Ronit Roy in ‘Candy’ on VOOT Select (screen grab).
Rudrakund is a small town in the mountains and DSP Ratna Sankhwar (played by the sometimes shrill and at other times awesome Richa Chadha) has just discovered a murdered student from the neighbourhood residential school. A mountain legend called Masaand (glowing eyes and horns!) is to be blamed. But a sceptical teacher plagued by his own personal demons – Ronit Roy – cannot believe in such monsters who murder kids and wants to find the truth.
Kids of Rudra Valley School party at this shady place in the forest called the cube where a DJ who wears a Rabbit mask distributes candy laced with a hallucinogenic substance. A creepy politician seems to be at the head of all things scandalous. But could he have killed a kid? And whatever happened to a girl who was with the murdered boy?
What a delicious bhel of possibilities. VOOT Select has hit upon an interesting show that retains the dramatic tension for the most part of the eight episodes. But when one has been ODing on murders on every possible OTT platform, I will pat myself on the back for figuring out who or what the Masaand was. But the murderer? Oh no! That was a super reveal.
Richa Chadha is a good actor and she has proven it time and again. And this time, although she sounds shrill when she’s yelling (because, cops in India are supposed to yell, that’s the trope), she does a great job because she had me yell at the TV, ‘Hey! I thought you were going to do a Frances McDormand from Fargo, what are you doing?!’
The story has many such twists, mostly delightful, but a couple predictable. The weakest links in the story are three lads who have bullied the murdered lads. The more they pretend that they are somehow responsible by repeating, ‘We’re f***ed!’ the more you want to say, ‘Sit down, bhaisaab, you’re the worst red herrings!’ If they’re all going to act like this then the show would be a huge fail. Thankfully, Richa Chadha basically schools them into whimpering nobodies.
Call it a Bollywood hangover, but Rudra Valley School students are never once shown to be in a classroom. They do pass candy under the desks, but there’s no Miss Braganza or Sports day or school annual play… Alas Ronit Roy who usually comes across as sexy in a dhoti in TV soaps, comes across as rather dour and thoughtless when trying to solve the mystery of a dead kid. And his odd lower lip thrust acts more than he does. A pity because the writers Agrim Joshi and Debojit Das Purkayastha could have made him more likeable and less handsy. How much he hugs the lost and found girl Kalki seems a bit wrong for a teacher. Why does his wife have to be so demented? There’s no reason for the madness, and no explanation for her lucid responses.
But the coolest parts have been written for the bad guys. Manu Rishi gets to be the bad politician who has a hold on the mob (the mob storming the cop station is well done, the aftermath on the bridge, scary awesome). His demented wild son is wonderfully played by Nakul Roshan Sahdev (whom you saw in Gully Boy as Salman and in Pagglait as Aditya). A chap high on drugs and power borrowed from politician dad is a deadly combination. And the character is so well done that you are not expecting kindness from him at all. That’s good acting right there!
I do have a niggling feeling that I have seen the Masaand sketches somewhere: the red eyes and the horns, but I guess I have seen too many horror films and I’m confused. However, the horror here is subdued, because teenage girls don’t really confess to being raped. The last frozen lake murder also reminds you of Liam Neeson’s escape into the frozen lake when a pack of wolves is chasing him through the frozen forest. To cast Gopal Datt as the school principal means either he’s a murderer or is going to be murdered horribly. And your guess is as good as mine. Speaking of guesses, the last episode seems to be unnecessarily stretched because you have been told who the culprit is in the earlier episode. It’s tradition. To tell you how it all happened, to close all loops, to make their hope clear: that they want a sequel.
Watch because the drama will keep you hooked, and also because Richa Chadha makes for a cool cop.