By Divya Unny Feb. 19, 2022
The new Amazon prime original is dull, unimaginative and worst of all takes its viewers for granted.
Before we talk about the new eight-ep Amazon web series- Bestseller, let me confess how good it is to see Mithun Chakraborty back. The 80s star hasn’t lost his charm and doesn’t miss a moment to shine on screen. They don’t make them like him anymore. Unfortunately, you wish he got a better show to make his OTT debut with.
The on-screen adaptation of Ravi Subramaniam’s 2015 novel The Bestseller she wrote, opens with superstar novelist Tahir Wazir facing writer’s block. It’s been a whole decade since he wrote a book, and he’s desperate for a new story. He meets aspiring writer and ardent fan young Meetu Mathur, who soon becomes a protégé and confides her own tragic childhood tale to him. The author smells drama in her story and chooses to sell it as his own next novel. Predictably, things don’t go his way as Meetu uncovers the sociopath in him who doesn’t have one original thought to share with the world. Phew!
From direction to cinematography to the music, there’s nothing that salvages this one.
The plot of the show is pretty humdrum from the word go, and you wonder why the creators chose to adapt a mediocre novel in the first place. Is there really such a dearth of original ideas, or are we so inept that we can’t tell the difference between a good and bad story? If it’s the drama that inspired them, they clearly needed more to do better. The screenplay by Anvita Dutt and Aletha Koshal is lifeless and predictable. The writing is lazy and it has zero surprise value for a revenge drama. The story makes a bold attempt to reveal the culprits early on, but is barely able to carry the weight of its own revelations.
The world of the show that swindles between superficial city ambitions and honest small-down dreams, is one we have seen too often. There’s glitzy Mumbai on one hand, and jaded Uttarakhand on the other, and the characters emerge from these contrasting worlds. Their world views are different, and so are their values, and a good portrayal of a clash between the two could have saved the so-so storyline. But the characters aren’t etched out well enough and so we are never invested in them. Wazir (Arjan Bajwa), Meetu (Shruti Hassan), Parth (Satyajeet Dubey) and Mayaanka (Gauhar Khan) often fall in and out of their own motivations, and generate little curiosity for us to root for at least one of them.
The plot of the show is pretty humdrum from the word go, and you wonder why the creators chose to adapt a mediocre novel in the first place.
Director Mukul Abhayankar’s treatment and vision for the show makes it resemble a gaudy Bollywood film from the 90s, with cheap plotting and wannabe protagonists. The show dares to open with couplets by saint Kabir and even though I want to applaud the writers’ intentions, I see it as a terrible tribute to the stalwart. Bestseller is also a brother-sister story that tries to pose as an intriguing thriller about human ambitions and betrayals, but falters at every go. The dialogues are amateur and there’s little foreshadowing of plot turns, a classic symptom of a half-baked script. The climax is so convenient and spoon-fed, that as a viewer you’re thoroughly disappointed. It’s four whole hours of your life that you’re never getting back, and that’s tragic.
Tarantino once said to aspiring filmmakers- “The minute you think your audience is stupid, you’ve lost the story.” Bestseller lost me a few minutes into its opening episode. The approach to the show is ignorant and a tad bit arrogant, to say the least. At one point the protagonist carries a carcass of a woman around for days together and places it in the front seat of a car to plot her own death. Even forensics fails to identify this, and by this time you’re just looking for your remote to fast forward.
Director Mukul Abhayankar’s treatment and vision for the show makes it resemble a gaudy Bollywood film from the 90s
From direction to cinematography to the music, there’s nothing that salvages this one. I’m not even getting into the gaping continuity errors in multiple episodes. At one point I wondered if the show makers had a favor to repay or too much money to throw about to create something so forgettable. Among the actors Arjan Bajwa proves yet again why he’s so underused. He comes across as a novice, immature performer often fumbling and confused in his body and mind. Satyajeet Dubey is sincere, but he must have overlooked some serious character loopholes. Gauhar Khan deserves better, and I wonder when she’ll find a part worthy of her talent. Lastly, Shruti Hassan just isn’t an actor strong enough to headline a show. To play someone with that much duality and hidden motives, needs more nuance than she has displayed in all of her acting career. She hams through the first half, and transforms too quickly and unconvincingly in the second. She’s lovely to look at on-screen, but sadly it takes more than looks to hold a story. She should stick to roles that allow her to play herself, a musician. She aces those!
Despite what it suggests, I seriously hope there isn’t a sequel.
The only saving breath in Bestseller is Mithun Chakraborty who plays a cop obsessed with food and finding the truth. He holds your attention and superbly matches his comic timing to some pretty serious situations in the story. He’s so stylish in his body language and dialogue delivery that he saves the scene more often than not. He reminds you that there are a handful of actors from his era who deserve more work, simply because of their ability to carry a story on their shoulders.
During a conversation with Tahir Wazir, Shruti’s character Meetu once says, “Har kahani ka end accha hota hai.” Sadly, the ending was neither accha (good) nor saccha (true), and despite what it suggests, I seriously hope there isn’t a sequel.
Divya is a Mumbai-based journalist-turned-actor and now director. Some say it's too many hats for that one small head, while she insists there be more.