REVIEW: All SRK fans and 90’s movie buffs wouldn’t have missed watching his anti-hero outings like Darr (1993) and Anjaam (1994), both of which were based on the obsession with love and the willingness to go to any length to obtain what you want. Similarly, the basic premise of ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’—the title inspired by the iconic 90’s hit song from the same genre film ‘Baazigar’— is based on William Shakespear’s Othello phrase “For she had eyes and chose me.”
When YKKA opens, something bad has already occurred: Vikrant Singh Chauhan (Tahir Raj Bhasin) is in a dreadful situation where goons are constantly firing at him, and he tells himself as a narrator that today is the day he dies. His own account of his past reveals what happened to him and how he ended up in this situation. Set in the fictional town of Onkara located somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, Vikrant, an engineering graduate is desperately waiting for a job offer letter from Bhilai. He fantasises about getting a simple job, buying a small house and a car, and living a simple life with his college sweetheart, Shikha Aggarwal (Shweta Tripathi Sharma). But life has something else destined for Vikrant, as Purva (Anchal Singh), the daughter of powerful and ruthless politician Akheraj Awasthi Vidrohi (Saurabh Shukla), has had an eye on him since childhood. What happens next and how money, power and women ruin a man’s life, as well as the drastic measures he takes to reclaim it forms the crux of the story. Thus, begins an exhaustive battle between paisa, taaqat aur pyaar, and there’s a lot more than what meets the eye.
After directing an engrossing crime fiction ‘Undekhi’, Sidharth Sengupta has returned with a well-crafted and intelligently scripted dark thriller, which he has co-written with Anahata Menon and Varun Badola. YKKA packs a lot of action and reaction into eight episodes that are a little less than an hour. The screenplay creates a pressure cooker-like atmosphere in which Vikrant is stuck with Purva and his every move is being closely watched. Every episode of the web series has a different twist to it. By the end of the episode, the writers leave you thinking, and you quickly move on to the next episode, anticipating more trouble. Because of its editor Rajesh G Pandey’s flawless cuts, the series never felt like it was dragging or going off the rails. While the narrative is grim and intense, Vikrant’s fictional sequences of future prophecies and his childhood friend Golden (Anant Joshi) provide some comic relief. Varun Badola deserves credit for his snappy and witty dialogues.
The subplot of Vikrant’s family believing in Akheraj as their God is interesting, especially his father Suryakant (Brijendra Kala), who works as an accountant at Akheraj’s office and has blind faith in him. Initially, Vikrant had to deal with serious repercussions of their faith because he lacked the authority to say “No”. Then, in the later episodes, Suryakant has a sudden change of heart and decides to help his son, which is both abrupt and unconvincing.
From the river ghats to dams and nearby surroundings of a small town, the cinematography by Murzy Pagdiwala adds authenticity to the plot. Additionally, the picturesque locations of Ladakh are beautifully captured and a breeze to watch. The background music by Shivam Sengupta and Anuj Danait complements the plot and enhances the effect. But it’s the title track, a recreation of the Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol dance number, ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ by Anu Malik and Dev Kohli, which is incredibly hummable, that sticks with you throughout.
Apart from a crisp script, YKKA boasts of solid performances. Tahir Raj Bhasin (who recently played Sunil Gavaskar in Kabir Khan’s ‘83’) is delightful as trapped Vikrant who is unable to escape. When he discovers that everything in his life is falling apart, including his true love, he makes the audience empathise and sympathise with his character’s claustrophobic condition. Tahir’s character arc is impressive, and he pulls it off like a pro.
Among the girls, Shweta Tripathi successfully manages to bring out the inner strength and vulnerability of her character, Shikha. Tahir and Shweta share great chemistry on screen, especially in the scenes when they’re dating in college. After appearing in a few Sri Lankan films and Tollywood films, Anchal Singh makes her OTT debut with this series. She looks intimidating as the unforgiving Purva, who can go to any lengths to marry Vikrant. Throughout the series, her actions speak louder than her words.
Saurabh Shukla’s portrayal of a cutthroat politician, Akheraj, ensures that you despise him. He kills people without hesitation, and when it comes to Purva, the apple of his eye, he knows no bounds. Surya Sharma convincingly plays Dharmesh, Akheraj’s dreadful henchman, whom he treats as if he is his own son. Surya has previously proven his versatility in comparable roles in web series such as ‘Undekhi’ and ‘Hostages’. Arunoday Singh enters late in the story, yet he plays a significant role in turning the tables. Brijendra Kala, Sunita Rajwar, Hetal Gada, Anant Joshi, among the rest of the cast lend good support.
As producer-director-writer, Sidharth Sengupta presents a psychological drama that is interestingly filled with twists, turns, and thriller trappings. The title, as well as several interwoven stories, will undoubtedly conjure up images of SRK and his films, like the iconic ‘palat palat’ sequence from ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.’ Having said that, if you enjoy pulpy Bollywood thrillers from the 90s, ‘YKKA’ is a must-watch. (No Spoilers Ahead!) Finally, it leaves you wanting more while also providing plenty of foreshadowing for the next season.