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There's a scene in the series between Anjali Bhatti and her mother, at their home. Anjali is home for a few hours of rest, tired, after nearly 60 hrs of non-stop work on the case.
Trigger Warning: This has violence against women, murder, and emotional violence, and may be triggering to survivors.
Limited web series Dahaad (dubbed ‘Roar’ for an English speaking audience, its literal meaning) made by filmmakers Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar dropped on Amazon Prime on 12th May 2023. It began slow, didn’t make a lot of waves in the first couple of days, but since then, the roar is distinctly heard.
Whose roar is this? What is Dahaad about?
The series outline is well known, as it is shown in the trailer, as well as a few key characters.
*So very minor spoilers here.
Anjali Bhatti played by a superb Sonakshi Sinha is a police officer in Mandawa, a fictional punishment outpost for erring police personnel, though she is a local woman, well known to the town as coming from a marginalised community, but with a progressive father who, before he passes away, has ensured that his daughter is an empowered woman. Her mother, played with the correct note of frustration by Jayati Bhatia is a different person, though, wanting only ONE thing for her “wayward”, extremely non-traditional, rebellious daughter. That she marry, and “settle down”. Because after all, a woman’s future without a husband is not to be desired.
Devilal Singh played by the always supercool Gulshan Devaiah (well, he is!) is the upright police officer at this punishment posting because he won’t take a bribe. We can almost call him “feminist” in his thoughts and behaviour, not just at work, but with his children too. His wife? Find out.
Kailash Parghi played with great nuance by the excellently cast Sohum Shah is another police officer who reports to Devilal Singh. He has seniority over Anjali Bhati, but has been demoted and sent to the punishment posting because he was caught taking a bribe.
And then there is the serial killer Anand Swarnakar, who has till now managed to murder 29 women, leaving nearly no trace. We know he is the antagonist right from the beginning. Played to perfection by Vijay Varma, who has understood the “profile” of this kind of serial killer very well. I won’t say more about this because, well, find out.
All this background and explanations are for what I want to say next, which for me, is the soul of the series.
There’s a scene in the series between Anjali Bhatti and her mother, at their home. Anjali is home for a few hours of rest, tired, after nearly 60 hrs of non-stop work on the case. Her mother never manages to catch her long enough to talk to her about her pet project, so comes to her room.
Anjali has had enough. She shows her mother some of the photos of the murdered girls that she has with her. Her mother has no idea who they are, and then this unfolds.
As hard hitting as the words are, one is struck by the silent yet effective expressions that Jayati Bhatia gives to Anjali’s roar on the behalf of all such women who suffer in multiple ways, due to a patriarchy that considers them expendable burdens, and won’t let them live their lives the way they would want to.
The 17 screenshots of this scene, in a series below, express all that I want to say – what made these 29 women sitting ducks for an unscrupulous killer who snared them so easily?
“None of these girls are alive. They were murdered.”
“Do you know why?”
“Because their mothers kept forcing them to marry…”
(In this screenshot, Anjali says “mothers” because she only has a mother, and also this is rural Rajasthan. In a more general, Indian context, I’d add fathers too.)
“…believing as you do that without a man,…”
“…they will have no future.”
“They made their daughters’ lives hell with their nagging.”
“So, what happens?”
“This is the outcome.”
“These girls think that if they don’t marry,…”
“…the sky would come crashing down.”
“So, the first guy who turns up…”
“…and shows the slightest interest has the girls running away with him.”
“Then he murders them and dumps their bodies.”
“Who’s to blame for their death?”
“It’s easy to blame the man.”
“But if the girls’ families had let them live in peace,…”
“They would have not fallen into his trap.”
I was completely drawn into the narrative and binge watched it over the last weekend. I do feel this could be one of the best that has come out of Amazon Prime, and effective without any overt violence or gore!
I hope I have enticed you enough to watch the series, which, true to Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s work, weave in a hundred such nuanced, thoughtful moments and ideas, excellently portrayed by the actors. Go watch it on Prime this weekend!
In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba is fortunate to associate every day with a whole lot of smart and fabulous writers and readers. A doctor read more...
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