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Shaad Ali is back for good. If, like me, you were under the impression that Ali would have vanished after directing Call My Agent: Bollywood, you couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Ali’s Indian adaptation of the acclaimed French series was a total trainwreck, being able to retain none of the world-building or humor of the original.
Less than six months later, the filmmaker is back to helming another adaptation on a different streaming platform. The good news? It isn’t as unwatchable as Call My Agent: Bollywood. The bad news? It’s still directed by Ali, so it’s not exactly a memorable show.
The six-episode Bloody Brothers — now streaming on Zee5 — is backed by Applause Entertainment, the production house that has undertaken several Indian adaptations in the past including Criminal Justice (2019) and The Office (2019).
The thriller is adapted from The Guilt, the BBC series which turned into a sleeper hit back in 2019. Set in Ooty, Bloody Brothers is constructed around an accident. One night, Jaggi (Jaideep Ahlawat), a wealthy and self-centred lawyer, and Daljeet (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub), his meek brother accidentally run over an old man.
Convinced that no one has seen them commit the crime or can place them at the scene, the duo decide to cover up the accident to frame it as a natural death. It’s a decision that ends up having irreversible consequences in their lives considering the various twists and turns the show throws at us: an unlikely romantic interest, a falling marriage, a lesbian affair, and some amateur detective work.
The remaining five episodes remain invested in multiple perspectives — of the events that lead up the accident and then, its aftermath. It’s a premise of things going horribly that is evidently alive with the promise of black comedy and Ali, not the most subtle or imaginative filmmaker, approaches humour in the most straightforward fashion possible. The filmmaking is just stilted, which is to say, there’s very little coherence both narratively or in the way Ali decides to execute the script.
It’s as if the once-promising Ali has forgotten not only what constitutes a story but also, how to tell it. There’s no other explanation for why Bloody Brothers is so bland and joyless even though gifted actors like Ahlawat and Zeeshab Ayub occupy the frame.
Indeed, Ali’s contribution is so unremarkable that the show unfolds as if it didn’t have anyone steering it into one single direction. In many ways, it feels like an episodic equivalent of a headless chicken, except if it was stripped of every last inch of life left in it.
The second-rate screenplay (Siddharth Hirwe, Riya Poojary, Anuj Rajoria, Navnit Singh Raju) isn’t exactly much help. In that, the show suffers from the classic Indian series problem where dialogue are written not as conversation but as lines that actors in a show recite to each other. The craft is so self-consciousness that it permeates just about every aspect of Bloody Brothers, making it that much harder for the show to have any fun.
The convoluted script compounds the show’s woes, considering it treats logic as its worst enemy. None of it makes sense — not why the show is set in Ooty, not why the makers treat it like an afterthought, or why, the “scripted development” team credited for the show’s writing hasn’t quite bothered to develop or script any of the show’s proceedings. It’s that much of a lost cause that even the collective dependability of Ahlawat and Zeeshan Ayub fails to act as the silver lining.
Both actors play off each other’s contrasting energies, sharing a fascinating power dynamic and affable chemistry. But the hold of the show’s blandness is so powerful that in some scenes, it even diminishes their contribution.
If anything, Ahlawat and Zeeshan Ayub succeed in ensuring that the show is barely watchable because of their turns, which elevate the material as much as it can (Ahlawat has a lot of fun with the show’s opening scene). After all, they’re just performers, not superheroes who can rid our palate of abject mediocre filmmaking.
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