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Drugged days

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While watching Narcos, I paused to look up the events that were being played out on screen, just to see if they had actually happened. Did Colombia really go through such a prolonged period of drug-related violence? And did all the devastation really root from one man’s crazed ambition?

Narcos resurrects the life of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord whose business and political aspirations led to government unrest, assassinations, and violence across the country, which lasted for more than a decade. Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) is a smuggler from Colombia, who knows his way around the local officials who are impediments to his business. Each time he’s confronted, he gives them a choice — Plata (silver) or Plomo (lead, referring to the bullets in his gun), and the fear he invokes, coupled with the economic situation in Colombia, ensures that the officials’ choice is almost always Plata. It isn’t long before he controls certain transport routes in the country. Around the same time, Mateo “Cockroach” Moreno (Luis Gnecco), a chemist whose speciality is the manufacture of cocaine, comes into his acquaintance.

Cockroach wants Pablo’s help to sell coke in Colombia, but Pablo decides to take the business to the United States. The initial smuggling of coke, which happens through blazers with hidden pockets, expands into one that requires shipments delivered through private planes, and before he knows what’s happening, Pablo finds himself with so much money that he has to bury it in fields, and even starts distributing it to the poor.

His ascent has him believing that he can do anything, be anything. He positions himself as a philanthropist with a dream for Colombia, but his history catches up with him, and he’s shamed out of parliament for being a drug dealer. The humiliation is too much for Pablo, and he unleashes a brutal war on the streets, bringing Colombia to its knees, and giving the government no choice but to support extradition of convicted drug lords to the United States, and empowering the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Colombia.

The show’s execution is flawless. It’s thrilling and has a great deal of black humour. The screenplay explores the lives of both the drug lords, as well as the men and women on the other side. Wagner Moura’s portrayal of Pablo is impeccable. Although the narration isn’t one-sided, the show has a narrator in the DEA Agent, Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), who has been brought into Colombia to help the American government tackle the drug menace. Steve Murphy, and his partner, Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal), along with the Colombian General, Horacio Carrillo (Maurice Compte), are crucial players in the fall of Pablo Escobar.

It’s interesting to know that the real Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, who’ve long retired from their Narco hunting days, were hired as consultants to the show to ensure that the series is true to the real chronology of events. Season one of Narcos explores the first decade of Pablo Escobar’s reign, and the newly-released, and just as brilliant second season, takes on the three years that Pablo spends in hiding. The show is as addictive as the drug that forms the core of its story.

(Seasons one and two of Narcos are currently streaming on Netflix.)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 11:21:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/radio-and-tv/Drugged-days/article14630758.ece

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