IWMBuzz.com reviews ZEE5’s SkyFire

Climate change is the wolf at our door, huffing and puffing and threatening to bring our houses down. Pair that with the escalating rate of greenhouse gases in the environment and the looming spectre of global warming, and you have a recipe for a climatic disaster of gargantuan proportions.

But what happens when certain malevolent humans, at war with humanity, devise a way to manipulate climate (an already erratic entity, if you please) with the sole and malicious purpose to bring on doomsday and wipe off half the human race? It is a crisis of a magnitude that is difficult to even contemplate.

That is the premise of Skyfire, a new web series streaming on Zee5, the prolific OTT player with the propensity of popping out web shows faster than rabbits can pop out baby rabbits.

Book adaptations are all the rage today. The 8-episode Skyfire has been adapted from the novel SkyFire, authored by Aroon Raman. The show has been produced by Shabina Khan, in association with Alligator Media Productions, while SoumikSen has helmed the directorial baton.

Skyfire is a sci-fi thriller set around the theme of weather terrorism and bio warfare. The story begins with a series of bizarre and catastrophic climactic disasters hitting the Indian subcontinent in quick succession. While Kerala is beset by a massive cloud burst that brings on terrible floods, unseasonal and abnormal acid rains lash cities like Nagpur and Jaipur. The Karakoram Range witnesses a gigantic avalanche, a Tsunami hits the southern Indian coast and Leh too has strange climactic occurrences.

All are natural calamities that hit suddenly – without warning and with a force that is beyond the understanding of weather scientists. But wait. Are they actually natural calamities? Or is there a greater force at work here? Skyfire is a doomsday conspiracy with delicious scope for mystery and mystique.

In the midst of the melee, a large-hearted businessman and budding politico, Dharma (Jisshu Sengupta) and his wife Vaishali (Anindita Bose) reach every place of disaster and help bail out the disaster-afflicted people with resources, medicines and compassionate physical assistance.

Meanwhile, slum children are disappearing with shocking frequency in Delhi. When a slum child Gopal (Karan Dave of Meri Nimmo fame) disappears, his night school teacher-cum-historianMeenu (Sonal Chauhan) and her live-in partner, journalist Chandra (Prateik Babbar) get on the trail to find out the mystery behind the disappearance of the kids. Their friend, intelligence officer Syed Ali Hassan (Jatin Goswami), with the support of the chief of the intelligence bureau (Denzil Smith), joins in on the chase.

Soon, a series of strange incidents, coupled with several gruesome murders, lead them to conclude that the unnatural climactic disasters and the children’s kidnappings are deeply related and part of a larger conspiracy. Twists, turns and thrills pepper the narrative as the series hurtles towards an unlikely discovery, in Bhutan, of all places.

Gradually the bunch realizes that it is a crime against the nation, of a scale and scope the likes of which the world has never seen before. It is a race against time, as they struggle to find a way out of the conundrum before Operation Pralay strikes. The villain of the piece is an unscrupulous, merciless businessman called Khatri (Shataf Figar).

While the plot and premise of Skyfire are quite intriguing, the screenplay (Suresh Nair) and direction fail to craft adequate suspense and thrill. The narrative lacks the characteristic edge-of-the-seat excitement that elevates a run-of-the-mill story to a truly electrifying one. To make matters worse, the production values of the show are not that great either. The twist in the tale, when it comes, is tacky and tame. It lacks bite and dynamism, falling flat and flopping miserably.

The plot is riddled with inconsistencies. Why would Khatri let off the protagonists with tame warnings when he has no scruples in murdering people with gruesome impunity? He has a particular fondness for going for his victim’s jugular vein with the cutlery he is eating with. Yet, when it comes to Chandra and gang, they’re let off easily, time and again. The character of a sharp-shooter who goes by the name of Professor is another discrepancy, with regard to the character’s relevance to the story. The story chugs along in fits and starts, telling, rather than showing, the crucial points of the narrative.

The acting saves the show from being a complete disaster. Prateik Babbar is earnest and has put in a commendable effort, though we loved him more in Four More Shots Please.JisshuSengupta has a mesmerizing presence, courtesy his good looks and towering height. He has portrayed his character well, revelling in the meaty role he’s got. He does need to work on his diction though. Now and then, he gets this weird firangi accent to his Hindi, which is quite baffling if you ask us.

Sonal Chauhan makes an impressive debut in the digital space. She holds our attention in a role quite suited to her winsome personality. Denzel Smith has evolved into an accomplished, resourceful actor, who recurrently saves the day for casting directors, whatever be the type of role he is handed.

Karan Dave is a delight to watch, exemplifying the adage: good things come in small packages. He is confident and self-assured, as he navigates Gopal’s character with considerable ease. Anindita Bose looks ethereally beautiful and manages to impress in her short appearance in the series.

The pick of the cast are indisputably Jatin Goswami and ShatafFigar. Both have put in a brilliant performance. Jatin lends a compelling edge to his character, coming across as tough and invincible. He has a persuasive presence in every frame he features in.

ShatafFigar plays the bad guy so convincingly that you get an unsettling sense of foreboding every time he strides on to the screen. His is a consummate skill that he demonstrates with single-minded dexterity through the eight episodes.

Skyfire had the potential to be an absolutely thrilling ride. It, however, falls short of being a compelling watch because of the erratic plot and storyline, which really is all over the place. That said, it may be worth a watch for die-hard aficionados of sci-fi, crime and thrillers.

2.5/5 is our rating for Skyfire.

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