‘Bard Of Blood’, Emraan Hashmi’s espionage thriller series, is set predominantly in an unrelentingly arid and dusty landscape, but its season one is rich with vibrant characters and well-timed twists.
Director Ribhu Dasgupta’s new seven-episode series chronicles the adventures, or rather misadventures, of three RAW agents — Kabir Anand (Hashmi), Isha Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Veer (Viineet Kumar) who surreptitiously penetrate civil-strife-ridden Balochistan to rescue five Indian agents on this war-torn soil. They are on an unsanctioned mission which wasn’t greenlit by their bosses, but the agents continue undeterred.
Indian actor Hashmi, who plays the troubled officer who gave up life on the battlefront after a botched mission in Balochistan in which he lost his partner, returns to the place hoping to find closure and some elusive answers.
It’s Hashmi’s show all the way. The actor is expected to do the heavy lifting in his role of Kabir Anand and he delivers a measured performance as a flawed, charismatic hero.
He isn’t overdramatic and that benefits the series tremendously.
Kumar, who is reluctant and dubious at their mission at first, is a sturdy foil along. Dhulipala as his right hand and a consummate analyst seems to falter at first, before finding her groove.
The true scene stealer is actress Kirti Kulhari as the Balochi woman belonging to an influential rebel separatist group. Her heartbreak and her pain as a valiant, idealistic woman who falls in love with Kabir, but ends up in a marriage of convenience with a local politician is palpable and gut wrenching. Her plea to her ex-lover Kabir not to dig up their past falls on deaf years as Kabir is intent on gaining closure, even while realising that he’s putting all those around him at risk.
Seasoned actor Jaideep Ahlawat is at his sinister best as a sly, scheming Pakistani government official. His disdain for the captured Indian hostages is spot on. He’s loathsome, yet you can’t take your eyes off him.
As far as pace goes, the twists are well-timed and the series is peppered with enough cliffhanger moments to keep you invested in these armed players who like to live on the edge. While it’s difficult to wrap your head around the politics and conflicts among various rebel groups operating in Balochistan — including the Taliban — it’s intriguing enough to keep us hooked till the very end. A few episodes in the middle might feel tiresome, but hang in there.
The grand finale of season one houses the mother of all twists and gives us all hope that roguish Kabir Anand isn’t done obliterating his enemies. The cinematography is brilliant and the all-brown harsh landscapes reflect the bleak reality of those living and barely working in Balochistan. The young rebels who have guns instead of books in their hands also underline the grim geopolitics of our times.
Based on Bilal Siddiqi’s eponymous best-seller, the creators of the show, co-produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Gaurav Verma, have done a neat job of ferreting his novel into edible nuggets of entertaining viewing. The action sequences — mostly hand-to-hand combat and rifles — and the magnetic cinematography carry a sense of urgency and foreboding and elevates the series that have threads of Shakespearean tragedy written all over it.
‘Bard of Blood’, a prime example of a well-cast series, is worth your time and money.
Don’t miss it!
‘Bard Of Blood’ it out on Netflix on September 27.
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Kirti Kulhari, Viineet Kumar and Jaideep Ahlawat.
Stars: 3.5 out of 5