What is Ghoul? The title of the show is in reference to a devil-like figure that can be called upon by trading one’s soul. Ghoul reminds one of their deadliest sins and makes them face their guilt and the end is never pleasant.
Netflix’s Ghoul is based on the Arabic folklore of the myth of jinns. Here, the show is set in a covert detention center where military officials interrogate ‘terrorists’.
Set in a dystopian future that isn’t honestly unlikely, Ghoul is set during an Orwellian time. The Indian society has changed drastically and the line between loving one’s country and following the government’s order has disappeared. Books are anti-national and anyone who dares to raise questions is a traitor. Bombs and beef are at par when it comes to contraband and the country just belongs to a majority community. Student leaders, opposition leaders or anyone who questions rules are taken in until they start nodding their head in agreement with the establishment. If they don’t agree, they don’t survive.
Amid all of this, we meet our central character Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) who desperately seeks social approval. She considers her religion a crutch and to prove her loyalty for her country, she won’t hesitate in geting her father arrested. What was his crime? He taught ‘anti-national’ literature, thus he is now branded as a ‘terrorist’.
Nida is posted at Meghdoot 31, the covert detention center where the story of Ghoul plays out. The detention center has a mysterious energy, the kind that makes the hair at the back of your neck stand up. This is where the drama gets spooky. Nida’s colleagues are used to nightmares. Meghdoot 31 feels suffocating and much like Nida, we hope to see sunshine but in this dark world, that isn’t even an option. Nida’s interactions with her new team members create a strange vibe but despite being a smart woman, who we are told is good at her job, she does not know how to read a room and instead it is her need to seek to approval that takes over.
Ghoul is a horror drama but the show tackles social change vis a vis religion in an effective and dramatic way. We see Apte’s Nida being discriminated against right from the start but the drama highlights the issue even more when Manav Kaul’s Dacunha, a Christian character, is sidelined by his Hindu subordinates. The religious complexity might get misunderstood by those who can’t read the subtext of the narrative, but writer and director Patrick Graham tries to effectively communicate the sensitive subject.
Ghoul does leave us with a few questions regarding the plot as it plays out, but it isn’t always advisable to ask questions when watching a horror series. The rules are pliable, and we see so when the concept of Ghoul starts coming into action.
The smaller parts aren’t cast perfectly but Ratnabali Bhattacharjee’s Laxmi stands out and leaves you impressed. The authority in her voice and the command in her gait instantly tell you that she is the most important person in the room.
It’s often said that love is blind and when that blind love for the country is taken advantage of by those in power, it’s time to step back and distinguish between the two. The country will always come first but does the country want us to kill because the administrators are saying so? I doubt it. Ghoul leaves you with questions such as these and makes you ponder if this is the reality we are heading towards.