I’ll be honest, I find North noir jejune. The same dry humour introducing us to the big, bad world (Ye Wasseypur hain), gangsters sharing film trivia, or a village item song titled after a headache medicine. It’s all done and rusted. But binging over seven, tedious hours of Neeraj Pandey’s series Khakee: The Bihar Chapter, made me watch air-firing accidents at heartland weddings, for fun
It’s not like Khakee was posing as a wise-cracking crime story. Based on the book Bihar Diaries: The True Story of How Bihar’s Most Dangerous Criminal Was Caught, it is a genuine, cop’s tale. It looks at the happenings of a state from a policeman’s prism, a different perspective, yes. But it loses its sheen after a while and turns into something between authority affirming and outright dull.
What it does well is, it depicts the highs and lows of a policeman’s life. Protagonist IPS Amit Lodha’s first posting is in a remote village in Bihar. He arrives in the state with his newly-wed wife only to realise that his official residence has no electricity. His first assignment is to clear a train track of protesting villagers. He does it by asking them to keep him hostage till the authorities come and discuss their demands. Of course, nobody arrives. Amit then later asks a junior how to connect with Bihar. He answers, “Replace the main (I) with hum (we) sir.” And maybe don’t be a sacrificing cop stereotype in the land of frequent lynchings. Anyway, Amit has his Swades moment.
Although, I have never been to Bihar, I guess it is shown well. There are sprawling green stretches, spotted with huts with thatched roofs. The word ‘budbak’ is also used just twice. More than anything, I was satisfied with the state being shown as having a personality of its own rather than being a beta Uttar Pradesh. But in a narrative, being true to the land is just the start. Khakee fails to engage. It has fine detailing, like a simple arrest order from the IG, trickling down the phone lines, making its way through many cops in the bureaucratic channel, and finally reaching the officer in-charge, before it is called off again. Still, what it lacks is finesse and more importantly frolic.
Karan Tucker plays Amit Lodha sincerely. Maybe, too much. The character might not be a straight arrow, but Karan doesn’t play it more twisted than his stache. Avinash Tiwary, as the dreaded gangster Chandan Mahto, is also unconvincing. He transitions from shy to sly too jerkily. Even Jatin Sarna (Bunty from Sacred Games) as Chandan’s right-hand man is wasted. The show-stealer is no doubt Ashutosh Rana as Amit’s superior Muketshwar Chaubey. As the sycophant policeman, he is the only source of amusement in a series that is a less sleazy but a more cop-exalting version of Crime Patrol. It even stars Anup Soni.
The problem with Khakee is that it is too heroic. Every time Karan’s Amit appears on screen—walking the corridors of the police station or coming up with a new case revelation which was actually obvious—optimistic music plays. In this series, no cop can be bought or bullied, criminals are stupid enough to fall for fake calls and women exist to light matchsticks during a power cut. There are no jokey goons, only rebels with self-seriousness akin to Naxalites. I understand, why should gangsters have all the fun? But at least somebody should.
Khakee: The Bihar Chapter
Cast: Karan Tucker, Avinash Tiwary, Jatin Sarna, Ashutosh Rana, Anup Soni
STREAMING ON: NetfliX