A cliffhanger in the opening episode of Kathmandu Connection left me grinning with delight. A journalist unfolds a mysterious package to find a music cassette.
Her puzzlement mirrors our own as she reads the name: the soundtrack of the 1983 Jackie Shroff vehicle Hero. It’s not so much the significance of the cassette that made me smile as the sheer oddness of its appearance.
On the surface, SonyLiv’s show is a cut-and-dried thriller about international crimes in the 1990s. Yet, for all its scope, it’s the moments of weirdness and cultural references that stand out. There’s another movie reference a couple of episodes later. “Are you Amitabh Bachchan from Zanjeer?” hollers a police commissioner at his insubordinate DCP.
The reference sticks: Samarth (Amit Sial) considers himself enough of a ‘hero’. On a mission in Kathmandu, he tracks down Sunny (Anshuman Pushkar), a gangster, casinoowner and terror suspect in the 1993 Bombay blasts, but fails to catch him.
Freshly suspended from the job, Samarth sinks into self-pity (the show is rife with sad copper vibes) while looking for a way to bring Sunny in.
The mystery fattens. Sunny, we learn, is still in love with his college crush Shivani (Aksha Pardasany), whom he harasses with calls and gifts. Shivani approaches Samarth for help, who also starts falling for her.
You can see writer Himanshu Mishra and director Sachin Pathak being absolute schoolboys here, abandoning their grim procedural story for a kooky cat-and-mouse.
The shift in tone will likely annoy most viewers. For me, it was the best part, epitomised by a cheesy scene where Samarth and Sunny stare each other down over a casino table.
“I’m a player… I bet and win,” the criminal tells the cop. Amit Sial has been playing depressed, suicidal sleuths since his turn in Love, Sex Aur Dhokha. A hugely talented actor, he knows how to take on below-par material and run with it. He glides over his scenes in Kathmandu Connection, rooting them in something real and heartfelt.
There’s an impossibly cheesy moment where Samarth proposes to Shivani at her home. It just about wrecks the show, until Amit rescues it in style (he steps outside her door, lights a cigarette and shakes his head). In the opening scene, a prologue in black-and-white, Samarth kicks down a door and shoots two young boys.
It will bring back the memory of Batla House (2019), where John Abraham played a tough, long-suffering cop. Kathmandu Connection begins like a heroic police drama but actually works to subvert it.
It holds its politics off till the end, which only makes it more effective. It won’t be long till Salman Khan flips the mood with his encounter- killing rampage in Radhe. Watch this show till then.
Director: Sachin Patnaik
Cast: Amit Sial, Anshuman Pushkar, Aksha Pardasany
Streaming on: Sony LIV