Bejoy Nambiar’s Taish, a revenge-thriller, released on Zee5 as both a sextet web-series, and a 2.5 hour long feature film. With this dual release Nambiar broke with tradition, attempting to answer the question: What format of storytelling is the web more likely to accept?
While this is the first time a release in two formats is happening, stories meant to be feature films have, in the recent past, been chopped up on the editing table and released only as web-series. SonyLIV’s JL50 and MX Player’s Dangerous comes to mind.
Zee5’s preference of medium can be gauged from the fact that it released the film much after it dropped the series on its platform. In an interview with us Nambiar noted the same, “[Zee5] initially said they wanted to release just the series and maybe release the film two months later, but I said that would ruin the experience.”
Bejoy Nambiar’s Taish unfolds through silhouettes and saviour-complexes. Inspired by the viral tweet on dividing up Martin Scorsese’s 3 hour long The Irishmen into 6 episodes of watchable-length, and bolstered by test screening reactions, Nambiar and his editor Priyank Prem Kumar played around with the footage to morph the film into a web-series.
But unlike the Tweet, this wasn’t merely dividing up the film into 6 equal parts. It required re-working the structure of the story itself. I watched both versions, the film and the series, noting the differences between the two versions in an experiment that while ultimately messy, holds promise.
Taish has two strands.
The first strand has two gangster brothers Kuli (Abhimanyu Singh) and Pali (Harshvardhan Rane), at war with each other since Kuli, the elder one married Pali’s lover, Jahaan (Sanjeeda Sheikh).
The second strand has Rohan (Jim Sarbh), and his best friend Sunny (Pulkit Samrat), a hothead with a saviour complex, both at Rohan’s brother’s wedding. Arfa (Kriti Kharbanda) is Rohan’s lover – Muslim, Pakistani, an orthopedic.
The series begins with the Big Fight where the two strands of the story intersect- where Sunny bludgeons Kuli to paralysis in a pub bathroom. The explanation for this comes in Episode 3, and between the event and its explanation the time ebbs and flows in “… days ago” and “present day”.
The movie, however, neatly irons out this timeline and plays out linearly, so the Big Fight comes somewhere in the middle, its explanation coming before it, giving the bloodshed some context. This need to establish a fight in the beginning to bring in the audience is too tepid a trope to rationalize itself in an experimental film like this.
The back and forth of the web-series didn’t work for me. At one point, it is casually brought up that we are now 2 years after the Big Fight when Arfa comments, “Pichle do salon mein I have never tried to get in touch with you.” In the film this flash forward is brought upfront in a disclaimer- “2 Years Later”. It is placed elsewhere in the series, baffling the timeline.
I must mention that I watched the movie after the series, so a lot of the anger characters feel “in the present” made more sense in the second viewing.
The Deleted Scenes
Mild Spoilers Ahead
The collective run-time of the series is about 3 hours. Each of the 6 episodes vary in length from 26-36 minutes. The film’s duration is 2.5 hours.
Not much has been cut-off, but what was cut baffled me a little, given how the long stretches of stares and walks were retained, fuelling Nambiar’s preference of swagger over banter.
A whole exchange between Rohan and his mother about her searching for brides and thus grandchildren is cut off in the film but Rohan’s last line “I’m just going to say hello to Krish before impregnating Simmi” is kept. I wish I could react to this random sentence without knowing the context. Maybe someone who watched only the film might express it better.
Similarly, in the film, a whole stretch of Sunny in prison is cut off. He has a dialogue, “Ek din ke liye nahin ruk sakta tha”, to express his anguish at being released from prison a day earlier than intended. Why one day? This was only explained in the series. The movie, however, retained the dialogue without its explanation.
But the most odd deletion was a conversation of the couple getting married (Ankur Rathee as Krish, Zoa Morani as Maahi). There is tension before the wedding, exacerbated by Maahi being arm-twisted to inviting her ex by her family. Krish is understandably mad. Now in the series, between this exposition about the ex and the marriage, there is a sweet conversation where Maahi tells him she got the ex to not come, and Krish jumps into the lake, and she follows and they kiss. This is followed by Dhruv Visvanath’s beautiful song Wild (missing from the OST) where they dance around a fire in joy. But in the film the conversation is axed, so after Krish finds out about the ex, between his anger and the joy of the song, there is no scene making sense of the transition.
Which format should you watch?
I preferred the movie version, but I wish it didn’t delete the additional detailing and banter of the series. I understand that a 3 hour film on streaming is a big gamble, but I reckon it is a much smaller one than releasing it twice, in different versions, each one’s strength outlining the other’s weakness.