Diesel maai – that’s what we called the my grandparents’ cook-cum-help in my native village that was close to the Bihar-Bengal border. Maai’s son was named Diesel in honor of a diesel-powered locomotive that first chugged through our village the year the tyke was born. Thus, his mom’s nom-de-plume: Diesel’s mom or Diesel maai. This innocent memory struck me while I saw Chyawanprash explain the origin of his quirky name in Netflix’s Khakee: The Bihar Chapter. Directed by Neeraj Pandey, the show is crisp, no-frills and binge-worthy for crime drama fans.
90s’ style musical flourishes, dusty rural villages with powers cuts, gun-toting goons extorting locals, corrupt cops who run out of breath within a minute’s chase, noxious netas relying on caste equations and free alcohol to win over the electorate – ‘Khakee’ is a brilliant cocktail of how a few upright officers beat the system to nab a dangerous criminal creating murderous mayhem in the region. Adapted from IPS officer Amit Lodha’s book, the fictionalized show stars Karan Tacker as his reel version, while Avinash Tiwary plays anti-hero Chandan Mahto loosely based on real-life gangster Pintu Mahto. Jatin Sarna plays Chandan’s right hand-man/brother-in-arms Chyawanprash Sahu.
Titled ‘Patra Parichay!’, the first episode does a fantastic job of introducing its principal protagonists and themes in an engrossing manner. The exclamation mark for an extra dramatic effect was well placed and validated by its content. The narrator of this series isn’t Amit Lodha, but a character called Ranjan Kumar, a junior honest cop perfectly portrayed by Abhimanyu Singh, who viewers are used to seeing in villainous roles. As Ranjan, Abhimanyu sets the tone for the action-series set in the Hindi heartland during the early 2000s, following daring dreams and devious exploits of men.
The best bit about the show is the razor-sharp focus on the themes of corruption and crime, there’s simply no time for romance, so those looking for the usual love story between bandits, bloodshed and brotherhood are going to be disappointed. Avinash Tiwary is the breakout star of this show, he was almost unrecognizable as the uneducated goon Chandan, a far cry from his portrayal of the sophisticated Satya in the 2020 Netflix horror movie Bulbbul. Chandan undergoes on the most transformative journey in the story, from a cowardly nobody who drove trucks, to one of the most dreaded criminals in the region ballsy enough to threaten top cops. Ashutosh Rana on the other hand has an entertaining cameo, a senior cop who is chameleon-like in his loyalties. Ravi Kishan plays hothead Abhyudaya, the brother of an influential politician, who takes Chandan Mahto under his patronage and allows him to be reborn into a new kind of monster.
In a refreshing change, the shoot-outs and action scenes aren’t exaggeratedly choreographed like regular Bollywood content. The mindless massacring of innocents to simply settle political scores and personal petty ego tussles were shot in a way that would make most viewers want to look away from the screen and not cheer for anybody. But you want to root for Amit Lodha and Ranjan Kumar, good cops shunted for doing their jobs and not bending to their political masters. Except for the last few minutes in the last episode which was unnecessarily dramatized, the series is fast paced, riveting and a thrilling dark slice of Bihar.
It’s a 8.5/10 from me. Stream it on Netflix.
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