At the end of 2022, a friend asked me to create a list of my favorite Indian movies from A-Z, after he sent me his own list. He listed “Rang De Basanti” for the letter “R”, and I chose Ram Gopal Verma’s 1992 horror flick “Raat” for my list. So I was excited to see its heroine Revathi in the 2023 vampire-horror series “Tooth Pari” as a witch. However, Tanya Maniktala is undoubtedly the star of the show, playing the rebellious Rumi, a vampire who loses a fang while feeding on a succulent human. This event leads to an unlikely romance between the bloodsucker and her unsuspecting dentist, while a bloody revenge drama unfolds around them.
Directed by Pratim Dasgupta, “Tooth Pari” will immediately remind Bollywood horror fans of the Ramsay Brothers. Despite being set in the present day, the show has a slightly grainy feel and a noir color palette. The makers rely on standard Western tropes of vampire fiction, such as their inability to step out in the sun, fear of silver and garlic. However, instead of vampires versus werewolves, we get vampires versus witches. Rumi and her kind are banished to live beneath the sewers in Kolkata, a realm they call “neechey”. A handful of rebels sometimes sneak out at night in search of fresh blood, but they make sure they never kill or convert. However, a group of vampire hunters called “Cutmundus”, led by the magic-wielding Luna Luka (played by Revathi), are after their heads.
While Tanya Maniktala didn’t leave a strong impression as the protagonist in her debut series “A Suitable Boy” and was eclipsed by other actors, she is a lot more charming in “Tooth Pari”. She is buoyed by a talented support cast, with Shantanu Maheshwari playing her shy gullible dentist Roy. The two make a sweet pair, however, Shantanu sometimes falters as the romantic interest. Sikander Kher made a perfect fit as an alcoholic Kolkata policeman Kartik Pal, who investigates the case of young man who claims to have been bitten by a ghost. Tillotama Shome and Saswata Chatterjee, who were last seen in Amazon Prime series “The Night Manager”, are entertaining as hell as centuries old vampires, who are filled with historical tales about their adventures and serves as guides to the young Rumi. Tillotama Shome is an entire mood as a dancer-vampire and would make a perfect pick for the Indian vampire general if the Netflix animation series “Castlevania” ever gets a live-action adaptation. Adil Hussain’s portrayal of the evil AD, who serves as a broker between the vampire and human world, felt more like a caricature character. Similarly, the character called Ora, who is the leader of the vampire clan, was completely lackadaisical.
There’s an interesting balance of both drama and comedy through the runtime. However, the pace begins to waver in the last few episodes. Instead of stretching the story into eight episodes, “Tooth Pari” could have been edited to a crisper six episodes. The climactic fight was hilariously mediocre, with some jarring special effects. Bollywood viewers who have never seen vampire/dracula themed stories might not enjoy this series as much as regular horror and horror-comedy fans. Nonetheless, I think it is a laudable and exciting attempt at the genre.
It’s a 7 on 10 from me.
Stream the series on Netflix.