Asur Season 2 Web Series Review: This Serial-Killer Show’s Victims Include Common Sense and Intelligence

Arshad Warsi, Barun Sobti, Anupriya Goenka are back and searching for the notorious, murderous Asur. The second season of Asur is streaming on Jio Cinema
Asur Season 2 Web Series Review: This Serial-Killer Show’s Victims Include Common Sense and Intelligence

“Pralay”, “karma”, “mahayuddh”, “maryada” — these are big words whose meaning carries a spiritual torment, whose Sanskritic heft is meant to add a theological lift to dialogues; regal words that in the second season of the serial killer show Asur, watching Arshad Warsi and Barun Sobti continue their hunt of a psychopathic serial killer who eluded them in the first season, are supposed to stun you into thinking, ‘My God! This is the ethical extremity of Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) articulated through the vocabulary of the Vedas.’ Stop. Take 10 steps back. Reboot your brain. 

Asur is the kind of show that thinks if it stuns you, again and again, newer twist at the corner of every new twist, fresher evidence at the corner of every fresh evidence, it is doing a good job. Given this limited stab at storytelling, this narrow demand, Asur is a thumping success. Widen that perspective a little, and the show falls apart. 

Created by Gaurav Shukla, who is also a co-writer, and directed by Oni Sen, Asur isn’t interested in being philosophical but seeming philosophical; much like its scenes of forensic science aren’t interested in being scientific and pedantic, but seeming specific. That seeming-ness, however, is too thin, too transparent. We can see through the show, through its antics, its zig-zagging density. Pockmarked with shallow references to Hindu mythology and modern self help — sample this line, “Power boosts ego and ego is the demise of honour” — the show goes for pulpy entertainment, easy gore, and agitated cliffhangers to lasso the fraying attention. It rots at an alarming rate.

The tsunami shall strike, “Pralay ka aarambh hone jaa raha hai,” a motivational speaker Kesar Bhardwaj (Gaurav Arora) gruffly, nihilistically pronounces, while smoldering, at the outset of the second season of Asur. He belongs to a group of people — a cult, really — who believe that innocent, kind, god-fearing people must be killed. Murders and the fundamental belief of this cult, that the goodness of good people is a “beemari”, a disease, fill the eight-episode run time. Human nature will be described as fundamentally “neech, swarthi, kroor” — all adjectives of disrepair. Kesar believes that in order for Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu to descend, the murders must keep piling up in order to usher in that final pralay — that humanity-obliterating tsunami — which will purify creation by leaving no one, no thing, intact. Destruction is inevitable, so go for gongs. Some people, as they say, just want to watch the world burn. 

Dhananjay Rajpoot (Warsi) is now a monk in Dharamshala, having escaped the brutal life of being a forensic expert for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and suffered the loss of his wife at the hands of the serial killer in the first season. The rest of his team is still trying to unmask the murderer who is known as Asur. Nusrat Saeed (Ridhi Dogra) matches the one-note storytelling by responding to the events around her with a singular expression, accented with shock sometimes, confusion at others. Rasool Shaikh (Amey Wagh) remains on the team, despite what the audience knows about him from the first season. Nikhil Nair (Barum Sobti), is now depressed and addicted to pills — and just so it is clear that he is depressed, the word is plastered in capital letters on the pill bottle he keeps popping open. This is the kind of depression that is solved by labour because as the body count rises and Nikhil's work piles, his grief goes on the backburner. 

His wife, Naina Nair (Anupriya Goenka), the proficient coder, keeps typing at keyboards, achieving different kinds of coding successes and tearing through the “dark web” with strains of “blockchain”. Goenka has inaugurated the era of the “typing face” actress — to look stressed, to have manicured fingers dancing ferociously on the keyboard, clap-tap-clap, while men keep barking orders at her. The grief of her daughter’s death and an unresponsive husband has scratched a permanent scowl on her face. She is filing for divorce. Through the season, she goes on to uncover a world of deep-fakes where someone is morphing images, spreading disinformation to stoke fires of unrest in civil society. Who do you think they are talking about? 

Halfway into this jalebi-jangled, frigidly staged show, Meiyang Chang — who plays an Anti Terror Force officer with helmet hair— enters and strikes a comically rigid pose, always hands on hip. 

Meanwhile, Asur continues his killing spree. People drop like flies. The value of human life plummets to near zero, with dead bodies that are quite clearly life-sized dolls. When characters die, their loss of life feels little less than an emotional pinch. Sometimes, three die at a time. Here is a wholesale serial killer, who will have to battle it out with a miracle-manifesting monk, a child really, who mimicks the empty mystery of the Mona Lisa smile. The story coasts along. We yawn through the tedious tirades. Artificial intelligence comes into soft focus. There is a social media discourse. The assault on privacy is brought up. Civil war, too, rears its head, and then dissolves. 

At any given point, there is too much happening, too much being explained and too little intelligence to Asur. There is a scene where two separate characters are on the computer, trying to crack two different things, and we keep frantically shifting from one computer to the next, barely grasping the logic of either, barely willing to keep the grip of our attention over the show. This is because this is not a show of complex characters whose inner lives will be excavated through the run-time, but rather because the story is told using cardboard cutouts, who once-defined remain stuck. They are thrown into a world of constant whirlpools, and it is this unceasing whirlpool-ing, this ridiculous desire to replace character with plot (as opposed to building character through plot) that strikes the death knell for Asur

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