Cast: Harshvardhan Rane, Pulkit Samrat, Jim Sarbh, Kriti Kharbanda, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Abhimanyu Singh, Amit Sandh, Zoa Morani, Neha Sharma, Ankur Rathee
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Two Indian families in London turn into sworn enemies. Two friends are sucked into the vortex of the resultant violence. And two pairs of lovers struggle to find their way forward amid a bitter feud triggered by long-suppressed trauma. Taish, created by Bejoy Nambiar for Zee5 and released on the streaming platform both as a six-episode series and a standalone movie, has all the elements in place to make for a slickly directed visceral thriller.
The show, which gives bloodlust a smart, edgy quality, does not lack muscle. But given that its theme of revenge does not rest purely on a conventional tussle for power, Taish could have done with a little more soul. It is somewhat cold and clinical at its core.
That is mercifully only a minor niggle. The crime drama is shot through with enough momentum and manic energy not to lack the power to stay the course without faltering too often. A few of the plot twists that it employs are admittedly a touch contrived. One that involves a key character who, with the help of a lawyer-friend, engineers a prison sentence for himself to carry out a daring murderous mission inside the jail only to be bailed out before the job is done is especially farfetched. But so much of the second half of the show rests on that act alone that a willing suspension of disbelief becomes an inevitable precondition for the sleight to make full impact.
Such stumbles are not too uncommon in the Taish plot, but the making of the series/film has the sort of surface panache that serves to conceal the rough edges. Superbly lensed by cinematographer Harshvir Oberai and embellished with a lively background score (Gaurav Godkhindi and Govind Vasantha) and a raft of songs well-integrated into the flow of the narrative, Taish banks on its intrinsic technical finesse to eke out an stylish entertainer that gallops along pretty nicely for the most part.
Some of the credit certainly goes to the actors. They contribute their mite handsomely, expressing with sustained felicity the darkness of the universe that they inhabit and the enormity of the troubles that hound them. Because Taish isn't a typical star-driven vehicle, it is able to give the entire principal cast a level playing field.
One of the two families at war, the affluent Kalras are in the middle of the wedding of their younger son. The other clan is that of the Brars, ruthless gangsters led by Kuljinder (Abhimanyu Singh). The paths of the Kalras and the Brars cross when the head of the latter fraternity - it comprises three brothers - lands up at the wedding and sets off a chain of events that play out over a period of a week or so and leave behind a trail of death and destruction.
The skirmishes between the two groups continue all through the series until a final showdown pushes matters to a point of no return. When the decisive clash takes place out in the open at the end of a high-speed chase, it is amazingly unfussy and unpretentious and staged with remarkable elan and economy.
All the three principal male actors - Harshvardhan Rane, Jim Sarbh and Pulkit Samrat - are key players in the climactic moments of Taish and the screenplay (Anjali Nair, Kartik R. Iyer, Bejoy Nambiar and Nicola Louise Taylor) ensures that the conflicting motivations that drive the trio do not feel wholly unconvincing.
Taish opens in the washroom of a London pub. In a violent confrontation, two men are each other's throats. Neither is willing to let the other get away in one piece. One of them ends up with a permanently damaged spine and a punctured vocal cord. The hospitalized man's younger brother, Pali Brar (Rane), as quick on the draw as Sunny Lalwani (Samrat) the pugnacious guy responsible for causing the life-threatening injuries, resolves to settle scores.
Pali is a dreaded criminal known not resort to wasteful words before swinging into action. His lieutenants - Jassi (Armaan Khera), the third of the Brar siblings, and Sukhi (Saurabh Sachdeva) - are no less vicious. Half measures are never an option for these men.
Taish cuts to ten days ago and the run-up to the Kalra wedding. Away from the dangers swirling around them, Sunny's best pal Rohan Kalra (Sarbh), a doctor not quite the type to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, heads to the countryside venue of the marriage of his younger brother Krish (Ankur Rathee) with Mahi (Zoa Morani). Before the merriment can reach the expected crescendo, everything goes horribly wrong.
Taish tells a simple cause-and-effect tale but adopts a style that cloaks the series/film with sophistication. It isn't all linear - it begins at a point during the wedding and then goes back a few days in time to sort of begin a random countdown that culminates at the halfway mark in a major tragedy. The horrific incident at the wedding constitutes a break that tears the Kalras apart, and one of the Brars ends up in prison. The lines are drawn more sharply than before. Even as Rohan and Sunny go their respective ways, the wounds of the past and agonies of the present do not stop clouding their judgment.
It is a man's world out here, but at least three of the women in the Taish plot do not get short shrift. Arfa Sayeed Khan (Kriti Kharbanda), a Pakistani doctor and Rohan Kalra's girlfriend who does not fancy her chances of being accepted by an Indian family, plays a key role in keeping the vacillating guy in her life focused on the relationship.
Sanobar (Saloni Batra), Kuljinder Brar's steely wife, and her sister Jahaan (Sanjeeda Sheikh), Pali's beloved, have a free run of the household. The two women impact the decisions that the men around them take in ways that push the story forward. Batra has a strong, smouldering screen presence while Sheikh conveys a combination of vulnerability and assertion that enhances the sensual allure of the character.
The script gives Rane, Sarbh and Samrat equal weightage. The actors play three different models of masculinity - the first is toxic and aggressive, the second restrained in his ways, and the third filled with uncontrollable angst. But none of them is reduced to a flat character type - the actors etch out deeply flawed, and wronged, men with their share of contradictions.
Taish, far from perfect, thrills and engages in equal measure. It adds up to more hits than misses.