It’s the ’80s and Shankya’s reign of terror is frustrating Mumbai police. He walks boldly, with sleeves rolled up, a vermillion tikka on his forehead, his hair pulled back, putting the fear of the new “Bombay ka Baap” in everyone. Around the same time, “killing machine” Shamsher Bhopali goes on a shooting spree while Mangya unleashes his wrath on the city. Dreaded dons of Mumbai, they are on every cop’s radar. The witch-hunt for the gangsters is on, and Sony’s airing it live in their new series, called Encounter.
Anchored by actor Manoj Bajpai, known for essaying memorable on-screen gangsters like Bhiku Mahatra from Satya, the show, unfortunately, is gangster stories-on-steroids. Angry young men who brandish country-made pistols like toys, wave them in your face, cops who walk around like they are part of Dabangg Part Three, an underworld underbelly that is more constipated and clichéd than crackling or alarming — Encounter fails to rumble or rouse the right cause and effect. While the bhais with their fake wigs and moustaches, bell bottoms and dog collars spew “bheja fry” dialogues, the cops flex their muscles. The show offers nothing that we’ve not seen or heard of.
These are feared men who’ve already been brought alive on the silver screen by brilliant actors such as Bajpai, Ajay Devgn, Viviek Oberoi, Randeep Hooda and Emraan Hashmi, among others. These crime files have been spectacularly narrated by filmmakers such as Ram Gopal Varma, Milan Luthria, Apoorva Lakhia, Shimit Amin and Anurag Kashyap, making the show’s tales look pale in comparison.
Instead of lending it a docu-drama feel, the show comes across as snatches of cinema from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s slow, exaggerated and feels bloated with boredom. It’s also an overdose of “Bombay bhaigiri”, something that we feel holds little weight in the current global environment where terrorism and violence has reached a whole new level. For instance, a re-enactment of recent terror attacks across the country would’ve made for more gripping programming.
There is also vacuum in terms of depth, darkness and ugliness of this encounter. This, in a time when the audiences have already got a taste of excellent productions such as the desi avataar of 24 by Anil Kapoor and Abhinay Deo. Also, television programmers seem to underestimate the value of silence. Masterpieces such as Sehar, Satya and Ab Tak Chhappan were perfect references. It’s time to watch and learn from the masters now.
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