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FILM REVIEW: Bard of Blood

FILM REVIEW: Bard of Blood

Sentinel Digital Desk

Ambar Chatterjee

'Weak story, poor execution and sleepy performances make this series a dull affair'

Directed by: Ribhu Dasgupta

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vineet Singh, Kriti Kulhari, Soham, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajit Kapoor

Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

Bard of Blood is Netflix's latest Indian offering that is based on a book of the same name by Bilal Siddiqi. Bilal, as per Wikipedia was fascinated by the new stories on the Taliban and the other terrorist organizations and how the different secret agencies were working within their means to get the best out of them, especially the ISI. He started writing the book at a very early age and his subsequent association with a goliath of this field, S. Hussain Zaidi pushed his passion project towards seeing the light of the day. Zaidi refereed him to the then editor of Penguin and finally, his book, which was completed in within the next year was published. The series is based on this book.

I had high hopes from this series but the moment the first episode was over, I knew this was going to be a disappointment. Kabir Anand (Hashmi) aka Adonis was a RAW operating but was stripped of his position and power after he botched up a mission with his best friend and fellow agent played by Soham. Soham died in that incident and he too was dishonorably discharged posthumously along with Kabir. Things change for Kabir when 4 Indian agents are captured by the Taliban in Balochistan and face imminent death if they are not rescued immediately. RAW joint chief Sadiq Sheikh (Rajit Kapoor) sends for his best agent ever, Adonis who refuses as is customary but then leaps into the battle after his dear old Sadiq Sir is killed. Helping him in his endeavor is an awkward Sobhita Dhulipala and an uncharacteristically confused Vineet Kumar Singh as RAW Agents.

I generally start with the positives but here is a series that has absolutely nothing going in its favor. Hence this time I will start with the negatives and I am afraid that it might be all that I have to say about the series.

It isn't a good thing to tear apart a writer's passion project but the story that Bilal Siddiqi has to offer here has been done to death. I haven't read the book but since Siddiqui himself wrote the screenplay for many of the episodes, I have to take it that the series is fairly honest with its source material. If that is the case then the blame has to fall on Siddiqi. His story is generic with one dimensional and caricature-ish characters that might have worked in the 80s-90s but will not work anymore. What goes even more against his story is the fact that over the years we have seen Hollywood come up with some of the very best content on the subject lines of this story. I have feasted upon series like "The Looming Tower" and "Jack Ryan" and have been blown away by them. At a time like this, bard Of Blood is just too mediocre to merit our attention and time.

Sometimes a weak story can be redeemed to a certain extent by a good screenplay. Here again, Bilal Siddiqi will have to be blamed as he is the one who penned the screenplay for Bard of Blood. Ribhu Dasgupta who directs the majority of the episodes could have also reigned in on this issue. It wouldn't be wrong to say that the screenplay is not only lacking any sense of urgency, but it is also easily one of the most uninspiring screenplays that I have seen in a while. Episode after episode what we get is people behaving and things turning out in the most 90s Bollywood fashion that one can think of. An antagonist has a gun in his hand and is pointing the same at someone killing who would make him the leader of a powerful group. This is something that the antagonist has wanted to do for years but what he does here is wait... wait…wait and wait until someone turns up to save the lad. This is something that just doesn't happen this once. It happens with irritating regularity throughout the show. Also, be it the protagonists or the antagonists, the screenplay addresses them all with similar lethargic urgency.

When well done, even action has some redeeming quality but that is not the case here. Material like what we have in this case needs a specific type of action and Bard of Blood makes a mockery of that. The hand to hand combats are laughable. The gunfights feel staged and even after the protagonists are sprayed with Kilograms of bullets, they never seem to be in any sort of mortal danger. Kabir is always safe from fire and when he shoots, he invariably hits his targets. The character of Isha (Dhulipala) is even more miraculous at pulling this off. She is also someone who has no combat experience and yet unbelievable holds her own in gunfights. Some of the editing of these action sequences are just awful. The graphic and sound design of every major blast is so horrifically inept that it becomes laughable. These deficiencies may have been ignored in a masala potboiler but this is not that kind of a film.

Bard of Blood has some of the best actors that one can ask for. Emraan Hashmi, Rajit Kapoor, Jaydeep Ahlawat, Kriti Kulhari, Vineet Kumar Singh and yet every one of them perform so insipidly that it forced me to think if at all they were interested in the material. They mouth lines and not so much deliver dialogues and the moment the camera looks away from them they drop their guards. Ahlawat is pedestrian and his character is written so badly that I can't even complain that he didn't give his best. Sobhita Dhulipala is miscast as a RAW agent. She will give Diana Penty (Parmanu) a run for her money for the worst miscast actress as a RAW agent.

Vineet Kumar Singh is one of the most promising young actors of today but here he seems to be just playing along for the cheque with no heart or conviction in the character that he is playing. Kriti Kulhari is magnetic. Whenever she appears on screen she makes you take notice if not for her essay but her presence. That's the best compliment I can give her for this part. Emraan Hashmi plays himself without any care or heed for realism or feel of the character. "If the makers don't care…why should I? --- must have been what went through his mind and it shows in his act. There was a brief moment when I thought he might just reprise his "serial kisser" self and it would have been the perfect icing on the cake that is this series. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

To sum it all up, Bard of Blood is a mammoth disappointment. I still couldn't understand why it is called "Bard of Blood" in the first place. Was it because Emraan was shown teaching Shakespeare in what seemed to be a school. Also, is there really a subject called "Shakespeare" in schools? The series fails on almost all counts and after a while starts getting on your nerves. There is no drama, no realism, no surprises, and every character fails to have an impact on you. What makes it worse is the fact that it feels like a cheap and substandard copy of prior series and films that we have come to revere. Don't waste your time on this one.


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