Bestseller review: This Mithun Chakraborty, Shruti Haasan, Gauahar Khan-starrer is a torturous web series that lacks entertainment, among many other things

So shoddily is the narrative plotted and so inept are the performances that by the time the first episode is over, there is no doubt that this is one painful disaster

Shantanu Ray ChaudhuriUpdated:Sunday, February 20, 2022, 06:13 AM IST
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I absolutely love it when a film is self-aware. When it knows its strengths and weaknesses and references these in the narrative itself. It makes my job that much easier. Take Bestseller, for example. I have little to add to what the characters have to say at three different points in the film. ‘What the nonsense is this?’ says one. ‘What the f*%# is going on?’ says the same character a little later. And towards the end, we have a police officer lamenting, ‘Case kya tha, aur kya bann chuka hai?’ I rest my case. And my review of the series.

Bestseller opens to the wail of police sirens shattering the silence of a rainy night in Mumbai. Even as a car goes up in flames, a solemn female voiceover proclaims, ‘Jo chal gaya woh kartab, jo na chala woh hadsa’ (translated as what works out is magic, what doesn’t, a disaster). But so shoddily is the narrative plotted and so inept are the performances that by the time the first episode is over, there is no doubt that this is one painful disaster.

Adapted from Ravi Subramanian’s novel The Bestseller She Wrote, the series revolves around an arrogant and insufferable writer Tahir Wazir (sample his email ID, tahir.wazir@worldbestseller.com, or his ‘Tweaker’ hashtag, #tahirisgod), who has not been able to write a book for over 10 years after the success of his previous work. Bollywood filmmakers seem to be discovering publishing and writing as plot tropes and making quite a hash of these from what’s on display here and in the two other OTT releases in the past week.

A chance meeting with a simpering and fawning fan, Meenu Mathur (Shruti Haasan), provides Tahir a way out of his writer’s block but turns his life upside down. Tahir is intrigued by the three scars on Meetu’s wrists she makes sure he sees and the possible stories behind each. Unscrupulous as he is, and sitting on an advance of Rs 1 crore from his publishers (Rs 1 crore on a Hindi book deal!), he decides to take Meetu under his wing and use her story for his next novel. But it is soon apparent that he has bitten off more than he can chew. Also in the picture are his hotshot advertising honcho wife Mayanka (Gauahar Khan) and an intern she hires, Parth (Satyajeet Dubey), who is more than what meets the eye.

As a vituperative troll goes after Tahir and is followed by a mysterious attack on Meetu, we have the police in the form of CID officer Lokesh Pramanik (Mithun Chakraborty) enter the picture. Meanwhile, the narrative moves from Mumbai to Neemrana to Uttarakhand, and flashbacks within flashbacks, with Mayanka and Parth, Tahir and Meetu getting messily involved with each other, leading to a death and the unravelling of the mystery behind Meetu and Parth’s motivations.

However, all of this is so badly executed that it’s hard to imagine this as the work of professional filmmakers. You get an inkling of the way the mystery is headed by the end of the first episode itself. By the time the fourth episode is done, you know everything there is to know and can only wait for the series to limp to the OTT-protocol-dictated eight episodes. The performances all seem to be on autopilot, with Shruti (all at sea with a laughable accent as the naïve small-town girl) and Arjan Bajwa making a hash of their characters. Mithun, as the ‘eccentric’ and often bumbling cop with a fondness for food, infuses some humour into the proceedings but is hampered by the lame-duck nature of the investigation track.

There’s not much to be said for a series in which a character actually delivers a line like this in all earnestness: ‘Life begins with Aum and ends with Dom.’ I am still trying to figure that one out as also what Bestseller is all about.

Title: Bestseller

Cast: Shruti Haasan, Arjan Bajwa, Mithun Chakraborty, Gauahar Khan, Satyajeet Dubey

Director: Mukul Abhyankar

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Rating: 1 star

(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)

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