The story of a cop and a powerful gangster fighting is not new. From American Gangster to Vikram Vedha, we have seen it in every possible language. What sets any such story apart is its presentation and subtlety. Unfortunately, Dharavi Bank is found lacking in both departments. The production values are very 2022, but basically, it’s an over-the-top 90s actioner with dialoguebaazi, slow action sequences and an incredible amount of violence. Not even Suniel Shetty’s swagger can improve the sorry state of affairs here. Also read: Dharavi Bank trailer: Vivek Oberoi wants to destroy Suniel Shetty
Dharavi Bank, which premiered on MX Player on November 19, is about the eponymous crime syndicate run from Mumbai’s Dharavi slum by Thalaivan (Suniel Shetty), a man as powerful as he is dangerous. As a parallel government, he has everyone from politicians to Bollywood stars in his pocket. Maharashtra Chief Minister Janvi Surve (Sonali Kulkarni) wants him removed, not out of duty, but for political gain. And the trigger is Joint Commissioner of Police and old college flame (really now?) Jayant Gavaskar (Vivek Oberoi). What ensues is a bloody cat and mouse chase with no logic and unfortunately, drama as well.
Let’s start with the positive, because that will be faster. Dharvi Bank has two things right. The background score, especially the theme music, is catchy and sets the mood quite well. The grayness of the characters is another thing that gets right. No character is truly white, not even the crusading police. And no one is black, including the torturing and murderous psychopaths used by the don. It makes the characters more interesting and their battles more exciting.
But that’s about it as far as the good part goes. The show is a mix of over-the-top action, which isn’t executed with the necessary subtlety and smoothness, and some questionable acting that requires the actors to throw away all nuance and subtlety. Although there are some quality actors, the show doesn’t use their talents. Suniel Shetty brings with him a screen presence of natural charisma and swagger but the show wears a Tamil accent and bad prosthetics that mask his expressions. Vivek Oberoi, who has pulled off gray characters in countless films, is reduced to playing a vengeful cop who doesn’t give him much room to do anything.
In fact, most of the characters are stereotypes of what one would expect in a gangster movie–the grumpy older son, the quiet one, the younger one, the evil-looking right-hand man, the jovial but dedicated subordinate, and the obliging outspoken one. corrupt politicians who spout Marathi expletives every now and then.
The many ways in which gore is used, from chopped-up body parts to butchers carving up corpses, are shocking in a rather unpleasant way. It stimulates rather than disgusts a person. Shows and movies have used gore in rather sly ways in the past, be it international titles like Kill Bill or desi ones like Gangs of Wasseypur. But Dharavi Bank never reached that level of proficiency.
The show, with its volume and penchant for dialoguebaazi, belongs in the 90s. It lacks the subtlety and nuance expected of web series of this genre over the past few years. Unlike cinema, where loud acts are still valued, the average OTT audience is looking for something more these days, which Dharavi Bank clearly lacks. And even that loudness can be fun in a masala way, but only if executed well. Unfortunately, at Dharavi Bank, it seems director Samit Kakkad is taking a hammer to a job that needs a chisel. The only standout moment is the cleverly packaged action set piece in episode 5 where the police are hunting Thalaivan in the middle of his kingdom. That sequence was the only time I felt tense, the way it should be when watching such a show.
Dharavi Bank will appeal to some, those who like old-fashioned gangster dramas with over-the-top action. But the performance is too old-fashioned and not classical. The landscape of the streaming world has changed post-pandemic with viewers in India now exposed to international titles and the best from around the world. In that environment, Dharavi Bank is a relic.
Series: Dharavi Bank
Creator: Samit Kakkad
Cast: Suniel Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Sonali Kulkarni, Luke Kenny, Freddy Daruwala, Siddharth Menon, Shanthi Priya, Santosh Juvekar, Nagesh Bhosle, Samiksha Batnagar.