Director: Nila Madhab Panda
Cast: Faria Abdullah, Nasser, Makarand Deshpande, Sudev Nair, Aarya Bhatta, R.Badree, Pavitra Sarkar and others
Where: Streaming now on SonyLiv
Rating: 3.5 stars
Just when the nature of shows on Indian OTT was becoming tired and redundant, has one filmmaker dared to explore a newer concept and bring an important, pertinent issue to the fore, through his latest body of work.
The Jengaburu Curse, which is now streaming on Sony Liv, is the brainchild of showrunner and director Nila Madhab Panda of ‘I Am Kalam’ and ‘Kadvi Hawa’ fame, which traces the insatiable need of mankind and how it inadversely affects nature and life on the planet.
Priya Das (Faria Abdullah), a financial analyst based in London, receives a frantic call from her father’s associate Ravichandran Rao (Nasser), who informs her that her father Professor Das, an environmental activist is missing. Priya arrives in her hometown Bhubaneswar to search for him, unaware of the murky truths that she is about to uncover in the process. The show attempts to unearth what exactly is the Jengaburu curse all about. What is the myth that lies beneath it, it’s significance and its implications.
The show is a result of thorough research and an account of a lived-in experience that comes out effectively in its seven episodes. While the cinematography by Paulo Perez is bound to give you the National Geographic-level visuals, it is to the credit of Panda’s vision that viewers can explore the trials that remote, far-removed tribes of our country have to undergo in their daily fight to survive and thrive. Alokananda Dasgupta’s haunting background score also heightens the proceedings of the show. It instils hope but also carries an immeasurable sense of doom. The only gripe that viewers might hold against the show and rightfully so, is its pacing. Which is not to the fault of the makers. The surplus of content available on Indian and international OTT has made it difficult for makers to retain the viewer’s attention. But the cliffhangers have been written and integrated well enough at the end of each episode that maintain the curiosity and intrigue.
Stills from The Jengaburu Curse
Panda’s vision compliments his writer Mayank Tewari’s script perfectly. The observations and the themes explored on the show lay a solid ground for one to be interested in watching the show. From displaying detrimental effects of illegal mining, to the clash of ideologies between varied socio-political fractions of our society, one has to be a keen viewer to appreciate the finer details within the show.
It also helps that the makers deploy the good graces of a star cast that may or may not exude star power, but deliver effective performances, nevertheless. Faria, who has left a striking impression for herself in Telugu cinema through her work in Jathi Ratnalu and Ravanasura, has an engaging presence as the lead on the show. Between authority and vulnerability, the actress displays myriad emotions with ease. She is supported ably by Nasser, who brings in the right amount of empathy and strength as Ravichandran Rao. However, there is an interesting arc about him that I will choose to not reveal. Makarand Deshpande as Dr. Panigrahy is perfect as the pessimistic learned man in the village. Pavitra Sarkar as Professor Das holds an engaging presence. Sudev Nair as IAS officer Dhruv Kannan sports his shades of grey with elan. Aarya Bhatta as Prabal Banerjee and R.Badree as Srinivas embody evil to their best. Maninee De marks an effective presence as Lata Panigrahy. Her brief interaction with Priya is a standout moment to remember. Shrikant Verma as ACP Padhi also deserves a few words of praise.
In its entirety, The Jengaburu Curse is a remarkable departure from the standard formatted shows that Indian OTT held in its vault. If you overlook its problematic pacing and allow yourself to invest in its largely inviting world, the series is one of the more competent shows to have emerged in the year, so far.