Disney Plus Hotstar launched its latest ‘special’ Grahan on Thursday. Inspired by Satya Vyas’ popular novel Chaurasi, the story traverses two worlds that are three decades apart, but are connected by a truth. It stars Pavan Malhotra, Zoya Hussain, Anshuman Pushkar, Wamiqa Gabbi, Teekam Joshi and Sahidur Rahman. The 8-episode series packs many emotions and may overwhelm you at times, but it does manage to leave a deep impact.
Righteous IPS officer Amrita Singh (Zoya Hussain) believes in using her position to bring about a change in society. Posted at Ranchi, she lives with her Sikh father (Pavan Malhotra), who wants her to marry and move to Canada with her fiancé Karthik (Nandish Sandhu). While on a case involving the killing of an honest journalist, she catches the attention of top politicians who try to influence her. Tired of the constant interference of ‘upar se orders’ on her cases, she is on the verge of resigning when she is asked to reopen investigation into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Bokaro. Her world comes crashing down when she finds that her father Gursevak is the prime suspect Rishi Ranjan in the case.
What follows is a tough battle as Amrita feels her entire life is a lie. As the case turns pages of her past, she finds herself questioning her basic identity. Her father stays silent as she faces the dilemma of whether she should protect him or stand by her beliefs.
More than this investigation drama, Grahan highlights the love story between Gursevak’s Rishi (Anshuman Pushkar) and Manu (Wamiqa Gabbi), which is set in the 80s. The two meet in an unlikely situations in Bokaro, and as they sneakily try to write their love story, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wreaks havoc in their world. The town is out for vengeance, and Rishi heads a team of rioters bent on burning the house of his lover. But did he do it or there’s more to this than meets the eye?
The makers walk a tightrope as they create a bridge between the past and present. The non-linear format is not new to the web space but Grahan manages to keep you hooked without creating any confusion. Coming to performances, Anshuman and Wamiqa are the clear winners as their old-school romance wins your heart. Anshuman with his big plonk of hair reminds you of the 80s Amitabh Bachchan, sans the ‘angry young man’ personality. Zoya Hussain, who’s already impressed critics and the audience with her performance in Mukkabaaz, packs a punch again with this show. She manages to express the pain of a wronged daughter without being melodramatic. She is ably supported by Sahidur Rahman, who with his poise and attitude, seems to have walked on to the set straight from an army school.
On the face of it, Grahan is the story of two star-crossed lovers and a daughter pining for truth. However, the show subtly references casteism, sexism and poverty in the country. The scene where a witness refuses to accept a glass of water from an otherwise all-powerful cop because he comes from a lower caste, leaves a knot in your stomach. Even the aftermath of violence for both victims and culprits has been touched upon sensitively. In a scene, a man who killed many during the riots sheds tears after 30 years and accepts his crimes is impactful. He says it was all hubris — he picked up the gun only to feel powerful.
While the film is about 1984 anti-Sikh riots, makers draw parallels with India we are living in today where all you need to set cities on fire are rumours, WhatsApp forwards and political manipulation. Grahan delivers an important message about how people are reduced to pawns in the game to wield power, but it falters when it actually tries to sermonise through Amrita’s character. When your narration is strong enough to show that violence never does any good, one doesn’t need words to put emphasis on it.
Overall, Grahan is engaging and will keep you invested through the almost seven hours of content. Even if ‘khoon kharaba’ or ‘investigative drama’ is not your cup of tea, you can give the charm of first love a try.
Directed by Ranjan Chandel, with Shailendra Jha as showrunner, Grahan has been bankrolled by Jar Pictures. It’s streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.