Rana Naidu | Cast: Venkatesh, Rana Daggubati, Surveen Chawla Director: Karan Anshuman | Hindi series | Netflix
In an ensemble cast studded with great characters, every time Venkatesh strides on to the screen, everyone else fades into the background. In the official Indian adaptation of the Showtime hit series, Ray Donovan, the Telugu cinema star plays Naga Naidu, a man who lives on the edge of the law like a king, not a mouse. Here he is stepping out of jail after 15 years, blinking in the sunlight; there he is sniffing at a woman he likes; and here he is again using the most foul language possible while shoving a gun down an antagonist’s mouth. Somewhere between completely unhinged and happily uninhibited, he makes the ageing Naga Naidu come alive. Staring up at his intimidatingly tall son Rana Naidu (real life nephew Rana Daggubati) or embracing his beloved grandchildren; uttering the most colourful language heard recently onscreen or staring lustfully at a woman he once lived with, Venkatesh has created a memorable monster, miles away from his big screen image. Keeping him company is Rana, playing a fixer who doesn’t merely shoot to kill but also has the ability to make bodies disappear. He is able to fix everything from a woman killed accidentally to a godman shot intentionally. He is the rock on which his dysfunctional brothers rely, whom his wife and children love but cannot comprehend. Throw in a politician with a brain tumour, a film star with an enormous ego, an uncle who is a drug lord, and a CBI officer determined to track him, and Rana Naidu makes for an absorbing family saga soaked in blood, sex, and coarse language. Connecting Hyderabad and Mumbai, its cross-cultural currents bring a freshness to the screen, while the casting is more than just a coup. It may not be the kind of series a family can watch together, but it is certainly one that keeps you engaged.
Why watch it? Tune out the excessive abuse, and stay for the performances. Venkatesh’s Hyderabadi accent and superstar smirk, Rana’s intensity, Surveen Chawla as his exquisite wife, and Gaurav Chopra’s nutty superstar named Prince. Those performances alone are worth the ten-episode watch with a stellar cast
A Family Tragedy
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal | Cast: Miley Altman, Morgan Doughty Showrunners: Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason | English docuseries | Netflix
The series Murdaugh Murders lies firmly in the genre of truth being stranger than fiction. Here is a well-known, established South Carolina family of lawyers around whom a series of accidents start to occur. A young woman falls overboard a yacht while the son of that family is at the helm. He is drunk, a fact deliberately kept out of the investigation. Efforts are on to protect him from any kind of prosecution but then a little later, he is shot dead along with his mother. And then one after the other, the bodies pile up retrospectively. There’s a housekeeper of 20 years who died two years ago, a young classmate who was found with his head smashed in the middle of the road in 2015. And then there is the father himself, who is suddenly shot at close range. Deep financial debts, an opoid addiction, a possible divorce, violent temper tantrums. The three-part docuseries which coincided with the trial of Alex Murdaugh, the father, is a fascinating morality play. What happens when character flaws are ignored and buried under a mountain of privileges; when each act of violence and misdemeanour is concealed rather than brought to justice; when silence is the default option in place of fairplay? The result is wasted potential, fractured relationships and damaged love.
Why watch it? It’s the equivalent of a car pile-up, tragic but tempting to watch
Anxiety to Stay Relevant Amit Khanna
Return to Greatness Zakia Soman
‘This Is Not Fusion’ Akhil Sood