Director: Sattwik Mohanty, Preya Hirji
Writer: Pranjal Saxena, Shashank Kunwar, Mohinder Pratap Singh, Mayuri Roychoudhury
Cast: Sumeet Vyas, Monica Chaudhary, Taniya Kalra, Nidhi Singh, Jatin Sarna, Kunj Anand, Shekhar Chowdhary
Streaming Platform: ALT Balaji, Zee5
There’s a certain hideous bravado to Dark 7 White. Bravado because you must have gun-powder guts to make a series this convoluted, and catty. Hideous because the plot feels like it was taken from a round of Cards Against Humanity- the sheer randomness, and audacity of the plotting, based on a book by Shweta Brijpuria, boggles the mind. The show is so beaten by conspiracies and cross-conspiracies that in the last episode, they have to do a quick re-cap to explain everyone’s motives. They then have two voiceovers, of two different characters, one of whom is dead, and one of whom is investigating the dead. Now, that’s a sign of having gone too far. But then again, moderation has never been a part of the ALT Balaji manifesto.
We see first Yudhveer (Sumeet Vyas), a psychopath of royal blood, smoking, as Neelakshi (Monica Chaudhary), whom he has just had sex with, drapes her sari back. He has been named the youngest Chief Minister of India, and as he walks out, embraces his pant-suited friend Greeshma (Taniya Kalra), whom he has also had sex with, but this comes later in the series. Then, he stands in front of the press as his salwar-kameez lily-livered wife, Daisy (Nidhi Singh), comes to congratulate him. (It is the outfits that distinguish his various sexual partners- and of course it also signals character traits. The sari is sacrificial, the pantsuit is shrewd and the salwar kameez is contained.)
Within moments Yudhveer (or Yudee or Chief or Shehzade as he is called) is killed and the whole series throttles between a flashback establishing his rise from college politics to Rajasthan politics, and an investigation by ACP Abhimanyu Singh (Jatin Sarna) into who killed him. Vyas does the voiceover as a dead man, and this could have been witty, but it’s not. His stiff, no-fucks-given attitude tires easily. I have a feeling this was supposed to be “cool”, because he is given these faux-swaggering lines like “Sapne aur sex, donon mein ek baat common hai. Agar poore na ho to orgasm nahin hoti.” Embedded in eye-rolls was fear that psychopathy could be misconstrued as enviable. The earworm beats of the Rajasthani folk song ‘Laal Peeli Ankhiyaan’ recomposed by Arpit Mehta & Udit Prajapati for this series keeps propelling violence and violation as swag.
Actors like Vyas capable of good performances play caricatures of stereotypes and it is heartening to see them unfettered, and un-embarrassed by the writing, which is click-bait-with-zero-weight.
Two things are really striking about Dark 7 White, which I hate to say, but is the closest we have gotten to Ryan Murphy’s The Politician streaming on Netflix. (But this is both unfunny, and unfocused. Each season of The Politician focused on one kind of election, either for the school or for the state. Here both are bunged in, one told through a hasty, horny flashback.)
First, is the language of sex and porn. By now we have realized ALT Balaji will never cross the line of frontal nudity; as one of the comments in a previous review noted, “garam karke thanda rakh diya.” But they still use it with shameless containment in the language instead. Look at the episode titles: “Sapne Aur Sex” which contrary to our base, first idea, is not about wet dreams; “Politics Aur Porn”, which exactly like our imaginings, includes sex tape(s); “Friendship Aur French Kiss”, “Izzat Aur Hard On”, and so on.
Second is the allure of the flashback, which seems like an overused, under-utilized structure of storytelling now. Bicchoo Ka Khel (ALT Balaji, Zee5) and Aashram (MX Player) both used it. I have a theory that this format shows the makers’ fear of the actual beginning of a story being uninteresting, and thus unable to hook an audience in. So might as well start at the end where things actually are driven to a point of delirium. Which, in this case, for sure it is. Yudee is killed by a poisoned thread that cuts his throat as he is standing on a car. When it happens you are not even sure it has happened till his white clothes soak up his tomato blood.
There is a singular disregard to logic that plays out at breakneck speed. Actors like Vyas capable of good performances play caricatures of stereotypes and it is heartening to see them unfettered, and un-embarrassed by the writing, which is click-bait-with-zero-weight. Sexuality here, and especially homosexuality, is a plot point, and never an organic, baked in characterization. Random kids drop in with footage that becomes important in the investigation. The crosscurrents of affection and acrimony keep shifting till you really don’t care who actually killed the bastard (which he is- a murderer, a rapist etc. etc.). But what is most frustrating with shows like these is if you ask questions – which you will be tempted to because of the fleeting logic- you are the stupid one, because the smart ones know to not exact meaning here. But gosh, at what cost?