Breathe web series cast: R. Madhavan, Amit Sadh, Hrishikesh Joshi, Sapna Pabbi, Atharva Vishwakarma and Neena Kulkarni
Breathe web series director: Mayank V Sharma
With the advent of streaming giants like Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon, the Indian web series landscape has become a dynamic space in terms of its local content. In that regard, Amazon Prime’s latest offering Breathe could be touted as a step in the right direction but unfortunately, it fails to live up to that mark. Starring R Madhavan and Amit Sadh in the lead roles, Breathe is let down by its sloppy pace, stereotypical tropes and implausible mechanics.
Madhavan essays the role of Danny Mascarenhas, a single dad in Mumbai, whose son suffers from a congenital lung disease that can only be cured with an urgent lung transplant. The list of organ recipients is obviously long, and Josh being fourth on the list, doesn’t have much time. So, Danny being the devoted father, takes a rather drastic step. He plans to kill the donors so that Josh moves up the list. Sadh, on the other hand, plays his nemesis Inspector Kabir Sawant who has his own share of demons to battle with. He lost his daughter to a gunshot wound because he forgot to lock his gun. He passes his days drowning his guilt in bottles of alcohol.
While the premise is surprisingly intriguing, it falls prey to amateurish writing and a disarming number of clichés. The stellar set of actors are wasted in slouchy characters whose arcs (if they exist at all) are just too loosely bound in the narrative.
For starters, the pilot episode features a scene where Danny is trying to convince a family to donate the victim’s organs. Set aside the fact that Danny is able to hear about the patient’s brain-dead condition quite conveniently, the scene ends with him, a devout Catholic, narrating a Sanskrit doha from the Bhagwad Gita. It sticks like a thorn in the narrative, for reasons far too obvious. This is just one of the numerous instances in the series where the makers stretch the definition of plausibility far too wide.
Suffice to say that Danny’s modus operandi as well (which most of the episodes focus on) can exist only in fiction, which for the makers of Breathe is a world devoid of CCTV cameras and perceptive human beings. The only cleverly executed murder is that of the aspiring actress but that also raises its own set of doubts. After all, why will a young female let herself be tied up in the presence of only a man she met hours ago?
All this results in even a massively talented actor like Madhavan being unable to add gravitas to his character. At no point in the narrative, do you want Danny to succeed. Don’t get me wrong, you want Josh to live but you want Danny to be arrested at the same time.
Majorly because, the makers fail to explore Danny’s inner conflicts convincingly. The scene where Danny snaps at Josh could have been a conniving introduction to a darker sub-plot about the whole ‘men turning into monsters’ narrative. How Danny has his own set of disorders is also left unexplored.
However, Sadh’s scenes with his subordinate Prakash Kamble (played by Hrishikesh Joshi) definitely deserve a mention. Prakash is a delight as the middle-class dad who watches way too much porn and jokes way too much about his incompetent ‘machinery’. Sadh is somewhat convincing in his depressed, moping avatar only if you ignore his prodigious ‘instincts’.
The background score by Alokananda Dasgupta is engaging, even by international standards, but is not used well enough by the makers. There is also an excessive number of filler shots of roads and buildings, repetitively asserting the Mumbai setting. The first three episodes become a particularly slow watch. Even the scenes where Sadh and Madhavan appear together fail to carry the kind of weight a thriller is supposed to.
If only more time would have been spent on making the narrative more pacy and the character stories more engaging, Breathe could have been so much more. Talking about the problems of organ donation in India, there is no larger point that Breathe attempts at making with its narrative. The climax and the ultimate episode is just trying too hard to add a poetic meaning to the cat-and-mouse chase between Danny and Sawant.
Ultimately, Breathe relies way too much on co-incidence. Simply put, Breathe is the story of a desperate father who embarks on a killing spree with a ridiculously careless plan, and the only person that stands in his way is a disintegrating cop who also conveniently finds his own redemption in saving the child’s life.