Shwetkali (Season 1, 2023) is a mixed mash of genres. The Bengali series is set on the foundation of family drama with a dash of horror, a pinch of crime and investigation, dollops of blind faith and modernism to spice things up, and a seasoning of a backstory. This allows the present-day story to come together delightfully piece by piece. A piece of content seldom comes across as a genre mixture and manages to nail it. Nailing it is a matter of choice, as in the eyes of some, Shwetkali may have been a tad too annoying as it takes its time to build suspense through the characters and the story. What is Shwetkali about?
The word Shwetkali refers to a white (ivory) Kali idol. It is found on the premises of the palatial location that serves as the setting for Urvi and Palash’s engagement. The grand location eventually becomes the prison for both families when a series of sinister events is set in motion. The series’ setting may remind audiences of a 2007 Bollywood film. I found it good that the writers had a character name-drop it.
Right from the outset, Shwetkali establishes that horror story feels. The camera angles tease the audience with potential-jump scares and a split-second appearance of a character who speaks in a monotone. While this character adds to the spooky quotient, reel logic has its rules that are followed. The series then sees blind faith and idol worship take center stage. Nothing is wrong with idol worship, but things become serious when it borders on deep-seated beliefs and co-incidences (engineered co-incidences?). I even liked how one progressive character bought into the idea, as it was what surrounded them. It shows how the mind can get consumed by something and begin thinking along those lines. This also was an element in Sani Ghose Ray’s series that ends up being a family whodunit.
The family dynamics set right from the first episode shows a traditional extended family setting. Bickering, concern, care, and borderline interference are seen, with suspicions looming large. It allowed Ray to weave in this layer of distrust once the story demanded it. This ensures there wasn’t a sharp pivot from an extremely happy family to a suspicious one.
Horror fans, who watched the trailer and tuned in to catch the series, would be disappointed upon reading this review/watching a few episodes. They won’t get pure horror like Haunted or Nightmare on Elm Street. However, the director ensures there is enough to tease horror aficionados with a brilliant presentation of the ‘figure creeping around in the dark.’ This entity is introduced gradually, with the senses serving a purpose in letting the audience experience them. Initially known, Ray permits viewers to hear the ghost. After hearing and anticipating, we then chillingly witness the source of the sound.
These slow reveals are the norm with Shwetkali. It is even seen in the motive, the backstory, and the confessions. Through this, the Zee 5 series allows audiences to digest the information, look to piece things through, and then realize that they were wrong. If they were right, it gives them that sense of satisfaction. To Ray’s credit, when the final summation does take place, audiences understand that they just had to watch things carefully, and they may have joined the dots.
Oindrila Sen’s Urvi thrives with her performance. From chill and bubbly, circumstances force her to become glum and distant. The catalyst for her personality change drives her to seek the truth. It ensures that she has a personal motive rather than just being at the forefront of seeking the truth just because she had to make an OTT debut with a bang. Moreover, her strong role is ably aided by performances from Sourav Chakraborty, Saheb Bhattacharjee, who plays Palash, and Ratan Sarkhel, respectively.
Shwetkali is a web series exploring the story of faith and belief, not blind faith and belief. It urges a marriage of modernity with traditionalism to find a middle ground. A valuable message comes forth in the end, which could be a great takeaway for anyone. Nevertheless, the big question is: will people get there?
In fact, that depends on whether they can plow through the layers and layers of information. Things may seem unnecessary, but Sani Ghose Ray ensures that those who have watched till the end get rewarded for having consumed a well-prepared dish- one with a bit of everything to satisfy the audience.
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Shwetkali (2023) Series Links: IMDb Wikipedia
Shwetkali (2023) Series Cast: Sourav Chakraborty, Oindrila Sen, Saheb Bhattacharjee