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Kaala Paani Season 1

STORY: Set in the near future (2027), the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are quarantined from the rest of the world as a mystery disease engulfs them, prompting the islanders to attempt an unprecedented feat in human history – escaping the Kaala Paani.

REVIEW: ‘Kaala Paani’ is set in the picturesque Andaman and Nicobar Islands, evoking the historical significance of the infamous cellular jail in Port Blair, known as ‘Kaala Paani,’ from the pre-Independence era. The narrative revolves around the outbreak of a mysterious and deadly health epidemic on the islands, creating an atmosphere of chaos and fear.

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The primary premise of the show is around a mysterious disease that gives people inky rashes on their necks, a severe cough, and sudden eventual death. Despite the presence of patients and symptoms, only Dr. Soudamini Singh (Mona Singh) seems to want to investigate the cause. Meanwhile, the islands are hosting a big tourist festival, acting as a front for a more sinister plot orchestrated by the wealthy corporate firm Atom. As the epidemic spreads, panic and paranoia grip the islanders, drawing parallels with the post-Covid world. The administration is portrayed as scrambling to control the outbreak, scientists are mobilized in search of a cure, and the characters face personal reckonings as they fight for survival.

Apart from Mona Singh, Ashutosh Gowariker plays the resident LG (Lieutenant Governor) Admiral Zibran Qadri, with the kind of controlled grin that conveys both knowledge and the instinctive ability to see what is about to unfold.

‘Kaala Paani,’ written by Biswapati Sarkar and directed by Sameer Saxena and Amit Golani, offers an engaging albeit occasionally disjointed survival thriller that effectively portrays the place and its people within an unprecedented health crisis context. The show ambitiously explores various themes, such as identity, environmental exploitation, bureaucratic corruption, and the indigenous people’s harmonious relationship with nature. However, the attempt to encompass all these themes within seven hourly episodes results in pacing issues, occasionally making the struggle feel jarring.

The cast’s striking performance in ‘Kaala Paani’ is one of the show’s key strengths. Mona Singh is brilliant as the lone ranger on the lookout. Sukant Goel steals the show as the cab driver with a wounded heart, while Amey Wagh is effective as the angry cop with a dash of danger. The characters of the remaining cast members are equally well-drawn and deliver strong performances. Vikas Kumar, in particular, seems to have showcased a wide range of emotions effectively, which is a testament to his acting skills. Arushi Sharma’s portrayal of Jyotsna also appears to be endearing, and she has made a significant impact on the show. Radhika Mehrotra and Chinmay Mandlekar, playing the roles of Dr. Ritu and Dr. Shashi Mahajan, respectively, also seem to have contributed positively to the narrative with their performances. The show’s cinematography (by Ewan Mulligan, Barnaby Crocker and Dhananjay Navagrah) acts as a character in and of itself, making everything around you seem real.

However, the lack of a clear protagonist results in the series feeling more like a documentary with an array of interesting characters experiencing a shared transformative journey. This approach may not meet the expectations of those seeking a traditional narrative structure.

While ‘Kaala Paani’ has evident flaws, including its somewhat scattered narrative, it compensates with insightful observations and a vivid portrayal of a world in crisis, ultimately keeping the viewer engaged and intrigued.

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