Poison is far from being watch-worthy material, let alone binge-watch worthy

Review of Zee5’s Poison- A revenge thriller, minus the thrill

Take a cult Hollywood movie, mangle it beyond recognition, throw in several hackneyed twists, add generous doses of sex and violence, and what do you get? A grave disappointment called Poison, that’s what.

Poison is the latest web series from Zee5’s much-touted Originals repertoire. The 11-episode series takes its premise from the iconic Hollywood flick, Cape Fear. The story is a revenge thriller, where the protagonist, falsely incarcerated for the rape and murder of a minor girl, goes about extracting clinical, cold-blooded revenge from those who had wronged him. But while Cape Fear had portrayed the avenger as pure evil, the makers of Poison settle at giving their protagonist various shades of grey. In the Indian content milieu,black is still a shade reserved for the outright villainous.

The series has been produced by Altus Media, directed by Jatin Wagle and written by Shiraz Ahmed.

Ranveer (Tanuj Virwani) plays the wronged man, while there are a host of guys who are the object of his hate and vengeance, starting with Barrister D’Costa (Pankaj Dheer), DCP Vikram (Freddie Daruwala) and Vikram’s subordinate, Jai Dixit (Romit Raj Parasher). Most of the story is set in Goa, the hotbed of several criminal activities. The title of the series – Poison – suggests that hunger for revenge isl ike the poison that generates such a deeply visceral emotion that it ultimately destroys the revenge-seeker.The end, however, is far-removed from that proposition, even as Ranveer redeems himself eventually.

Nevertheless, not content with depicting a simple revenge drama, the writer has interjected the narrative with several convoluted plots and a multitude of insipid characters – there’s Antonio Verghese, a drug lord-cum-money launderer-cum-property shark, masquerading as a businessman (Arbaaz Khan); his associate, Natasha (Riya Sen); a blackmailing babe called Rani (Saakshi Pradhan); her gay associate (Gaurav Sharma),besides sundry other characters, such as Vikram’s wife, Megha, and sisters, Jahnvi and Ashu, thrown in for good measure.

The diverse tracks run parallel to each other, and the paths of the motley bunch intertwine during the course of the narrative. In the universe inhabited by the myriad characters, none is untainted and each has a hidden agenda. Yet, despite the muddled narrative, it is Ranveer’s revenge track that makes up the bulk of the plot. The writing suffers from a lack of humour, the presence of which could have lightened the otherwise heavy plot. There’s nary a cheery moment in the entire runtime, and whatever little there is, in the form of banter between Vikram’s sisters, comes across as relatively contrived.

The narrative is peppered with murky murders and murkier machinations, none of which make much sense. The plot totters crazily from one premise to another. Characters enter and exit in a singularly baffling manner,most switch loyalties at will in the narrative,while the story itself does an absurd juggle between Mumbai and Goa. All these bewildering dynamics of the series add nothing to the storytelling, but add tonnes to our confusion.

Generous amounts of explicit and wholly needless love-making scenes litter the story, coupled with a bit of nudity, because, well, it is a web series after all; so –have freedom, will use. There are also snatches of gay sex, to cover the entire spectrum. A few scenes of graphic violence complete the picture.

The narrative is peppered with murky murders and murkier machinations, none of which make much sense. The plot totters crazily from one premise to another. Characters enter and exit in a singularly baffling manner, most switch loyalties at will in the narrative, while the story itself does an absurd juggle between Mumbai and Goa

The web of deceit that the makers have tried to fabricate is patchy, frayed at the edges and threatens to fall aparteven before it can ensnare its prey, aka viewers.

The acting does nothing to elevate the series from the depths of mediocrity it languishes in. After his inspired outing in the innovative Amazon Prime series, Inside Edge, we expected fireworks from Tanuj Virwani in a role tailor-made to showcase his edgy persona. Alas, the damp squib of a story and the lacklustre direction puts paid to Tanuj’s chances. Freddie Daruwala is average as the corrupt DCP, while Riya Sen merely adds oomph to the show. Saakshi Pradhan’s performance is about average too.

It is Arbaaz Khan, however, who makes somewhat of an impression on his viewers. Despite his character not being central to the plot, Arbaaz steals the limelight in all the scenes that he features in. He comes across as the benevolent grand-daddy of crime, who casts a generous eye on whoever is worthy of his magnanimity at that particular moment in the story. He is endearingly adorable, even though he plays one of the bad guys.  It is quite a noteworthy debut in the realm of web series, and one can expect to see a lot more of him in this space in the future.

To sum it up, Poison is far from being watch-worthy material, let alone binge-watch worthy. The times they are a-changing, my friends. It is the era of spectacular shows and stellar storytelling, brought within reach of viewers by the myriad OTT platforms. Audiences,today, are spoilt for choice, and will no longer settle for mindless mediocrity. And the sooner content creators wake up and smell the coffee, the better.

In the meanwhile, we’ll go with a rating of 2 out of 5 for Poison.

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