays with maturity and gravitas. You know that even though he’s on the side of the law, he’s done some horrible deeds and yet you would find yourself rooting for his redemption. There’s a lot at stake here as, at least on paper, his character arc runs the risk of him being hated for his behaviour back home, but thanks to his brilliant acting chops, he passes with flying colours.
Barun Sobti, fresh off the success of Asur 2, delivers another praiseworthy act in Kohrra as Garundi. Even though his Punjabi dialect falters in places, he never for once looks out of place. Barun is quite calculated and effective, especially in the scenes where he’s trying to get the truth out of the suspects. For some reason, his character has a knack for grabbing the leads by their balls if they don’t divulge the required information. But hey, who are we to complain as long as it serves the purpose?
Harleen Sethi as Balbir’s daughter Nimrat puts up a convincing performance. She’s particularly notable in the scenes that highlight her troubled and bitter equation with Balbir. Other than giving the viewers a glimpse into the not-so-likable part of Balbir’s character, the subplot involving Harleen’s Nimrat doesn’t really serve any purpose in the larger scheme of things. Even if you removed that part, it will hardly make any difference to the investigation at hand. Anand Priya as Paul’s would-be-bride Veera does a fair job while Saurav Khurana as her ex-boyfriend Saakar is quite impressive. Manish Chaudhari, Varun Badola, and Rachel Shelley (Lagaan fame) do full justice to their respective roles.
In fact, it’s the able performances by this impressive ensemble cast that actually keeps you invested in this slow-burn crime drama. Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for the world-building and slow-paced narratives provided they add something new or leave the viewers surprised, if not shocked. Kohrra doesn’t do either as far as crime dramas are concerned.
Murder mysteries and whodunnits are otherwise quite interesting to watch, despite there being so many of them on streaming platforms. Kohrra, unfortunately, doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the crime thriller/murder mystery aspect. The excruciatingly slow pace of the narrative further adds to the misery. It is the performances by an impressive ensemble cast that helps you power through the series. If you’re interested in watching something that explores the flaws in humans where the moral compass and the lines between right and wrong often get shrouded owing to the fog in their judgments, you can give Kohrra a chance on Netflix.
(All images, unless mentioned otherwise, via YouTube/Screengrab)