Asur (Voot Select)

Starring Arshad Warsi, Barun Sobti, Ridhi Doga, Anupriya Goenka

Directed by Oni Sen

Rating: *** (three stars)

A thought before plunging into the darkness that this series embraces like a serpent coiling itself around a sleeping figure… here too there is an Indian law-enforcer on-screen disgruntled wife threatening to leave him bag baggage and child.

Barun Sobti, who has a naturally tragic face, plays an NRI ex-CBI officer whom they want to recruit again. Sobti starts getting persistent come-back-we-miss-you messages from the CBI. Sobti’s wife played by Anupriya Goenka (who stays in makeup even at home 24/7) will have none of this. “You go we stay,” is her deal with her husband who looks like he would burst into tears.

And we really can’t blame her. There are some glaringly gruesome killings going on all over India. An unusually vicious serial killer is on the prowl. Director Oni Sen makes us queasy with graphic killings and disembodying. Such gruesome scenes are played repeatedly to tell us how merciless the killings are.

We get it. What we don’t get are the deep-rooted connections that the series tries to establish between a tantrik activity in Varanasi and the present-day killings. Moving in two different time zones the links between the past and the present never acquire the clarity to make us sit up and take note of hoary history of violence and crime that Asur tries to place in one line of vision.

What makes Asur watchable are the main actors. The redoubtable Arshad Warsi is as usual credible as a senior CBI officer who is suspected of killing his wife. Warsi’s mysterious character is well played against Barun Sobti’s hurt pained suffering character of a man whose life is linked to corpses. I always like watching Sobti. He understates his case each time on a medium that screams to be noticed. Another impressive performance comes from Riddhi Dogra who is Sobti’s ex-flame burning up with an unexpressed desire that the current wave of killings cannot quell.

At 7 episodes of nearly an hour each, Asur is a slow-paced watch. Sequences at times get a tad repetitive and the interactive flow between characters could have been better.

Clearly the director enjoys recording the exploits of the serial killer as much as the killer likes perpetrating them. In the first episode, he brutally slays a woman baking cupcakes in a kitchen, shoves her head in the oven and then stuffs her body into a scarecrow.

He could have just said he didn’t like cupcakes (chuckles).

The show’s production value is high and it does make for a watch as it has its moments of brilliance.