By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 07, Sep 2021, 18:48 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Sep 2021, 7:17 am IST
New Delhi: For long, Indian audiences have been enthralled with the likes of Narcos, Ek Chapo and its ilk. What sets them apart from the rest of the gangster web series is the strong family angle that plays right through. In fact this is what made Breaking Bad turn out to be classic as well. Ok, so Cartel is not a classic in the making. However, it does have the kind of ingredients in there that remind of not just the aforementioned Mexican series but also The Godfather, which again revolved around a mafia family.
Well, Cartel too could well have been termed Mafia but let’s admit it, the current title has a far more royal look to it. That is justified too since the whole set up of this 14 episode web series has a royal feel to it. The stage is big, the set up is impressive and the conflict quite deep rooted. If the Cartel of four villains who want to take over the empire set by Rani Maa (Supriya Pathak) reminds one of the quartet of villains in Agneepath who gang up against Vijay Dinananth Chauhan (Amitabh Bachchan), then the manner in which Major Bhau (Tanuj Virwani) goes around defending his family (Jitendra Joshi, Rithwik Dhanjani) against an opportunistic mastermind (Sameer Soni) reminds one of Michael Corleone rising up to the occasion in The Godfather. Oh yes, there is a moll as well in the form of Monica Dogra (dong quite well as a damsel who is not in distress) who could swing either way. Pun intended.
All of that is possible since there are many high points in the story as it is to make Cartel a deeply engrossing drama that has twists and turns in practically every episode. Yes, first couple of episodes gave me a sense of déjà vu that ranged from Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (it’s not a hidden fact that ton loads of homage is paid to this modern day classic, including one whole Raju Chacha song playing against the film’s billboard) to that wonderful web series City of Dreams (Atul Kulkarni, Priya Bapat), season two of which has been making waves. However, unlike the patriarchy that was prevalent in these screen offerings, there is no matriarchy that is offered by Supriya Pathak in Cartel.
This is what makes this well crafted web series truly unconventional as the clear thought process is - “Dhandhe se bada kuch nahi, khoon ka rishta bhi nahi’. No wonder, you root for the characters, the ones who are deserving as well as the ones who are wronged. You want the former to succeed and the latter to get on the right path. However when that doesn’t quite happen, you just hope that things fall in place, and this is where the writing comes into picture as that’s what manages to form connect with the viewer.
The performances only accentuate the appeal further. Supriya Pathak is fantastic all over again and while her true self is visible in the last few episodes, especially the penultimate scene, you wait for the explosion right through. That’s visible in the way Tanuj Virwani comes up with his career best performance. He has shown his worth in Inside Edge too but with Cartel he gets into a totally filmy avtar with a hero presence. He does really well in an author backed part as it was always about the right role waiting for him to flourish and this dramatic saga has made it possible for him.
Another actor who impresses in every scene that he appears is Jitendra Joshi. He has been around for long but gets his meatiest part with Cartel where he mixes his part of being hot headed and also loveable. From a cop in Sacred Games to now a gangster here, he impresses.
As a misguided youngster, Rithwik Dhanjani is a find. When Cartel begins, it takes time to adapt to his character and mannerisms. However as the series progresses, you get the ‘sur’ of him, something that unleashes big time towards the terrific climax. Had there been a bit more control over the tapori act then he would have made an even bigger impact. One can now expect an explosive act from him in the sequel though.
All in all, Cartel is an impressive show and rest assured, the work would have begun on the sequel due to the inherent dramatic quotient that it carries. An epic gangster drama, it works immensely due to the family set up which makes it different from usual underworld affairs. There is ample depth in this almost 10 hour show that is a filmy take on the genre.