The ‘killer’ artist

June 7, 2020

Indian web series Hasmukh, at one point trending amongst the top 10 shows in Pakistan on Netflix, is edgy and dark but lacks the comic spin the context demands.

Actor, writer and comedian Vir Das in and as Hasmukh.

Binge watching has certainly risen in the current times, as the lockdown continues and people turn to television and online content including torrents for entertainment. To keep themselves sane and entertained in the confines of their homes, it is the art and artists they are resorting to, among other activities. According to a recent report, Netflix has gotten 16 million new sign-ups during the first quarter of 2020 while Disney Plus surges to 50 million paid subscribers across the globe.

In Pakistan, the use of internet including Netflix, video calls, etc., has increased up to 15 per cent. Speaking of Netflix, most viewers were lately hooked on to Spanish crime drama Money Heist and/or Turkish television series Resurrection: Ertugrul that has been airing on PTV since the first of Ramazan. Shows and movies that have been trending on the streaming site in Pakistan include Miracle in Cell No. 7, Too Hot to Handle, Extraction, Elite, Resurrection Ertugrul and Hasmukh.

Hasmukh is an Indian television series that released on Netflix on April 17, 2020; based on 10 episodes, it follows the life of a small-town comedian, Hasmukh, who aspires to make it big but doesn’t realize the heavy cost that comes with it until it is too late. He has to kill people before appearing on the stage to get the ‘feel’ for his performances that leave his audience in fits of laughter.

The series comes under the genre of crime drama and dark comedy; while the concept is intriguing, the treatment falls flat at times with crass comedy that is sexually explicit. Given the context of the narrative that has enough room for stand-up comedy, the comic element could have been better together with the tragedy at hand. However, the series explores themes such as class difference, professional jealousy, office politics and sexual harassment, among others.

Hasmukh goes beyond the journey of a timid comedian and questions the atrocities within the system in a big city like Mumbai. Directed by Nikhil Gonsalves, it unfolds how people, in various fields of work, are misusing their power and position, leaving the weaker ones in misery.

According to news reports, the series came under fire for maligning lawyers in one of the episodes. Advocate Ashutosh Dubey filed a plea in Delhi High Court to restrain streaming of the series on Netflix for allegedly referring to lawyers as thieves, scoundrels, goons and rapists.

Performances are a major highlight of this series that is generating mixed reviews from viewers all across. Vir Das, in and as Hasmukh, who has also co-written the script with Nikkhil Advani, has delivered a very convincing performance. His expressions speak more than his words. Vir is an Indian comedian, actor and musician who started off as a stand-up comedian. He then moved to films before he made his first international appearance with Netflix special Abroad Understanding in 2017.

Other actors with prominent roles in the series include Ranvir Shorey as Jimmy (The Maker), Manoj Pahwa as Gulati, Amrita Bagchi as Pamela and Ravi Kishan as the lecherous TV channel owner. Each one of them brings magic to the screen with their sharp performances.

Hasmukh is a can-watch!

The ‘killer’ artist