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‘Hasmukh’ review: Finally, a great vehicle for Vir Das’ acting prowess

Vir Das and Ranvir Shorey in ‘Hasmukh’   | Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Late last month, actor-comedian Vir Das posted on his Instagram feed, “Hypothetically, if there was a platform you had gotten used to watching me on, and I was coming back there in April…” Considering his latest stand-up special, For India, released on Netflix on January 26, it seemed unlikely that another one was up already. Instead, it was a teaser for Hasmukh, a dark comedy series. And when the trailer dropped a couple of days later, it felt like it was going to be something special — and it delivers.

 

The show follows Hasmukh Sudiya from small-town Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who is a stand-up comic apprentice to Gulati (Manoj Pahwa). He is desperate for a chance to get on stage, after four years of fetching drinks and ironing costumes. When his requests are met with drunken jeers, he ends up killing his mentor, and performs in his place. The stuttering man backstage is replaced by a confident comic who brings the house down. That is where his journey to the bright lights of TV and Mumbai begins.

With a little help from a friend...

Gulati’s erstwhile manager, the gold-toothed and silver-tongued Jimmy (Ranvir Shorey), is the only one who knows the truth behind the murder. But he is happy to hitch his wagon to the star potential he sees in Hasmukh. Through the show, we see several instances of how artist management works, and how they would go to any lengths to protect their clients. Jimmy goes way beyond most others. On finding out that his client needs to murder a bad guy to get the “feel” before going on stage, he is an almost enthusiastic enabler. He even volunteers for the clean-up, although not a very good job of it. I do find it hard to believe that they are not leaving enough DNA and fingerprint evidence to tie them to every crime scene!

Hasmukh
  • Episodes: 10
  • Storyline: A small-town comic will not stop at anything, including murdering bad guys, to succeed
  • Cast: Vir Das, Ranvir Shorey, Suhail Nayyar, Manoj Pahwa, Amrita Bagchi

However, these shortcomings are easy to forgive. The chemistry between Das and Shorey makes the show a pleasure to watch. Das has a gripping intensity: be it dealing with his abusive uncle, committing murder, the contrition after or while on stage. His mannerisms are far removed from the suave performances he is known for. The progress that Hasmukh makes is reflected in almost imperceptible ways, like the clothes he wears and the way he stands and talks. Shorey is the polar opposite — brash and loud, no hesitation to do whatever it takes to make his fortune. But there is also a softer side to him, one that does not come out very often.

More women please

That being said, it was disappointing that the female characters end up feeling like plot points to move the story along. Amrita Bagchi as sympathetic-yet-strong showrunner Promila, and Deeksha Sonalkar as her assistant Rhea, support Hasmukh whenever he needs it. But we aren’t shown much more about them. Joanna Robaczewska stars as Sasha is Rhea’s roommate and a love interest/damsel in distress for Hasmukh to rescue. We would have loved to see more substance. The rest of the largely male cast includes Suhail Nayyar, Ravi Kishan, Raza Murad and Inaamulhaq in pivotal roles, with each of them executing their roles neatly.

‘Hasmukh’ review: Finally, a great vehicle for Vir Das’ acting prowess

I sat through the series at one go, helped by the fact that each episode ends in such a way that you want to know what happens next. The pace of the story drops around the halfway mark, but picks up in the last three episodes. There are faults, of course. Some of the jokes are misogynistic, the on-screen audience laughs more than the viewer, there are logistical loopholes... But you can’t help but root for the orphaned underdog. After all, he is only doing away with bad guys, and the world gets some laughs out of it. Twisted logic aside, Hasmukh is a vehicle to show Das’ acting prowess, and he utilises it fully. As some have rightly pointed out, he may be Netflix’s “next Radhika Apte”. We will have to wait and watch, and hope for season two.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 1:11:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/hasmukh-review-finally-a-great-vehicle-for-vir-das-acting-prowess/article31373579.ece

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