A young couple with dreams of starting a life together, torn apart by an obsessive lover and caught in the crosshairs of crime and politics. Within this framework, Netflix’s ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ starring Tahir Raj Bhasin, Shweta Tripathi, Anchal Singh and more unfolds as a pacey thriller. While the Sidharth Sengupta directorial might not be the finest title to binge on, you’ll never listen to the iconic ’90s song its title draws inspiration from the same way once you’re done playing this series’ intro in each episode. I’m sure of at least that much.
Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein has a familiar if not formulaic plot written by Sidharth Sengupta, Anahata Menon, Varun Badola – Vikrant (Tahir Raj Bhasin) is an engineering graduate who wants to leave the fictional town of Onkara, his hometown and start a new life in a small town with his girlfriend Shikha (Shweta Tripathi). Shikha wants to marry him too but has bigger ambitions. Both lovers are young, broke and happy. Trouble ensues when local politician-gangster Akheraj’s (Saurabh Shukla) daughter Purva (Anchal Singh) expresses her interest in marrying Vikrant. And by express I mean she gives him a job offer he can’t refuse and shows him the many ways she can get her father’s goons to terrorise him or anyone he holds dear till he accepts the proposal. This is especially terrifying to Vikrant who is frankly a bit of a scardey-cat. Moreover, his father works for Akheraj and can’t wait for his son to join in and combine their personal and professional lives in one neat bond.
The show opens with Tahir Raj Bhasin narrating the story between a fast-forward into the future and a series of flashbacks – a young Vikrant goes through his school years dreading his encounters with Purva who seems to bring him bad luck. Convinced that his life got significantly better after he told her they can’t be friends, he’s relieved to be rid of her only to run into her years later at a job interview his father forcibly sets up. And so begins Purva’s long and very persuasive chase that takes us into streets of Onkara that are accustomed to witnessing gang violence and political rallies.
Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein has a great cast led by Tahir Raj Bhasin’s and Shwetha Tripathi’s gripping act but it has a villain problem.
Through the course of 8 episodes, the show unveils a tale of love and obsession. Purva will do anything within her power to have Vikrant to herself. And she has enough of it to think that murder is an easy solution to her problems. Our protagonist has no choice but to submit after witnessing a gruesome murder by Purva’s brother and his gang of goons. But the more he stays around Purva, the more his desperation to escape grows. As he makes plans to run away and exact revenge, his daily life turns into a big cat and mouse chase with guns and knives involved. Tahir Raj Bhasin, very capable of pulling off the everyman character is a simpleton for whom the scale of these events is a bit much. His understated and often nuanced act as a man driven to the point of madness is indeed gripping. He has his own twisted breaking bad journey in which he’s forced to confront his inherent rage. Shweta Tripathi blends with the show’s landscape finding familiar ground after her amazing Golu act in Mirzapur. Together, they managed to sell the stakes of the drama. But the very core of the action – its villain, doesn’t work.
Anchal Singh’s Purva is meant to be this sinister femme fatale archetype poised to capture her prey. But even with all the power at her disposal to make the object of her obsession surrender, she’s just not scary enough. I for one found it impossible to believe that she is sinister enough to pull off one crime after another so nonchalantly. Besides, if this woman has spent years laying down a web, why is she so easy to fool? Vikrant comes up with the most convenient excuses for his suspicious as hell behaviour when he’s making escape attempts and they seem to work for the most part. Purva is quite literally at the centre of the drama but the show doesn’t bother delving into her psychology. All we get is details of her childhood crush (along with the casual sexism of showcasing a boy who believes a little girl is the cause of all his miseries) and nothing more. There are better anchors to the plot, for example, the juxtaposition of brutality and celebrations. Watching Vikrant try to stay quiet about murder and unspeakable madness while his family cheers for his marriage at various wedding functions was much more fun. It added to his growing frustrations. And who doesn’t like some dark humour.
Coming down to some more good parts, the show has many faults but being uneventful isn’t one of them. I’m surprised by how much happens in each episode within a run-time of 30-40 minutes. It has a tonne of great action sequences that add to the thrill. And while the track “Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein” is only a fun nod to the ‘90s era the show draws from and a sort of foreshadowing of the villain’s nature, it makes for a bloody good cover that plays in the intro and that works for me.
Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein does what it promises, it is a pulpy thriller that fits right onto Netflix’s catalogue perhaps that’s why the finale sets up a second season. Tahir Raj Bhasin and Shweta do their best to save each other and the show but don’t really succeed. Ultimately it’s better than other titles that revolve around love and obsession (looking at you Haseen Dilruba) but doesn’t make for the most exciting binge.
Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein is currently streaming on Netflix.
Cover image: Netflix