Digital Review: ‘Betaal’

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The verge of new wave entertainment is not in cinema halls or on your television sets per se, but on streaming channels like Netflix and Amazon Prime. They are readily available to the public and binge watching a series seems to be the preferred way of consumption, especially in the current state, when a majority of the population is indefinitely home with their families. Netflix India is steadily trying to regain their foothold with constant releases of new Indian originals, with the latest being Red Chillies Entertainment’s ‘Betaal’. Now the question is, is this series for the better or worse?

‘Betaal’ stars Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra, Suchitra Pillai and Jitendra Joshi. This four episode horror zombie series is not ‘The Walking Dead’, (2010) which might be your first comparison. The first episode begins with a grim ritual offering to the ‘Betaal’ God by a group of villagers, who then feed this same offering to a fully covered “aunty”. This aunty is the only one who can communicate with the God and forsee the future. Not something we haven’t seen before but still creepy, and shouldn’t be watched after dinner. We are introduced to the CIPD-Baaz Group which is led by Commander Tyagi (Pillai), and main officers in charge are Vikram Sirohi (Kumar) and Ahluwalia (Kumra). This force is in charge of opening a tunnel so that an adamant builder Mudhalvan (Joshi) can construct a highway through the Betaal mountain, and have it opened before the Chief Minister arrives. This tunnel has been secured by the same surrounding villagers who say opening the tunnel will release a curse and a memorial of Lieutenant Colonel Lynedoch resides outside of it. His spirit is linked with the curse and is not a concern to Mudhalvan who has deemed these villagers “Naxals”. It is shown that Tyagi and him have worked together in past missions where she has been compensated for the same. Tyagi enters the tunnel all armed and ready since “insurgents” remain after an unsuccessful attempt by her initial men. We leave the episode with her spooked out of her wits or just plainly possessed. Alright then.

While the first episode introduces us into the complexities of fighting through a supposed superstition and a political motive, the episodes that follow do clarify but are still questionable. A shadow of British zombie “soldiers” chase the CIPD and shoot them with older bullets that have taken out most of their team. I guess zombies don’t only eat human flesh but can also operate multiple firearms. The third and fourth episode take us into the Betaal curse and the CIPD fight more red laser eyed zombies, who are summoned by what I would say is not your typical Halloween scarecrow. More of CIPD’s men are hit and bodies continue to drop. After much shooting, cutting, and possessing, Sirohi discovers the truth behind Tyagi’s mission while also protecting a little girl (Syna Anand) from being sacrificed for Lynedoch.

When all is said and done, the fourth episode of ‘Betaal’ remains open ended with British ships approaching for a second season. Do we need a second season, absolutely not! Kumar, Kumra, Pillai, and Joshi are good at their craft, and work well with their characters but even with four episodes, it’s just not worth it. Yes, they have some yelping moments but they are few and far between and are more laughable than scary. ‘Red Chillies’ last Netflix offering ‘Bard of Blood’ (2019) made way for perhaps an even stronger series from the production house, but you are better off tuning into other more worthy shows in a similar arena. You will be far more entertained, trust me.

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