When it comes to depicting the paranormal on celluloid, Vikram Bhatt is master of all he surveys. The maverick movie-maker has taken the genre of paranormal movie-making to another level altogether, what with his consistent record of churning out one supernatural thriller after another, each more chilling than the next.
With his new web series, Tantra, Bhatt takes his fascination for the supernatural to the digital space as well. A compelling drama about the potent power of the occult, Tantra dives headlong into the murky world of evil tantriks, black magic, devil worship and the like, pulling, us, the audience, along, into the fantastic realm of the mystical.
The show boasts an ensemble cast of small screen veterans and newbies alike. Miss India 2015, Aditi Arya plays the protagonist Sunaina Sikand, while Sandeep Bhardwaj, the actor who cut his teeth on the meaty role of Veerappan in RGV’s eponymous film, plays the evil tantrik, Kukarmi.
Black magic is the dominant theme of the show. Human bones, the human skull (sigh, obviously!), blood, gore, all play a part in the proceedings. Who better than Bhatt to know the fascination viewers hold for occult practices, and he proceeds to milk it to the core.
At the heart of the show is the tried and tested formula of family feuds, spearheaded by Rekha Sikand, the elder daughter-in-law of the Sikand family, who is tormented by the fact that her rich father-in-law has bequeathed the reins of the million-dollar family company to his younger son, i.e. her devar.
Out to extract her pound of flesh, and the family riches too, the lady vows to destroy the offending brother-in-law and his family. To achieve her ambition, she ropes in the maniacal Kukarmi, a devilish tantrik, with a penchant for materialising out of thin air at the oddest of times. Jeez, the guy can even teleport himself, read minds, and metamorphose into other human beings. Together, the two unleash a fascinating web of black magic and trickery.
There’s also a good baba, Trilok Sharma, played by a benign-looking Dinesh Kaushik, thrown in to balance the equation between good and evil. As of now, his is a role singularly lacking in character and depth. At no time in the series does Trilok Sharma look capable enough to take on the supernatural might of the devilish Kukarmi.
What works in the show’s favour is the tight editing, fast pace and good production quality. The story, written by Vikram Bhatt, is highly absorbing. The direction, by Bhatt’s protégé, Sidhant Sachdev, is laudable. The storyline is edgy, dark and different. The creepiness of Kukarmi gets your heart racing and your hair standing on end. The title track is outstanding, hitting the right notes between haunting and melancholy.
The show manages to grab and hold eyeballs, with each episode having a running time between 15 to 20 minutes. Viewers are lapping up the offering, many even complaining that the episodes get over way too soon.
The acting in the show leaves a lot to be desired. It is unconvincing, wooden and eminently uninspired. The actors look like they have sleep-walked through their roles. Only Salina Prakash, the actor who plays Rekha Sikand, manages to infuse some degree of passion into her role. For the rest, the less said, the better.
Tantra is made under the banner of Vikram Bhatt’s own production house, Lone Ranger Productions, and streams on Bhatt’s YouTube channel, VB on the Web, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As of now, the show is quite enthralling. Only six episodes old, out of the projected 40, it remains to be seen whether this Tantra can spread its magic.
IndianWikiMedia would rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
(Written by Rashmi Paharia)