The first time we see Suniel Shetty’s ACP Vikram in Hunter - Tootega Nahi, Todega, he’s sprawled on a boat, with the Sealink behind him. A white woman in her underwear strolls past his spreadeagled self to pick up a wad of cash (and then presumably walks on water to reach the shore since the boat is bobbing in the middle of Mahim Bay). Over the next few minutes, Vikram beats up a few dozen bad guys; saves a girl from the clutches of a villain; discovers he (Vikram, not the villain) needs an urgent kidney transplant; has a one-night stand with a woman whose email is “[email protected]”; and has an epiphany the morning after, while he’s in the shower, watching the rippling muscles of his own torso.
And why not? If at age 61 you look like Shetty does, surely thirst trapping yourself and all those who watch a platform with the tagline “young janta ko yahi mangta (this is what the young public wants)” is well within your rights.
So far, Amazon’s miniTV has been a strange, dark corner of the OTT space where shows exist, but rarely get seen or acknowledged. Hunter is its most high-profile offering yet and it’s clearly made to be watched on the smallest screens. The colours are saturated and there’s little detailing in the scenes. Most of the interiors look like sets. A makeshift surgery is bathed in lurid red light to ensure you know this is where Bad Things Happen. Watch Hunter on anything bigger than a phone and its special effects look hilariously amateurish. Even on small screen, the show frequently looks like a video game and in one episode, the makers lean into this, turning a fight scene into a first-person shooter sequence that looks like a teenager’s love letter to Call of Duty.
Shetty’s ACP Vikram is the cool dude and black sheep of Mumbai Police. When he finds himself framed for murder — on the basis of a video in which the deepfake looks like it was made on Microsoft Paint — Vikram is forced to go on the run. Helping him out is a young hacker named Sid (Mihir Ahuja) and Vikram’s junior, Sajid, played by Karanvir Sharma, whom you could criticise for having just one expression, but that’s still one more than Esha Deol can manage as she tries to convince everyone she’s a freelance journalist.
Technically, Hunter has both plot and subplots, and Amar Tipnis is credited for the screenplay based on the book The Invisible Woman by Saurabh Katyal. However, ‘story’ is only an excuse to set up fight scenes in which Shetty can beat people to a pulp while a heavy metal remix of a classic Hindi film song does the same to your eardrums. There’s nothing wrong with a remix in principle, but the disconnect between the mood of songs like “Rang Barse” and “Meri Sapnon ki Rani”, and the violent scenes they accompany is jarring. The heavy metal treatment makes these songs sound like incel anthems and you can’t help but worry about who hurt music supervisors Anshuman Mukherjee and Upmanyu Bhanot.
Much like its soundtrack, there’s little originality in Hunter. Made up entirely of stereotypes like the rogue, wisecracking cop from American noir and cartoonishly over-the-top violence from films inspired by graphic novels, the show is proudly derivative. The lack of complexity in the characters, the barely-there attention to detail and careless plotting suggest a patronising perspective, as though the audience is too dumb to know it’s being fed half-baked tripe. (Arguably, this is true of much of the Indian content that seeks to be ‘massy’. It just feels more obvious in shows like this one, which are expected to appeal to the lowest common denominator with apparently the lowest possible effort.)
Hunter is also reminiscent of the worst of Hindi commercial cinema from the Nineties, particularly in the way it uses the female body as a punching bag for men’s violent cravings. Hunter begins with a girl being beaten to death and episodes like this keep recurring. Men also die brutal deaths in the show, but the violence against women feels more rich with intention and scarring. There are two scenes in which women — one is a matriarch; the other is a ‘whore’ — are brutally tortured and these scenes are replayed multiple times. The men inflicting violence upon women take undisguised pleasure in their actions. Sometimes they look into the camera, suggesting a moment of communion with the viewer, as though the character is articulating repressed desires for the audience — take that bitch and teach her a lesson, show her who’s boss. More troubling than the misogyny is the equivalence that Hunter establishes between masculinity and being an aggressor, while normalising women as receptacles of violence. It’s disturbing to think that this is how a “young janta” is being encouraged to see girls and women. It’s even more disturbing to think “young janta ko yahi mangta”.
If Amazon miniTV’s target demographic really is the youth, then the takeaway from this show is that they want to see old men being macho and young women being brutalised. Because the threat of the show’s tagline — Tootega Nahi, Todega — is intended for the audience’s brain.