Rudra: The Edge of Darkness (Season 1) ‘Hotstar’ Review: I remember watching the first Rudra trailer when it was released on Youtube. Apart from being an extremely well-edited trailer, it is scored to a hauntingly mesmerizing song sung by Ananya Birla. It is both wholly original and yet also completely reminiscent of the theme song of Luther, the original show created by Neil Cross. And this is exactly the template BBC India, Applause Entertainment, and director Rajesh Mapuskar utilizes in Rudra: The Edge of Darkness, a 6 episode official adaptation of Season 1 of Neil Cross’ Luther.
Perhaps because it is so well made, so expertly shot, and well-edited in certain segments, but criticizing this show for simply being a shot-by-shot remake would be diminishing what Rudra succeeds in capturing. It also is advantageous for me from a personal point of view, because I had seen Luther’s first season almost a decade prior, and hadn’t revisited it since. So while elements of that show feel like distant echoes of events occurring on the screen, I felt sufficiently divorced from the original’s proceedings to go enjoy Rudra on its terms. And enjoyment on its own merits is going to be “Rudra, The Edge of Darkness” forte because people unfamiliar with the original will find a lot to enjoy.
Ajay Devgn as suave, intense somber DCP Rudraveer Singh is the lead of the show, and during moments of investigations or moments of searing intensity, the smolder and swagger Devgn carries as Rudra is a welcome change from the usual over the top shtick he brought to his commercial movie fare. That requires different energy, this is an entirely separate form of intensity. However, the somber nature of Rudra as a character doesn’t gel quite as effectively as his emotional outbursts signifying a volatile nature. Those moments of loud vulnerabilities feel far more hollow than centered anger which Devgn is effective in portraying.
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As the story goes, Rudra is a volatile but brilliant police officer not averse to bending the rules to tip the scales of justice. He meets his match when he comes across Aaliyah Choksi, a psychopath killer who becomes obsessed with Rudra when she is ultimately thwarted by him. In the next 5 episodes, this cat and mouse game between Rudra and Aaliyah simmer in the background as their relationship slowly evolves into something different and unique. And while the genesis of the relationship is hard to buy, it’s a worthwhile one to get invested in because of the undercurrent of sexual tension between Aaliyah and Rudra.
Raashi Khanna as Aaliyah is surprisingly brilliant in the show, again proving why the casting in Rudra is spot on. The show also follows a procedural format, with individual different cases spanning the rest of the five episodes, and the variety of antagonists shown in this show bring to light a version of Mumbai very different from the one we expect to see – a far sleeker, terrifying and creepier version of Mumbai, populated by blood-sucking artist cum cult leader, ex-army soldiers with a hatred towards the police, or a taxi driver trying to get over his impotency by murdering innocent women.
While the writing of Rudra never really go the distance to show his investigative skills beyond him telling a key piece of deduction right off the top of his head, it does manage to show the occurrence of psychopathy and criminal element irrespective of social strata and wealth. However, if we look at it as a remake, the flaws that rise to the surface feel kind of part of the package. The remaking of a British show like Luther in an almost shot-by-shot recreation has its share of disadvantages. Beyond a location change, there is nothing that screams uniqueness due to change in the milieu. It’s almost glaring in that regard because western crime shows have their literature and rhythm, while Indian shows have their distinctive language. The dialogues sound translated verbatim from the original and not adapted with proper context.
The flaws of Luther are imprinted on this adaptation as well. The weakest part of Luther was the relationship between Luther and Zoe, his ex-wife, and that is no different here. On the contrary, it is exacerbated by Esha Deol’s performance, the arguably weakest one in this most talented cast. At this point, police officers not having a stable family life is becoming a tiresome trope as well. It was tiresome a decade ago and it is tiresome even now.
None of its disadvantages takes away from the fact that Rudra is still a good-looking and very well-made series. The cinematography evokes an industrial and yet noir vibe without feeling too derivative. The stories are paced well; the casting of the antagonists is inspired and manages to bring their terrifying characteristics to life. At its center, Ajay Devgn is perfectly cast. Even when I had seen the trailer I was convinced that the physicality and intensity of Idris Elba would be hard to replicate, but Devgn was one of the few who could pull it off, and my anticipation was fulfilled.
I am also happy to report that Raashi Khanna’s portrayal of Aaliyah is a very faithful and yet terrifying adaptation of Ruth Wilson’s Alice. The relationship between Rudra and Aaliyah is going to invariably bring me back for a second season. Here’s hoping that the makers abstain from making a too faithful remake and lean into making changes while adapting the source material. For newcomers who are unfamiliar with the source material, this is going to be a very engaging and compelling story that would hook you, and if the purpose of a remake is to attract new audiences, it succeeded quite effectively. Though I would be hard-pressed to find a proper justification for any remake to exist, Rudra is still made far better than most remakes.