Updated: Oct 17, 2019
So Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment has come up with a Bard of Blood, a #NetflixOriginal Spy-Thriller series based on Bilal Siddiqui's novel of the same name.
Bard of Blood has many of the characteristics of a Bollywood action flick while having a tightly woven and well acted narrative, thankfully without the obligatory Bollywood songs, well produced with Netflix passion. So, with a bingeworthy compact season of 7 episodes, the series does end up being a good time spent in front of a screen, even with the noteworthy absence of a kiss from the #SerialKisser.
The series begins with a looming warning of impending doom in the form of threat of an attack which is not the staple terror plot but a much refined play of political Jihad. The major driver is a rescue operation for IIW agents captured by the Taliban while trying to pass on a crucial bit of intelligence to India. So there is no shortage of twists and unraveling of characters throughout. Keep in mind, though, the very last shot of the season finale was a twist with such standard and predictable Bollywood cliche that it was painful.
The main character - played by none other than Emraan Hashmi had a good buildup, but not enough of a backstory to justify the enigma surrounding his name. Regardless of the mysterious past as a professional, ex-IIW agent Kabir Anand is a well written character and masterfully portrayed by Hashmi. You can appreciate the trauma and guilt of his past and the frustration of being one-upped by his nemesis at every turn and being tied down by bureaucracy.
Kabir Anand's compatriots and team mates Veer Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) and Isha Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala) are well cast and play their parts well. But their main role is to support Emraan, moving the plot forwards without outshining him. So there is hardly any back story or perceptible depth to these characters other than what is essential for the screenplay. The four agents this team sets out to rescue are generic and somehow their ordeal seems to lack a sense of urgency or tragedy.
Tanveer Shehzad, played by Jaideep Ahlawat, is as good a nemesis as can be expected of Bollywood. His character is well placed with moderate amounts of menace, cunning and cruelty.
Taliban leader Mulla Khalid played by Danish Hussain is compelling in parts, but is somewhat overshadowed by his son Aftab (Asheish Nijhawan) who comes up as a cunning successor to his father. Both these characters, however, take a backstage as the series progresses and it seems their zeal and strength were only for show.
The set up is mostly centred around Balochistan and a delicate political balance between the Taliban and Pakistani government and intelligence agencies. The gorgeous sceneries of the province and architecture is well showcased.
The most prominent negative of this series is the action. We live in an era of realistic and grounded action. One hero taking on a dozen goons is not the norm nowadays. And especially the climactic one-on-one fight between Kabir and Shehzad could have been dispensed with to make room for a more sensible face off. Unimpressive gun fights are plentiful to be seen with weird muzzle flashes. In true Bollywood style, Emraan is shot once and stabbed once - the effects seem only to last about 20 minutes of runtime.
The title of this series promised a drama of Shakespearean quality, but what we get are episodes which are named after quotes from the Bard and a very small reference during one of the scenes. So, this show could have been named Adonis, for all the effect it could have had.
All in all, there is much to be liked in this series and much to be wanted, too. Especially after having watched the witty drama and chilling thrill of The Family Man.
I give the first season of Bard of Blood 6 Thumbs ups out of 10.