Jimmy Shergill Rangbaaz Phirse Zee5
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Director: Sachin Pathak
Cast: Jimmy Shergill, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sushant Singh, Gul Panag
Streaming Platform: Zee5

When I walk out of about six hours of television i.e. 1 web-series, without quite grasping what the primary conflict of the story is, who the real “villain” to the “hero” is, I have every right to feel cheated. 

Watching Rangbaaz Phirse, I felt cheated. Cheated, because as an audience I did not know which specific person I should root against. If you tell me to hate one character, I can do it. If you tell me to hate ten different characters, I’ll stumble; I am not a sadist. 

The story of this Zee5 web-series is based on the infamous Rajput gangster from Rajasthan, Anandpal Singh. A brief reading up on him, and the various fan groups on Facebook dedicated to his machismo gives a sense of the deep support and rabid excitement within the community he had at his disposal. Here, he is called Amarpal Singh (played by a stoic and charming Jimmy Shergill). His best friend is Jayram Godara, from the opposing Jatt clan (Sushant Singh in a memorable performance). Anupriya Choudhury (Gul Panag, effortless in a tonally frozen character- one of those that convince the viewer of their importance, but on whom the writers expended the least time) comes in as an ally mid-way through the series. Together, they blast through a host of villains, on whom are expended a host of shoot-outs, none of which are truly satisfying or even gritty. They play out, frosted, clinical, and rehearsed. 

Mohammed Zeeshaan Ayub
Jimmy Shergill and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub find themselves on opposite ends of an exhausting duel.

It is only at the very end of the series, the culmination in the aftermath of the grand climactic shootout, that I felt anything resembling an emotional reaction. That it took eight episodes to make me feel something, anything, is a consequence of the directionlessness of the story. In the first few episodes, there are about 3 narrators (one of whom is a brilliant, foxy Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), and two timelines running simultaneously. Conflicts are added to unresolved ones- there is the Rajput-Jatt conflict, the ‘Upper’ Rajput-‘Lower’ Rajput caste conflict, Gujjar-Meena, political party rivalries, and as the episodes progress, the conflicts deepen, if they are not entirely abandoned. 

People keep dying, blood keeps flowing, the sands of alliance keep shifting, friends become foes become friends. In the midst of such shaky characters and quicksand circumstances, it is hard to be entirely invested in the goings-on. Every episode, running at about 30 minutes, has about 2 gun-fights, leaving in its wake grief and anger, spiralling into more gunfights, more blood. The bullet barter tires easily. 

Rangbaaz Phirse Review: Zee5’s Blood Porn That Tires Easily, Excites Rarely, Film Companion
Spruha Joshi plays Shergill’s wife, and Gul Panag plays his business partner. Both female characters register weakly.

Add to this, the lazy treatment of circumstances. The series is not interested in how we get to a place, it is merely interested in showing that we reached. So, how Jayram builds the empire of illegal alcohol is barely given any time, ditto for Amarpal’s ascent, and Anupriya raising the stakes and worth of the business. If you only know where a character is, without really dwelling on how they get there, it is hard to empathize with and champion them emphatically. 

There are quite a few things that the show does very well, though. The entire season spans a few decades. They use Amarpal’s child, Chiku, and her ageing, to inform the viewers how much ahead in time we are. The setting, in the lawless mayhem and political opportunism of Rajasthan, is immersive. I wish I could have said that about the series itself. 

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