Director: Birsa Dasgupta
Cast: Mona Singh, Shamita Shetty, Swastika Mukherjee, Raima Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Sharad Kelkar
Producer: Namrata G Rungta, Reliance Big Synergy, Namit Sharma
Streaming Platform: Zee5
Mona Singh, Shamita Shetty, and Swastika Mukherjee are the titular black widows, Veera, Kavita, and Jaya respectively- women who placed a bomb in the boat their husbands are on. Their husbands are horrid- one threatens to kill the child, one pimps the wife, and one is abusive. They, thus, are framed as deserving of death.
The women are thick as thieves- Veera (Singh) and Jaya (Mukherjee) are the interchangeable brains, and Kavita is the superstitious, sexy, and senseless one. Shamita Shetty plays Kavita for stereotype, leaving no stone unturned in making her a humourless bimbette. (A nutty psychic tells her, “You know there’s something terribly wrong about you, no?”) This is the kind of show that mistakes exaggerated overtures for comedy, but nothing lilts in this, literally, dead on arrival narrative.
The story unravels through cheap comedy (an investigating officer eating samosa with red chutney while eyeing the blood oozing out of a smashed skill, to a comedy track), blithe logic, and cursive convolutions of plot. At 12 episodes, 30 minutes each, Black Widows is thick with webs of deceit, and suspicions of the investigating officers roiling between tea leaves, mutton, wax strips, and .. sigh… the female bum. It’s as silly as it is arbitrary. At one point two assistants- young boys assisting older women- are waiting outside while the women are punching out the details of the deal inside. The boys converse about how they are not “just assistants”, and one of them shows a hickey. The other one, to not let go of a challenge, shows his, and this quickly becomes a competition of whose hickey goes deeper- in colour and depth.
There are moments of infectious joy, but there are mostly the charms of Mukherjee and Singh- their scenes together, over wine and chess, exude smiles. (Swastika Mukherjee’s styling is impeccable.) Take this sweet exchange:
“Tum khush ho na? That’s important!”
“Main akeli hoon. That’s important!”
Their chemistry is never tested the way it should be, they never turn on each other entirely. (When they do, it’s pat, and doesn’t evoke anything tense or seemingly irreversible.) But it’s sad that they also never entirely turn to each other- they all find male shoulders to weep on and sleep with- Black Widows is thus not able to become the misogynist’s feminist nightmare. This, one realizes, is because the arc of redemption is only reserved for the man- one of the three husbands who has miraculously survived the bomb. The women swagger and simper through. Which then begs a bigger question of who the protagonist here is?
There is the cookie-cutter awfulness, very much like some of Zee5’s previous catastrophic originals- Topless, Loser. Which means that the production design is quite good in a world that is so thinly constructed, like a house of cards, it falls flat with the softest blow of questioning. This would not be much of a problem if the plot kept swerving, like Bicchoo Ka Khel, never giving you the respite to sit back. But here, alas, you are given both the stupidity and the time to straighten out the stupidity, alarmed at the audacity, and bored by its consequences. (Barring a comical comedy-of-errors Housefull climax-like moment, which really worked, clunky and contrived as it was.) There’s only so much one can expect from an investigative drama where a photo of a woman’s bum, and a drunk girl’s blog post become clenchers to get murders solved. The greater crime here is that even as it’s bizarre, it’s just no fun.