Dhootha, directed by Vikram K Kumar, starts off with the protagonist Sagar (Naga Chaitanya Akkineni) recording a suicide note to his wife. Only a few minutes later, he discovers a horrifying secret and then struggles to live as tries to expel the sleeping pills in his system.
Just as you settle in to watch what looks like a mystery series, in comes a twist that leads you to believe you are currently invested in a paranormal, psychological, or serial killer-style thriller series. There is enough sadistic violence happening to keep your head spinning as you try to figure out what’s unfolding and keep up with all the characters.
Straight off, this series of eight episodes (approximately 40 minutes each) breaks a bunch of ‘never screen’ rules: 1) don’t kill dogs or young children; 2) don’t shoot in daylight; 3) don’t make your protagonist a bad fella, et al. It has a morbid tone and can get overwhelming thanks to the many terrifying deaths. Without giving away the story, Dhootha draws a lot of inspiration from what’s going on in the news to build a storyline.
Sagar, who is a newspaper editor, finds himself in the midst of a series of accidents happening around him. He discovers news clippings carrying reports of his near and dear ones dying, which start coming true in exactly the way they’ve been described. Before long, he finds out that a senior journalist and friend also lost his family in a similar way. Sagar and a police officer then try to make sense of these ‘deaths’. Think vengeful ghost, a machine ‘demon’, and a generational curse—Dhootha’s USP is best left unspoiled. It’s best you go in knowing as little about it as possible.
The story is complex but the storytelling is simplistic. The bad guys, not surprisingly, are cops and politicians, but awful things are happening everywhere to seemingly innocent people. The tension builds quickly as the director spins the tale of an editor of a soon-to-be-launched newspaper, whose loved ones are under threat by an unknown entity.
The exploration and the pace are both are done well. Apart from the murder-suicides at regular intervals, there are a few surprises up Dhootha’s sleeve till episode 5, when the big reveal happens. This is not a meticulously crafted horror; it’s a series about human consciousness that builds a sense of creeping dread with every episode.
It’s more disturbing than bone-chilling, which is what the makers clearly intended. The theme at the crux of the story is good versus bad and karma. In the end, while the message is lofty, it’s veracity is debatable. The atmosphere is a big winner with the rain (one of the plot’s main drivers) contributing largely to the setting.
As the story unravels, everything we know about the characters and their relationships leads to a satisfying finale. Naga Chaitanya delivers a fine performance in his character-driven streaming debut series. You’ll feel for Sagar and hate him at different intervals.
Parvathy Thiruvothu (a cracker performance as the understated cop), Priya Bhavani Shankar (holds her own as Sagar’s wife), and Prachi Desai (Sagar’s colleague) make a good impact in brief but well-defined roles.
Not surprisingly, Dhootha leaves you with the possibility of a sequel.
Dhootha will premiere exclusively in India and across 240 countries and territories worldwide on December 1 in Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada.
First appeared on www.aboutamazon.in