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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ghoul review: The series articulates perils of hyper-nationalism

Ghoul takes Indian horror content beyond the hackneyed elements of dayans/ghosts seeking revenge.

Written by Alaka Sahani |
Updated: August 25, 2018 5:11:14 pm
Ghoul, Ghoul review, Netflix series, Radhika Apte, Manav Kaul, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, entertainment news The protagonist, a top-performer at a military academy, Nida Rahim (Apte), turns in her father, an intellectual with ideas that are considered “anti-government”.

Ghoul director: Patrick Graham
Ghoul cast: Radhika Apte, Manav Kaul, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee
Ghoul ratings: 3 stars

AS India’s first horror series on Netflix, Ghoul unsettles the viewers by fusing a critique of the current socio-political malaise with supernatural elements. Even though it unravels in a dystopian world, the three-episode series which dropped on Friday morning, makes no bones about the rising ‘nationalism’ and Islamophobia that we are currently experiencing.

Director-writer Patrick Graham, uses horror to create a bleak world under military rule. Deep distrust is prevalent among different communities and sectarian violence is common. There is a crackdown on intellectuals and people are made to believe that “terrorists are among us”. Sticking to the syllabus is the order of the day and any tendency to raise questions is quashed. The protagonist, a top-performer at a military academy, Nida Rahim (Apte), turns in her father, an intellectual with ideas that are considered “anti-government”. However, when Rahim joins Meghdoot 31, a covert detention centre, she herself is subjected to religion-based prejudice.

Most of the action of the series unfolds at the military base where interrogating officers outnumber the suspected terrorists. The base is dimly-lit and depressing. With the arrival of a new prisoner, Ali Saeed (played by Mahesh Balraj), the base turns nightmarish, evoking fear, tension and discomfort. Rahim has to fight these elements to discover the truth as the military personnel go after hyper-nationalist goals, putting their love for country before themselves and their family.

Inspired by Arabic folklore related to ‘ghoul’, an evil spirit that impersonates its latest victim whose flesh it consumes, the series is a fine example of using cross-cultural elements to aid storytelling. The series also takes Indian horror content beyond the hackneyed elements of dayans/ghosts seeking revenge. Ghoul articulates the perils of hyper-nationalism, the way Get Out (2017) talks about racial discrimination.

Ghoul layers the characters of Apte as the new recruit and Kaul as the head the operations at Meghdoot 21 with their conflict, guilt and weaknesses. The actors deftly translate these emotions on camera while Bhattacharjee as the nationalist officer creates some disturbing moments. This subversive show, can be a precursor to content that not only offer chills but also effectively deliver socially-relevant tales.

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