Dhootha review: Vikram K Kumar plays to his strengths in Naga Chaitanya’s web debut
Naga Chaitanya gets the chance to shed his ‘good boy’ image in this dark thriller that manages to beautifully join all the dots.
Dhootha review: Naga Chaitanya and director Vikram K Kumar make their digital debut with the limited web series Dhootha. In a scenario, where most of the Telugu outings on the digital space have been nothing but a disappointment, this Prime Video series manages to get it right for the most part. Vikram plays to his strengths, tapping into what he did for 13B, to deliver a moody and gritty thriller about news ethics that keeps you engaged. (Also Read: December upcoming web series: BTS Monuments, The Freelancer, The Crown, Money Heist Berlin and more)
The year is 2022. Sagar (Naga Chaitanya) is a well-known journalist in Visakhapatnam with a pregnant wife Priya (Priya Bhavani Shankar), who’s also a journalist on maternity leave, and a young child. One dark rainy night, he comes across an oil soaked newspaper clipping at a dhaba that predicts something horrendous. Sagar inadvertently pulls on a thread that unravels it all, and he must find a way to put his life back together before it’s too late.
There have been stories like Early Edition (English) or Yogen (Japanese) in the past that have delved into the psychosis that prevails when one gets a glimpse of the future beforehand. However, apart from the newspaper element, Vikram manages to keep things rooted and fresh when it comes to Dhootha. His style seems inspired by Asian horror, which is fueled by pathos and the vagaries of human nature over unnecessary jumpscares.
A good job of connecting the dots
When it rains it pours, and it sure pours both literally and figuratively for Sagar through the span of eight episodes. But before that happens, Vikram shows us a glimpse of the relationships Sagar shares with those around him. He seems like a righteous reporter and the perfect husband on the surface, but as the layers peel away, you begin to see the flaws. The first and second episodes draw you in immediately and keep you hooked, making it hard to look away. Parvathy Thiruthovu as Kranthi Shanoy and Ravindra Vijay as Ajay Ghosh play police personnel who are two different sides of the same coin.
As the body count and gore mounts up, so does Sagar’s desperation to find a solution for his predicament, and more importantly, find out the truth behind it. Vikram does a stellar job of introducing several small characters in the story, who are the nuts and bolts that make a larger machine. Prachi Desai as Sagar’s PA Amrutha, Rohini as his mother, Tharun Bhascker, Raja Goutham, Pasupathy, Jeevan Kumar and others tie into the story neatly. Unlike most fictional work, that seem littered with unnecessary characters, he does a good job of connecting all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until it all starts to make sense.
The big reveal
The way things are set up from the beginning, you might expect something different, something more from the big reveal. Vikram boils everything down to lineage, good journalism and passing the baton to a world better than the one you live in. It might not be what you expect, but it’s satisfactory none-the-less in the way he pulls it off.
Dhootha gives Naga Chaitanya the chance to do something he hasn’t before - shed his ‘good boy’ image. His character is deliciously layered, flawed and borderline unlikable, something he makes the most of. His performance might not always land, but he keeps you invested in most of the episodes that require him to do the heavy-lifting. Parvathy, Priya and Prachi get characters that are anything but run-of-the-mill. All three of them sink their teeth into it and do a good job. Mikolaj Sygula’s beautiful cinematography and Varun Venugopal’s eerie sound design plays a major part in elevating the mood.
The only gripe with the series has to be that bang in the middle, the story begins to feel a bit bloated. Even as Kranthi digs up Sagar’s secrets and conducts a parallel investigation, you begin to feel some information just comes her way, rather than through smart deduction. But one thing you can't fault the series with is being boring. Watch it, especially if you’re a fan of horror and gore, it all seems worthwhile by the end.