In the opening sequence of Disney+ Hotstar's latest web series, 'Hundred', we are introduced to a girl who dreams of a Yash-Chopra-style romantic holiday in Switzerland but wakes up to a completely contrasting reality. Netra Patil (Rinku Rajguru) is the only woman in a modest household, who is taken for granted by her family. She is also their sole breadwinner, working in a clerical role at a government organisation. Her ungrateful family lives off her earnings but does not care to give her importance – her brother says, 'Taai hai na, hum sabki bai'. The context is set – it's a man's world and misogyny is deep-rooted.
It doesn't seem to be much different in the starkly contrasting world of ACP Saumya Shukla (Lara Dutta), a seemingly powerful woman married to a fellow cop, DCP Praveen (SudhanshuPandey). As the narrator of the series, Saumya calls herself 'department ki item girl', because that is all that she is used for – photo ops on women's day, leading a cop's flash mob and being mute in press conferences. While she longs for a challenging work life, her husband and their boss, Police Commissioner Anshuman (Parmeet Sethi) think it more appropriate for her to be in a 'desk job'. However, the ambitious Saumya has other plans – she wants to crack a big case and win all the accolades. And it is precisely this ambition that creates a convoluted narrative, which makes watching the show tedious and a bit exhausting.
'Hundred', directed by Ruchi Narain, Taher Shabbir, Ashutosh Shah, is the story of these two women – ACP Saumya Shukla and Netra Patil – who meet due to unforeseen circumstances and end up inter-twining their lives. Realising that she is terminally ill with only 100 days to live, a docile and meek Netra decides to live her life to the fullest, which Saumya plans to use for her advantage. What follows is an uneven ride of 8 episodes, with some hits and a lot of misses.
The first three episodes are spent in making the viewers understand the deep-rooted misogyny. It makes usbelieve that male chauvinism transcends social construct and exists in every strata of the society. The women are called 'Rebels without a cause' and their angst is interpreted in the same way – Anshuman attributes 'hormones' to Saumya's fearless attitude, while Netra's boyfriend remarks it's her periods which cause her to be erratic. Clearly, these men don't understand their women. It also sets an expectation that this would probably be a web series highlighting the travails of a women and how do they beat all odds. However, it falters in its execution, thanks to the heavily contrived investigations and unnecessary sub-plots that Saumya and Netra land-up in. While I did not expect a racy thriller, all of the cases and investigations were a let-down. Neither were they smart and intelligently crafted, nor were they aiding much to what seemed like the theme of the show – two women fighting against all odds.
'Hundred' is not designed to be a cliff-hanger and there isn't the urge to binge watch it all. However, it is no tan engaging watch, except for the honest performances by its leading women –Lara Dutta and Rinku Rajguru. Saumya Shukla is an ambitious, smart and manipulative woman, who knows what she wants and believes in 'ends justify means'. Lara Dutta plays her decently well, except that we do not get to see her vulnerabilities. She is always stoic and confident, not letting us see her lows, weaknesses and insecurities. Rinku Rajguru, playing the feisty Netra Patil, repeats her flair from Sairat and continues to be a spirited girl. In apart written better than Saumya's, Rinku shines as she transforms from a meek and submissive girl to a livewire, once she gets to know her days are numbered. She looks up to ACP Saumya and shares good on-screen camaraderie with her. The rest of the cast is fine, but no one delivers a noteworthy performance. Most of the men are stereotypes who think they know what is best for the women in their life. Also, Karan Wahi (with whacky tattoos), as Manohar Dahiya AKA Maddy,gets a half-baked part and a not so important sub-plot, which doesn't help much except hinder the pace.
The crisp camerawork and criss-crossing screenwriting deserve a mention for trying to make the show interesting. However, the weak storytelling, unnecessary sub-plots and poorly designed police cases make the show an underwhelming watch. It has been conceptualised and directed by three directors (Ruchi Narain, Taher Shabbir, Ashutosh Shah), which makes me wonder if it is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth!
Watch it if there isn't anything better to do. (Hail quarantine!)