Following the success of Amazon Prime Video’s recent OTT releases, Dahaad is an inspiring story that doesn’t shy away from pointing out the flaws in our societal and governing structures. Show creators Reema Katgi and Zoya Akhtar explore difficult issues, such as caste prejudice, misogyny, and Islamophobia that still continue to thrive in our democratic and secular nation, even though most of the show’s intended audience would rather pretend that they no longer exist.
The story, set in the small town of Mandawa in Rajasthan, follows a scheduled caste sub-inspector, Anjali Bhatti (played by Sonakshi Sinha in a career-best performance), as she tries to uncover the mass murders of 29 women across different districts of the state. The problems in Bhatti’s life parallel the perils that plagued the victims she is investigating – casual sexism, the pressure to get married, and the blame put on a woman for simply being born as one. Most of the women also come from families that lack the financial stability to pay their dowry, and the show suggests that this economic backwardness is caused by generational caste discrimination. One can almost feel the suffocation that these women must experience in every second of their existence.
Unlike other crime dramas (a genre that has seen a surge since the rise of OTT media), Dahaad does not rely on gore to make the viewer uncomfortable. Sex scenes that show innocent women blindly trusting a man and being completely vulnerable, only for them to meet their untimely death, are incredibly painful and make you squeamish in a way no shot of a man’s splayed guts ever could. The horrors of this reality and the circumstances the show puts its characters through are so visceral that a bloody murder would seem laughable in their wake.
Vijay Verma plays a role similar to his fantastic performance in Darlings, embodying a man that you want to punch right from the second you set your eyes on him. He is helped by Dahaad’s writers, who have made Anand Swarnakar the kind of scumbag all of us are all too familiar with. The cast also features Gulshan Devaiah – who can seem to do no wrong – and Sohum Shah, who has the best performance of the show. The latter’s character arch is a small ray of hope in a story riddled with exasperating injustices. The character doesn’t have a complete overhaul of values by the end of the narrative, but a rather believable transition into a man who has started questioning systems that he once followed unflinchingly.
Dahaad is not a perfect show. It stretches on for longer than it ought to, and it does take on a preachy tone at some points, but the otherwise grounded writing and excellent performances by a stellar cast make it one of the best OTT releases of the year.