The attempt to thrill mostly lies in two broader ways which a writer usually implements: a trick and an art.
Mostly, especially in Indian storytelling context, the preferred go to technique is the trick, where multiple mini secrets unfold (sequence after sequence) in quest to solve the larger ultimate secret.
Talking about ‘art’ (more evolved form), it basically relies on meticulous character development where the plot and the enactors merge seamlessly.
Viu’s latest urbane setting adrenaline injected fast-paced thriller Kaushiki relies heavily on the first kind of mention.
The IMDB summarizes Kaushiki as a web series which revolves around a group of friends who look as if nothing in their lives can go wrong, have dark secrets hidden deep down inside them that will change their lives forever when revealed. The story progresses to reveal that beneath the Versace perfumes and friendships and romance, everyone in the group is rotten, depraved and corrupt to the core.
Well, it is right. Kaushiki begins with the sensual lure, uber cool characters, paradoxical outer & inner depiction of personalities and goes on to throw one twist after other.
Web original content in India is still at a nascent stage and Kaushiki is indeed one of the finest from Viu’s stable, but certainly not the best in the overall realm of things.
The plot moves fast, often roller coaster like, at times reflective of the hustle to complete the main story. It’s indeed a challenge for traditional storytellers to nail the web narrative convincingly maintaining a genial cadence. Kaushiki’s screenplay does come across jarry at times.
The story basically revolves around a group of friends, all distinct in personalities, who at surface are normal and benign, yet hold malice in intent and action. Bullying, seduction, smuggling, black mailing- sins seem to personify the characters whose ulterior motives get revealed as each one sheds their skin one sequence after another.
The beginning with Kaushiki narrating about her own murder story (how, what, why…what really happened: go watch) piques interest and subsequent twists & turns do hold ground.
Each character and its complexities are etched well. They are different yet conjoined.
Jay Bhansali’s cinematography (nominee at 2018 IWM Digital Awards) does justice to the story progression, capturing moments and expressions in right frames. Shaju Chandra’s scissors put us on a fast lane, often missing the grip.
We must admit that the creators of the series (Shantanu Shrivasta, Namit Sharma) have done a good job, what mars the attempt is the screenplay and average performances.
Sayani Gupta as Kaushiki is underused and talented Namit Das’s motley act doesn’t hit the right chords. He is more of a caricature than comic. Omkar Kapoor tries his best but his emotions are like Sooryavansham on Set Max channel, repeats in different situations.
Rannvijay Singha’s late cop entry has swag but nothing to lift the overall performance arc. By and large, director Suparn S Varma has done a decent job. The background tune by Sangeet and Siddharth Haldipur lend an eerie appeal, which stays with you.
Other actors in the ensemble include Rajeev Siddharth, Shruti Shrivastava, Madhurima Roy.
So should you watch Kaushiki on Viu? Well, most definitely for it is intriguing in parts and overall holds its own. The story had potential, but the treatment punctured its impact.
We would rate it 3 out of 5 stars.