Digital Review: ‘JL50’ (SonyLIV)

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With more and more film makers turning to online streaming platforms to release their projects, it seems audiences are getting more spoilt for choice than ever before. So when director Shailender Vyas announced his short series ‘JL50’, it came as a slight relief to know it’ll only be a four-episode stint. Starring Abhay Deol, Pankaj Kapur and Piyush Mishra, the trailer gave a promising impression. However, with only four episodes – the question remains as to how the story will grip the audiences in such a short amount of time.

When Shantanu (Deol), a CBI Officer, is appointed to investigate a plane crash that took place in the hills of West Bengal that might be linked to a missing aircraft, he seems to take things rather lightly. However, upon finding out that the plane that crashed in fact went missing 35 years ago, he finds that along with two survivors who are unable to give them the answers, there was one man from the list of passengers who never actually boarded the flight. When interviewing Professor Das (Kapur), who simply says he has a flight phobia, hence he didn’t bored, Shantanu and his partner Gourango (Rajesh Sharma) fail to realise this physics professor knows more about that missing plane then anyone could even imagine.

Deol as ever, is effortless in his performance. Playing a character who is the voice of reason and logic, viewers warm to him immediately where they quickly come to realise they are actually watching each episode through his eyes. Naturally soft spoken, Deol’s cues in portraying suspense are perfectly on point. Kapur is one actor who rarely puts a foot wrong, and his performance in this series is one of perfection. Never letting anything off about his character’s motives, it’s him as Professor Das who has everyone moving to the edge of their seats, and their mind ticking as to what his role is in the mystery of the case. Sharma is the light-hearted, fun-loving character these types of projects need. His on-screen chemistry with Deol is interesting and heart-warming to watch, where their difference in characters is what helps the story move forward. Mishra’s on screen presence is electrifying. From the onset he makes it no secret that he isn’t the type of person you’d want to have a run in with. Though he isn’t present until the third episode, he holds a lasting impression on his viewers. Unaware of exactly what his motives are – or what has actually happened to him – Mishra’s performance as Professor Mitra is chilling and very effective. Ritika Anand as Bihu gives an enjoyable performance. Another character who is a vital piece of the puzzle, the viewer understands the predicament she is in however, there are times where one could expect more drama from her. A special mention has to go out to the late Mrinal Mukherjee who played his final role in this series as Partho – an old gang leader who was jailed and is about to be sentenced to death. Like Mishra, Mukherjee’s on screen presence is one that would send a chill down your spine. Though he has a small role, it was one that ensures his viewers don’t forget him.

With the limited running time of the series, it’s evident that Vyas had a very meticulous plan in how best he could tell a gripping story that combined thriller, suspense and emotion in four 20-30 minute segments. The casting has been done brilliantly, where each actor has the space to shine in each frame. The story itself is an interesting one that has the viewer hooked on from the beginning. However, the shortness of the series is the downfall of this project. With a brilliant beginning it seems the lead to the end is rushed, where there are a few details that are even missed. The story itself has room for a lot of potential to go further, where it can be said that the actor’s have lost out on being able to push their talent to new boundaries. This in tune leaves the viewer rather baffled into how the climax is even possible. This also takes away from the realism and relatability of the story, where the viewer is left a little underwhelmed at the end. As a whole the series is a good watch, and in the attempt of leaving every episode as a cliff-hanger, Vyas has done very well for his audiences automatically press the ‘watch next’ button. Despite its shortcoming, it stands as a good watch and in the hope that the director continues to develop on making projects of such nature.

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