Undekhi (Season 2) ‘SonyLIV’ Review: More of the Same but Blander, Duller, and Clumsier
Season 1 of Undekhi (2020-ongoing) offered a new look at the brazenness with which North Indians commit horrendous crimes and pass it off as a cultural thing. It covered everything from blatant misogyny, prejudice against anyone who isn’t North Indian, and the corruption in institutions that are meant to provide justice. The premise of an extensive and pompous wedding having this heavy undercurrent of violence felt dynamic and even subtly commented on how we prioritize customs over humanity. The devolution of the characters felt organic and after a point, it even felt logical to not judge them by our moral standards. Yes, the direction and the script had a few problems here and there but nothing too major. That said, upon watching Season 2, it seems like we might’ve over-hyped Undekhi and failed to highlight the improvements it needed to make.
Directed by Ashish R. Shukla and written by Anahata Menon, Ameya Sarda (story only), and Deepak Segal, Undekhi Season 2 starts off exactly where Season 1 left. Rishi (Abhishek Chauhan) is dead. Saloni (Ayn Zoya), Shashwat (Sayandeep Sengupta) and the rest of their journalism team are on the run. Teji (Anchal Singh) and Timma (Diwakar Kumar Jha) are helping a fatally wounded Koyal (Apeksha Porwal) escape. DCP Ghosh (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) is trying to get to Koyal while being hounded by Rinku (Surya Sharma), Lucky (Varun Bhagat), and the rest of his gang. But things go sideways when Teji runs over an on-duty cop and Timma accidentally drives the ambulance carrying him and Koyal down a mountain to escape the police. A few new players are introduced in the form of Samarth (Nandish Singh Sandhu), a partner of the Atwal family, Arjan Singh (Tej Sapru), a friend of the Atwals, and Abhaya (Meiyang Chang), a local who finds Koyal after the crash.
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Before getting into the plot and the storytelling, let’s talk about how Undekhi Season 2 looks and sounds. The sound design and the sound mixing when it comes to the dialogue is straight-up bad. There’s no sugar-coating it. There can be a multitude of reasons for that. All speculative though. The first reason is the pandemic. Unlike the first season, the post-production for season 2 probably took place during various stages of the COVID-19 lockdown. So, it’s quite likely that the actors weren’t able to come to the sound-proof studios to dub their dialogues and had to do it from their homes. And then the sound editors and mixers had to fine-tune so that it would seem diegetic. Instead, it feels like the bodies of the actors are in the show, but their voices are somewhere else and are being muffled. The second reason is the screeners made available for the press. Sometimes screeners aren’t indicative of the final product as they are tinkered with until the day of the release. The third and final reason is that the showrunners have done a substandard job. Plain and simple.
Undekhi Season 1 didn’t look like a million bucks. But it managed to convey the bleak nature of the story and deromanticized Manali. And to reiterate the point made earlier, it’s quite possible that we were far too lenient with it. Because in Season 2, that colour palette looks ugly. Scenes are de-saturated to such an extent that you will wonder why didn’t they go all the way and shoot it in black and white when they are so uninterested in colour? There are quite a few action-heavy set-pieces, involving hand-to-hand fights, massive shootouts, and a stealthy home invasion. However, they are devoid of any flair. No, it’s not “gritty” and “realistic” either. They look flat. On top of that, editor Sourabh Prabhudesai butchers them to hell. He doesn’t allow the frames to settle in your mind and hence the otherwise heavy-duty sequences come off as flaky and cheap. All that said, the primary reason why the overall visual storytelling feels flavourless is that it doesn’t echo the story. A story that’s unfocused and uninteresting on its own.
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Undekhi Season 1’s stakes felt real because Rishi, Koyal, and Ghosh felt real. Surya came off as a force of unstoppable evil. There was a genuine sense of fear that if Ghosh doesn’t save Rishi or Koyal, then a major injustice is going to be buried. And that’s why despite the existence of a myriad of other characters, the show didn’t seem scattered. Season 2 begins on the note that the villains have technically won and the heroes are on the back foot. But instead of building on that, they resort to comic-book movie logic with characters recovering from grave injuries like it’s nothing and villains on the verge of twirling their metaphorical moustache. An arbitrary business acquisition subplot is brought into the mix to make Teji and Daman (Ankur Rathee) the central players. Why? And the way they think and act in this season is unintentionally hilarious. Ghosh and Koyal are absent for major chunks of the series to give Samarth the spotlight, who is as unintentionally hilarious as Teji and Daman. Rinku is neutered. The dialogues are amateurish. It’s a mess. Just a mess.
The actors do what they can with what they have at their disposal. Dibyendu Bhattacharya is too good for this show now. He’s as effortless and one with his character as he always is in every single movie and web series he has appeared in. Surya plays Rinku as well as he did in Season 1. But there’s no bite to him. The same can be said for Varun Bhagat. Apeksha Porwal spent the last season without uttering anything and thereby managed to illustrate Koyal’s trauma and mystery. Then she spoke in her inauthentic mix of Bengali and Hindi, thereby making every Hindi and Bengali speaking person wish she went back to speaking with her eyes and body language again. In Season 2, she has a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes and it’s, well, not very watchable. This is not a diss on the actor. The showrunners should’ve given her better lines and more time to digest the accent. Sayandeep, Zoya, Anchal, Diwakar (Dhayani and Jha), Shivaani Sopuri, Shivangi Singh, and Raynu Verma are fine. Harsh Chhaya is annoying and repetitive this time around as the drunk and belligerent Papaji.
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There’s one moment in Undekhi Season 2 that made me do a double-take. It’s during the home invasion scene where one of the attackers neutralizes a guard by snatching his gun. And for a fraction of a second, it seems like he is throwing the gun away and you think, “Isn’t that going to alarm everybody?” But in the next frame, you see another attacker smoothly catching the gun mid-air and proceeding with their assault. That’s the only moment where the show managed to engage me. The rest is the web series equivalent of porridge but without sugar, honey, syrup, spices, veggies, or meat. If you have time to waste and if you have watched the first season of Undekhi, then give it a watch. If you don’t want to waste your time, then check out these titles that are available on Sony LIV: Scam 1992 (2020), Gullak (2019-ongoing), Rocket Boys (2022-ongoing), Tabbar (2021-ongoing), Cubicles (2019-ongoing), and The Whistleblower (2021-ongoing).
Season 2 streams on Sony LIV from March 4.