The coronavirus pandemic transformed our lives in a matter of days: Lockdowns, curfews, masks… And the smell of fear hung heavy in the air. Four months on, we are still coping, trying to find a ‘new normal’. Unsurprisingly, the impact of these changes has spilt into OTT content as well, with the latest example being The Gone Game that’s streaming on Voot Select.
Watching the early days of the lockdown in this series feels like a bad dream being revisited. The creators use this to their advantage and set the stage for a thriller. Sahil Gujral (Arjun Mathur) returns from a trip to Bangkok to his wife Suhani (Shriya Pilgaonkar) just before the lockdown and quarantines himself. The Gujrals—dad Rajeev, mom Suneeta, sister Amara—are all stuck in different cities, with the family catching up over video calls. Sahil’s health takes a nosedive, he tests positive for Covid-19 and allegedly succumbs. But does he?
The toughest challenge with shooting remotely is to ensure that it never comes across as a gimmick. Written by Mautik Tolia, Nikhil Bhatt, and Ayesha Syed, with additional inputs from Radhika Anand, The Gone Game succeeds in this by creating characters and communication channels that are well-placed to hold the ruse. The Gujrals are rich, influential, and tech-savvy. Suhani is a social media influencer who mines her life for digital content. And so, it’s easy to buy that the family would hop from one video call to another with ease. It also helps that the family has the resources to get things done with a phone call.
The craft in this series is smart in how it gets you into the universe quickly and effectively. The four 20-minute episodes pack a lot, with the series moving at breathtaking speed. There is a leap of faith involved, but the pace doesn’t let you ponder about the plausibility. The sweeping tension is aided by convincing performances, headed by Swetha Tripathi Sharma and Shriya Pilgaonkar.
However, it all begins to derail during the search of answers. Some major questions are left unanswered with the promise that ‘the story will continue’. But this serves to make the ending tepid. Some of the red-herrings fall flat without the necessary context. The edit purposely misleads the viewer at times, which feels like a cheap way to maintain suspense.
But despite all this, The Gone Game is addictive and engrossing. The 20-minute runtime for each episode makes this an easy watch. The biggest victory of this series is making us forget this was filmed remotely. The inherent limitations of such an exercise are used to structure a narrative that organically fits the milieu. In fact, I would love to see how this story ends. Bring on the second season!
The Gone Game
Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt
Streaming On: Voot Select