The story of a cop and an all powerful gangster going toe-to-toe is nothing new. From American Gangster to Vikram Vedha, we have seen it in every language possible. What makes any such story different is the presentation and the finesse. Sadly, Dharavi Bank is found lacking in both departments. The production value is very 2022, but at its heart, its an over-the-top, cringey 90s’ actioner with dialoguebaazi, slow-mo action sequences and an unusual amount of gore. Even Suniel Shetty’s swagger can’t elevate the sorry state of affairs here. Also read: Dharavi Bank trailer: Vivek Oberoi is out to destroy Suniel Shetty
Dharavi Bank, which began streaming on MX Player on November 19, is about the eponymous criminal syndicate run from the slums of Mumbai’s Dharavi by Thalaivan (Suniel Shetty), a man who is as powerful as he is dangerous. A parallel governent, he has everybody from politicians to Bollywood stars in his pocket. The Maharashtra Chief Minister Janvi Surve (Sonali Kulkarni) wants him eliminated, not out of duty, but for political gains. And her trigger man is Joint Commissioner of Police and her old college flame (really now?) Jayant Gavaskar (Vivek Oberoi). What ensues is a bloody cat-and-mouse chase devoid of logic and sadly, drama as well.
Let’s start with the positives, because that would be quicker. Dharvi Bank does get two things right. The background score, particularly its theme music, is catchy and sets the mood quite nicely. The greyness of the characters is another thing it gets right. No character is completely white, even the crusading cop. And none is black either, including the torturous, murdering psychopath employed by the don. It makes the characters more interesting and their battle more engrossing.
But that’s just about it as far as the good parts go. The show is a mish mash of over-the-top action , which is not executed with the finesse and slickness it needs, and some questionable acting that requires the actors to discard all nuances and subtlety. Despite some quality actors available, the show does not utilise their talents. Suniel Shetty brings with himself his natural charismatic screen presence and swagger but the show imposes upon him a bad Tamil accent and prosthetics that mask his expressions. Vivek Oberoi, who has pulled of grey characters in countless films, is reduced to playing the archetypal vengeful cop which gives him not much scope to do anything.
In fact, most characters are stereotypes of what one expects in a gangster film–the angry older son, the calm, collected younger one, a sinister-looking right-hand-man, the cop’s jovial yet dedicated subordinate, and the obligatory loud corrupt politician that mouths the occasional Marathi cuss words.
The profuse way in which gore has been used, right from chopped off body parts to butchers carving up bodies, is shocking in a rather distasteful manner. It titillates rather than disgusts one. Shows and films have used gore in a rather slick manner in the past, be it international titles like Kill Bill or desi ones such as Gangs of Wasseypur. But Dharavi Bank never reaches that level of finesse.
The show, with its loudness and penchant for dialoguebaazi, belongs to the 90s. It lacks the subtlety and nuances one has come to expect from the web series of this genre over the past few years. Unlike cinema, where the loud action is still appreciated, the OTT medium audience looks for something more these days, which Dharavi Bank clearly lacks. And even the loudness can be fun in a masala way, but only if executed well. Sadly, in Dharavi Bank, it seems director Samit Kakkad took a sledge hammer for a job where a chisel was needed. The only moment that stands out as good is a smartly-packaged action setpiece in episode 5 where the cops are on the hunt for Thalaivan in the heart of his kingdom. That sequence was the only time I felt tense, the way one should while watching such a show.
Dharavi Bank will appeal to some, the ones who like the old-fashioned gangster dramas with over-the-top action. But the show is too old-fashioned and not in a classic way. The landscape of the streaming world has changed post pandemic with the viewers in India now exposed to international titles and the best from world over. In that milieu, Dharavi Bank is a relic.
Series: Dharavi Bank
Creators: Samit Kakkad
Cast: Suniel Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Sonali Kulkarni, Luke Kenny, Freddy Daruwala, Siddharth Menon, Shanthi Priya, Santosh Juvekar, Nagesh Bhosle, Samikssha Batnagar.
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