Kathmandu Connection(SonyLiv, 6 episodes)
Starring Amit Sial, Gopal Datt, Aksha Pardasany, Anshuman Pushkar, Anurag Arora
Directed by Sachin Patnaik
Encounter cops and sinister gangsters make strange bed-mates in our cinema.The screenwriters are never sure whom to side with. The moral ambiguity stretches itself so wide into the moral conflict we never know which way the wind would blow.
In Kathmandu Connection director Sachin Patnaik uses the morally ambiguous space between the cop and the gangster to create a series that is both fiction and fact but constantly pointing the needle of suspicion in the moral tussle in uncomfortable directions.
It is clear from the outset that the cop Smarath Kaushik is no hero. He is a cheap opportunist who doesn’t stop at using anyone to get his pat on the back from his seniors.In a Batla House ripped-off encounter Samarth guns down two young Muslim men one of whom turns out to be completely innocent…how innocent and how far the ramifications of the cop’s unchecked rampage goes , are revealed only in the last episode.
Amit Sial plays the self-seeking cop with a persuasive moral ambivalence. Sial is among the more neglected actors of Indian cinema. I had recently seen him as ruthless assassin in A Simple Murder. He crosses the line here without skipping a beat. Like Sial’s Santosh in A Simple Murder, Samarth in Kathmandu Connection also conveys a glint of satisfaction in his eyes when he guns down those he thinks don’t deserve to live.
The savage arrogance of playing God with human lives is not lost on Sial. He knows his character is fatally flawed. And he has a partner Mishra(Anurag Arora, well played) to constantly remind Samarth of how selfish he is.
There is a sequence towards the end of the series where Mishra’s wife Kamini tells their son, “This uncle(looking straight at Samarth) is responsible for our troubles.”
Moments such as the above needed more nurturing in the plot. Kathmandu Connection seems uncomfortable with any prolonged emotional display. That is one reason why Samarth doesn’t look convincing expressing his love for the journalist Shivani Bhatnagar(Aksha Pardasany) whom he uses as a bait to nab Sunny Sharma(Anshuman Pushkar) who is obviously modeled on Chota Rajan. Sunny is a poet and a lover, wooing Shivani with flowers and jewellery.
Sunny Sharma comes across as far more sensitive than his adversary Samarth Kaushik. This I think, is a fatal flaw in the plot. But one that the director circumvents by making Samarth fully conscious of his failings as a human being, a family man, a responsible citizen and a cop.When Samarth gets his comeuppance at the end I felt no sense of justice, poetic or otherwise.
The world these characters occupy is too fractured and flawed for moral equity. Kathmandu Connection builds a blizzard of conflicting emotions(and some clumsily staged shootouts) , all of which comes to a shocking culmination . It begins by a probe into the Bombay Blast of March 1993 , moves to being a love triangle among the cop, journalist and the gangster and ends as a jolting study of vendetta. It in ambitious series, not quite accomplished in mapping out a moral conflict between cop and criminal as Patal Lok. But it has its interludes that will hold your attention.