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Digital Review: ‘Marzi’

Let’s address the elephant in the room shall we? ‘Marzi’ on Voot Select is an official remake of ITV’s British drama ‘Liar’ (2017), starring Ioan Gruffudd and Joanne Froggatt. Although there is very little acknowledgement of this fact in the show’s credits, if you’ve seen the original, you will notice instantly. The similarities don’t just lie in the plot, they are in the translated dialogue, the imitated shots and even some key wardrobe choices. ‘Marzi’ isn’t simply based on ‘Liar’, it is a Hindi copy.

The series follows high school teacher Sameera Chauhan (Aahana Kumra) who is open to love after her engagement with Nitin (Rajeev Siddhartha) comes to an end. Enter Dr. Anurag Saraswat (Rajeev Khandelwal), a widowed heart specialist with a teenage son Sameera teaches. The pair, set up by Sameera’s sister/Anurag’s colleague Sangeeta (Shivani Tanskale), go on a dinner date. Two different narratives emerge from that evening, as Sameera accuses Anurag of a rape that he vehemently denies.

The premise of the whole series is a suspenseful he said/she said story, but the execution is sloppy. The first half focuses on discrediting the victim in an attempt to confuse the viewer, which is done so heavy-handedly that it comes off as manipulative, misguided, sometimes even irresponsible. The cops are apathetic, the nurses are rude, the sister is judgemental, and everyone else is shady, painting our heroine as hysterical and unreliable. You want to side with the survivor, but the supporting characters keep telling you not to. It is an uncomfortable viewing experience because you are being forced to find merit in a perspective that doesn’t deserve it.

Even worse, while it relies heavily on the societal noise about rape culture to frame the first half, ‘Marzi’ very quickly abandons all of that in favour of a cat-and-mouse chase that ultimately leads to an unsatisfying conclusion, instead of the justice we all wanted. The series establishes several interesting settings that suddenly become irrelevant as soon as the culprit is revealed, in favour of some inanely executed revenge fantasy. The second half emphasizes the fact that ‘Marzi’ is not a discussion about consent, or about society’s preconceived notions about such matters. That narrative was only used for dramatic effect, and no one actually cares enough to examine and condone such attitudes.

While the makers earn zero points for originality, the cinematography is well executed. The visuals are the highlight of the series. As a team, the crew has achieved a nice mix between the beauty of Shimla and the ambiguous, anxious atmosphere of the story.

Aahana Kumra has a beautiful ability to be vulnerable yet fierce, so it’s extremely unfortunate that she ends up portraying Sameera as a scared, blubbering mess during some pivotal moments instead of actually showing the anger she references during an important scene in the story. In fact, this is a problem with practically all the female characters on the show. It seems that the director doesn’t understand that women can react to adversity in other ways than being scared and overemotional. Because we see so much crying, the major moments of grief leave no impact on the viewers. Still, Kumra and Pavleen Gujral do their best. The cast is filled with fantastic actors who all feel wasted.

For a show that supposedly delves into the grey area of the ‘Me Too’ issue, the series is pretty black and white about how it wants its audience to feel about its characters. In the first half, there’s an extreme feeling of discomfort as the show attempts to malign the victim while crossing a few lines it didn’t need to. Once the culprit is revealed, the focus finally switches to vilifying the villain, but at the cost of everything it had initially promised. This lack of direction, combined with the slow pace, makes ‘Marzi’ a laborious watch instead of a thrilling one.