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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Gangistan review: Pratik Gandhi tries his best to elevate Spotify’s pointless crime podcast

Basic writing and sloppy production ensure that Spotify's Gangistan, starring Pratik Gandhi, Saiyami Kher and Dayashankar Pandey, disappears in the glut of audio content available across platforms.

Written by Rohan Naahar | New Delhi |
November 18, 2021 8:04:57 am
Pratik Gandhi, Saiyami Kher and Dayashankar Pandey in a promotional still for Gangistan. (Photo: Spotify)

An interminable slog despite relatively short episodes that range from 12 to 20 minutes, Spotify’s Gangistan is a pointless crime drama let down by basic writing and sloppy production. Starring Pratik Gandhi, Saiyami Kher and Dayashankar Pandey, Gangistan is a by-the-numbers tale of the Mumbai underworld, as if written by a discount Hussain Zaidi.

Scam 1992 breakout Gandhi delivers the show’s only naturalistic performance as a journalist who goes on a quest to uncover the past. Gangistan, otherwise, feels too clunkily written to feel authentic. A good podcast can make you smell the earth and feel the heat of the sun; a bad one can put you to sleep even after three cups of coffee. Listening to Gangistan is essentially like having a particularly heavy lunch. As you scrape up the last morsels, you lose interest in addition to your appetite.

In Gangistan, an encounter specialist cop is presented as a heroic figure, the villains all speak in ‘tapori’ language, and the journalist at the centre of the plot talks about ethics, but doesn’t speak to more than two people for his big story about the origins of Mumbai’s gang war. One of his sources is a former gangster who claims to have an epic tale to tell and is convinced that he is a ‘ghost’ looking for ‘mukti’. His name is Pappu, and he likes to lurk around in Mumbai’s forts because he feels safe there.

Pappu fancies himself a ‘filmy writer’, and that is perhaps the manner in which he narrates his story to Ashu Patel, the journalist played by Gandhi. He wants it to be ‘non-linear’, he says—impressive, for a common goon—but can’t for the life of him recall what the large hotel at the edge of Bandstand is called. To be clear, he’s supposed to have witnessed the 1992 Mumbai riots.

Ashu sits down with Pappu for several storytelling sessions, where the former gangster recounts the stories of individuals called Bashir, Haidar, Taiyyab, Hamid and Malik, and frequently breaks the fourth wall to acknowledge that people are listening to him on a podcast. It makes you wonder why they didn’t use this as a framing device in the actual show; instead, Ashu records their conversations for his columns. Go figure.

There’s a slapdash, exposition-heavy quality to the writing that even an actor of Gandhi’s calibre can’t polish. Saiyami Kher, meanwhile, spends more time introducing the episodes than actually participating in the story. In once scene, Ashu randomly calls her—an important cop—in the middle of the day to inquire about a decades-old murder. Not only does she remember it in minute detail — she was probably not even born then — but she pauses her day and tells him all about it. It would take only the slightest of tweaks to make the exchange more believable, but Gangistan, written by Heer Khant, isn’t really bothered.

The production is simple to a fault; the mix is restricted to the clinking of glasses and the pitter-patter of footsteps. The music cues are too sombre for the slightly playful tone that Pappu adopts in his storytelling. With literally terabytes of alternatives available, only the most devoted of Gandhi’s fans might be able to stomach 48 episodes of this.

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