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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Hunter, Tootega Nahin, Todega, Amazon Mini web series: Give us a break

Hunter, Tootega Nahin, Todega, Amazon Mini web series: Give us a break

Don’t blame me for a sense of ennui and déjà vu that is having an extended run over the last few years, both on the big screen and on OTT. The number of films that have our armed forces and secret services battling that of our neighbour is falling from all sides, like snowfall. But by and large, what we are served is ‘been there done that’. Lagging not far behind is the genre of bad cop battling organised crime single-handedly, which is assuming the proportions of a torrent. Of course, there are minor variants in the screenplay and the fights are conceived and choreographed differently. This one is an Amazon Mini TV web series, produced by Saregama’s Yoodlee Films, about bad cop ‘Hunter’, and the tag line says, ‘Tootega Nahi, Todega’, which, translated from its Hindustani, means, ‘will not break, will break’. It is free to watch on the Amazon Shopping App. Be that as it may, what we need is a break.

Relatively forgotten, Suniel ‘Anna’ Shetty makes a comeback of sorts at 61, playing a middle-aged, drug-addicted cop, and there is Esha Deol, who sizzled many moons ago in Dhoom, playing an investigative journalist, adding to the star value. In the support, we have one well-known name, Rahul Dev, acting as the bad, bad cop (against Shetty’s good, bad cop), who is 54. And the ‘ace up their sleeves’ is Jackie Shroff. Not a big deal, you might say, in spite of the niche following that Shetty and Shroff command. Which sort of explains the series’ choice of streaming platform. The following assessment is based on an 80-minute compilation showed to the media on 20 March 2023 at the PVR multiplex, Juhu, Mumbai. Many members of the cast were present, as was the representative of Amazon Prime Mini. The writer(s) and director(s) were not mentioned once nor were they introduced. Suniel Shetty spoke, said how well he was treated and made to feel like a star. Jackie got into his familiar ‘Bhidu’ act. Hunter starts streaming tomorrow.

In Mumbai’s underworld, a local don Imran catches a woman trying to steal his ‘stuff’, and kills her. He also takes her sister captive and hangs her upside down in his den. Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Hooda gets on his trail. Another ACP, down-an-out, drug-addict, living on pain killers, Vikram Sinha, who is dealing with Imran, learns about it. Hooda challenges him not to interfere and let him dispense his form of justice, which is annihilation. But before Hooda can reach Imran, Vikram investigates the crime, reaches Imran’s den and eliminates all his henchmen, including Imran himself. Hooda reached just afterwards and is very upset that Vikram has taken away his glory. They exchange words.

Vikram is a divorcée, given to drinking and also indulges in casual sex. He sports a long hair wig, which falls across his face. Several layers of crime co-habit in Mumbai, as is to be expected. He decides to go after them. An African drug-lord gives him a few leads, in return for inaction by Vikram. Meanwhile, his ex-wife is targetted and manages to escape in the nick of time. She is also having an affair with a junior cop, which fact he learns only by accident. An investigative journalist Divya gets the whiff of a man who sexually exploits women and then they disappear. Vikram joins hands with her and sets on the trails of this criminal. It turns out that he is a much bigger operator than they had thought, and is being protected by some higher-up in the police. Vikram is captured, drugged unconscious, loaded into the back-seat of a car and the two gangsters who are in the front seat have instructions to snuff him out. Looks like the end of the hunt for Hunter.

All efforts to trace the names of the writer(s) failed, so they remain unsung. But their work offers very little that is new. Tropes like the hospital caper and the killer intruder masquerading as a salesman have been seen once too often. An attempt at comedy, using an over-size nurse, falls flat. It is hard to imagine that Mumbai’s elite police force would retain an ACP who is a drug addict, a boozer and a chaser of women of easy virtue. Secondly, the ability with which he takes on scores of his opponents, and even bounces back after being seriously injured, in a jiffy, is very hard to swallow. Ditto the kidnapping of a child by the crime lord and bargaining with her life for ransom. I wouldn’t say there is an overdose of expletives, but there are enough to make you wince, if you are not one of those who delights in listening to invectives.

On some reports, the names of the directors have been mentioned as Alok Batra and Prince Dhiman (Ishq Kills, Yeh Hai Aashiqui, Rishta Likhenge Hum Naya). There is some confusion about the name Alok Batra. Saregama has a Director by this name, and there is also a man by this name who was the co-director of Halla Ho. I am going with the latter. It’s time the fighting between the bad guys and the good guy (note the singular) is made to look realistic. There must be 101 other ways of disposing off Vikram than the one chosen, which borders on the farcical. Why does Vikram’s ex-wife have to hide a gun in such a way that it would take several minutes to retrieve it? What use is a gun out of reach? Divya’s escape trick in the wake of certain death has some novelty. Also, the way it is discovered that his ex-wife is having an affair is terribly crude, yet imaginative. What is unimaginative is the repeated use of catalogue music from Saregama’s old films as background music. These song snippets only distract, almost having a comedic effect, from the proceedings, although many of the songs themselves were chart-toppers in time.

There is little point in analysing performances in any bang-bang venture, but it must be said that Suniel Shetty does surprise you off and on. Esha Deol is confident and vulnerable as Divya. We were shown one scene of Jackie, and it would be unfair to pass comment based on that. Rahul Dev enjoys playing Hooda. Barkha Bisht, I guess, is Vikram’s ex-wife, and she is into character. Mir Sarwar plays a ferocious Imran. Teena Singh plays the hooker at the bar. Also in the cast are Smita Jaykar, Karanvir Sharma, Mihir Ahuja, Siddharth Kher and Pawan Chopra.

There is a lot of bang for the buck. But the term, I guess, is passé. On demand, an entire soundtrack can be filled with bangs. We need style. We need innovation. We need to see stuff on the next plane. We need intellectual challenges, not spoon-feeding.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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