Breathe: Into the Shadows (2020) Season 1 Review!!

Synopsis –  With their six year old daughter kidnapped, a couple are forced into doing unimaginably bizarre things.

Episodes – S01E01 to S01E12

My Take – Released back in 2018, at a time when Indian digital content had just begun gaining traction on OTT platforms, Breathe, starring Amit Sadh and R. Madhavan, the second Indian original series to see a release by Amazon Prime Video following Inside Edge, found easy success, as the series, despite its obvious flaws, remained extremely watchable for its eight episode span while brimming with a new story-telling technique.

Since then Amazon has been home to variety of excellent ventures, like Mirzapur, The Family Man, Four More Shots Please!, Inside Edge 2, Made in Heaven, Hostel Daze, Laakhon Mein Ek, among others.

Hence a certain expectation was set when series creator and director Mayank Sharma announced a follow up which would retain Amit Sadh, but add Abhishek Bachchan (in his digital debut) and Malayalam actress Nithya Menen (Mission Mangal) into the mix. An expectation, when it comes down to talk about the quality of the thematic sequel and its similar central theme of the lengths a father would go for his child, sadly falters.

Though the series manages to keep you engaged with its interesting story-line and ample number of twists, the mixed pacing and the over-bloated narrative which goes on for an extended 12 episodes, ends up bogging down the whole experience. Especially once the identity of the mysterious antagonist is revealed. Here, director Mayank Sharma and his team of writers, Bhavani Iyer, Arshad Sayed, and Vikram Tuli, easily allow the story to slip away out of their hands halfway through the narrative, as too many convenient sequences and bizarre coincidences end up undermining a promising premise and setting.

While Abhishek deserves praise for exuding both calmness and madness though his role, but for his digital debut, like his contemporaries he too should have picked up something which pushed boundaries, instead of a tale which comes with an undeniable sense of ‘been there, seen that’.

Set in Delhi, the story follows Avinash Sabharwal (Abhishek Bachchan), a well-to-do psychiatrist, who seems to be living a good life with his wife Abha (Nithya Menen), a chef, until he find himself embroiled in a nightmare when their six year old daughter, Siya (Ivana Kaur) is kidnapped from a birthday party. With frantic searches for nine months yield zero results, both Avinash and Abha come close to accepting that Siya may probably be dead.

That is until, the kidnapper finally makes contact. Attaching proof that Siya is alive and doing well under the care of Gayatri (Resham Shrivardhan), a 20-year-old medical student was also kidnapped around the same time, the eerie mysterious man, sporting a hood, a mask and speaking in a digitized voice, does not seek ransom, but instead wants Avinash to carry out the murders of an already selected list of victims, in exchange for his daughter’s release.

Meanwhile, Inspector Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh), in order to start afresh, along with this his jovial assistant, sub inspector Prakash Kamble (Hrishikesh Joshi), transfer from Mumbai to Delhi just in time for the killings to begin, hence setting up a cat-and-mouse chase between Avinash and Kabir who are both trying to capture and uncover the kidnapper/serial killer.

Set on a promising premise, which has mysterious antagonist with an unusual ideology holding Avinash as a pawn to do his bidding, with Kabir chasing trails to nab a new serial killer in town, right off the bat, the series is an engaging experience provided the viewer is willing to constantly suspend his/her disbelief. There are moments where it shines, and long periods where it just doesn’t work.

The story looks simple but the twists and turns that are given in the narration are decent. The series packs plenty of emotion, leaving the viewer in a dilemma. While on one it is easy to sympathize with Avinash and Abha, as the murders leave them scarred, but they must do what they need to for their daughter, but on the other hand, seeing their perfectly innocent victims meet merciless, gruesome ends makes one wonder if it really is worth it.

With an outlandish mix of predictable murder-mystery tropes squeezed into a psychological thriller and garnished with religious symbolism of the fight between good and evil. But with the shocking reveal of the kidnapper’s identity (which I won’t reveal), the focus engagingly shifts on putting pieces of the puzzle together. A lot of weight is given to Avinash’s backstory, which takes us to the picturesque little town of Nainital where he spent his growing years.

A special mention must be given to the sound design, something that makes its presence felt straight away. The series has a stunning background score which makes the viewing even more engaging.

However, the show falls short on the writing part. Several sub-plots are introduced into the series randomly and the killings are routinely abandoned in favor of backstories and elaborating character arcs. The murders are framed from a sensationalist perspective, but with no constructive reasoning about how it ties into the antagonist’s larger aim. On one occasion, Avinash visits one of the victim’s homes in broad daylight, but nobody in the vicinity seems to have seen him. On another occasion, he sneaks into another victim’s apartment in a building without as much as a security guard coming in his path.

Avinash has also involved himself in the police investigation in a bid to mislead the cops. But there is no real effort on his part to mislead them. All he does is tamper evidence one time. In fact, for inexplicable reasons, he even nudges Kabir and team in the right direction a few times.

Kabir’s sub plot which involves around him getting in touch with a wheelchair bound girl, Megha (Plabita Borthakur), seemed out of place, especially with Megha’s manic-pixie-dream-girl portrayal turning out to be quite tiring. Instead, the systemic politics between the two cities, Mumbai and Delhi, which the series hints at with the presence of Zeba (Shradha Kaul), an overly jealous and insecure female police officer, seemed more like a welcome break in comparison.

Also what was the point of the addition of a comedic triangle love angle between Prakash Kamble, his wife (Madhavi Juvekar), and former girlfriend, Vrushali (Vibhawari Deshpande), other than extending the narrative?

Yet to their credit, the cast does exceedingly well. Though, Abishek Bachchan does seem unnaturally uncomfortable at the start of the series, he does manage to effortlessly transition from Mr. Nice Guy to a heartbroken parent to a menacing criminal. Nithya Menen has a well proven filmography to back her, and here, manages to hold her own with Bachchan, and does well with her character. Despite being primarily based in the South Indian film industry, her Hindi diction is spot on, which is likely be noticed by a Pan Indian audience.

Though in comparison to the above two, Amit Sadh does get sidelined, however, it doesn’t prevent him from being the standout of the entire cast. His Kabir Sawant isn’t as self-destructive as he was in the earlier season, Sadh excellently carries the burden of a traumatized police officer. Sayami Kher is solid in her key role, but doesn’t have much to do until the final episodes.

In supporting roles, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shrikant Verma, Resham Shrivardhan, Plabita Borthakur, Nizhalgal Ravi, Shradha Kaul, Shruti Bapna, Sunil Gupta, Pawan Singh, Vibhawari Deshpande, Madhavi Juvekar along with young actors Varin Roopani, Dwij Vala and Ivana Kaur are excellent. On the whole, ‘Breathe: Into The Shadows’ packs a compelling premise but stifles its own potential with over bloated narrative.

Creators – Mayank Sharma

Starring – Abhishek Bachchan, Nithya Menen, Amit Sadh

Status – Season 1 (Completed)

Network – Amazon Prime Video

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