This Article is From Aug 19, 2022

Duranga Review: A Cocktail Or Murder, Mental Turmoil And Veiled Motives

Duranga Review: Gulshan Devaiah's is a magnificently modulated, astute performance. Television star Drashti Dhami is a picture of poise.

Duranga Review: A Cocktail Or Murder, Mental Turmoil And Veiled Motives

Gulshan Devaiah and Drashti Dhami in Duranga. (courtesy: gulshandevaiah78)

Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Drashti Dhami, Divya Seth Shah, Rajesh Khattar, Barkha Bisht

Director: Pradeep Sarkar, Aijaz Khan

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

A serial killer thriller that plays out at a pace bordering on the deliberate, Duranga, streaming on Zee5, defies expectations in many other significant ways. It is a controlled, slow-burning series about crime, culpability and concealment that thrives on methods that steer clear to a great degree of genre tropes.

Buoyed by a clutch of wonderfully well-modulated performances - the pivotal one by Gulshan Devaiah is the sturdy anchor around which all the others revolve - Duranga serves up a cocktail of murder, mental turmoil and veiled motives and couches the exercise in the devices of a police procedural led by a woman who has more than just the challenges of her high-pressure job to deal with as secrets tumble out of a stuffed closet.

Duranga,an official remake of the Korean series Flower of Evil, has been developed and produced by Goldie Behl, scripted by Charudutt Acharya and directed by Pradeep Sarkar (first two episodes) and Aijaz Khan (the remainder of the show). The leisurely, precise and effective delineation of characters and their objectives lends the story constant solidity.

The show centres on a metal craftsman who leads a double life with a detective-wife he hides his past from and a chirpy daughter he dotes on. His audaciously camouflaged existence is fraught with danger to say the least and requires constant effort in order to be sustained.

Questions inevitably abound as the self-effacing guy goes about his daily chores in the kitchen and his basement workshop: is the family man seeking redemption for acts that he hasn't had the opportunity to repent or does he have something more nefarious up his sleeves? His wife, a Mumbai crime branch sleuth, has no clue about what lies hidden in her own home.

In one scene, before the two get married, the man confesses that he has "a past". The woman asserts that he loves him irrespective of his past. "I see someone who is dead," replies the man without batting an eyelid. Is that why his eyes are so distant and indecipherable?

The principal conflict in Duranga (which literally means 'dual-hued') springs from Sammit Patel's (Devaiah) need to not only break free from his troubled past but also not to let his wife figure out what it is exactly that buried in his heart.

Sammit, the very antithesis of a man who might be a serial killer, is never on a short fuse. He does not rave and rant. He loves cooking and rustles up dishes for his only daughter, Anya (Hera Mishra). He also does everything in his power to tread with utmost care around his wife, Ira (Drashti Dhami). But under the surface of his serene life are bottled-up emotions akin to a volcano waiting to erupt.

In Episode 1, Ira investigates a lonely old woman's murder that raises the suspicion that a serial killer who was on a rampage in Goa 17 years ago might have struck again. The case is quickly solved. It turns out to be a mere copycat killing.

But the fear of more murders isn't laid to rest. Sure enough, another chilling murder in a Chinese eatery shakes the police force, especially because the modus operandi - strangulation with a fishing net, a nail from a thumb pulled out and other tell-tale signs at the crime scene - is eerily similar to the one from 17 years ago.

An enterprising, persistent crime reporter Vikas Sahode (Abhijit Khandkekar), who has fans in the police force and elsewhere, runs afoul of Ira's husband as he strays into the latter's home in quest of information about the Goa serial killer. Turns out that the two men have a shared past.

As matters come to a head, deals are struck, secrets quietly brushed under the carpet, dangerous liaisons forged and a plan to wreak vengeance is put into motion as the Mumbai cops intensify their efforts to solve the abiding mystery of the Goa serial killings by a dreaded man named Bala Banne (Zakir Hussain), who is still an impenetrable enigma and whose shadow still hangs over Sammit Patel's life.

Flower of Evil had 16 episodes of more than an hour each. Duranga is made up of nine parts of about 30 minutes apiece, which totals less than five hours. There is obviously a great deal of ground that is left to cover and that is made amply clear by the tantalising note on which the series ends

A man lying in a coma for a decade and a half, a pair of scheming parents (Divya Seth Shah and Rajesh Khattar) with an elaborate ruse of which Sammit Patel is an integral part and whose lid is always one false step away from being blown off, and a crime suspect without any known traces in the police records constitute an important chunk of the twisted drama that is Duranga.

Homicide is obviously commonplace in a killer-on-the-prowl genre, but in Duranga, most of the murders are events that occurred in the past. A couple of people are brutally killed in the course of the nine episodes, but many more are merely alluded to as Sammit plays a risky cat-and-mouse game with the police, his life partner and an estranged elder sister (Barkha Bisht).

Gulshan Devaiah etches out scarred man with great acuity, alternating between the demeanour of a hunted man and the quiet aggression of a hunter without taking recourse to explicit means to express the seamless transitions. His is a magnificently modulated, astute performance that packs derives its power from its astounding subtlety.

Television star Drashti Dhami is a picture of poise as she glides through the many shades that are written into dauntless detective walking the tightrope between the personal and the professional.

Duranga isn't the sort of web series that is aimed at sweeping you off your feet with excess, but it delivers a steady stream of twists and turns designed to keep you hooked from start to finish.