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Disney+Hotstar's 'Hundred': Flawed in parts, but worth a watch

The original keeps you engaged for the most part.

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MUMBAI: The title of the series is 'Hundred. You really don’t know what to expect from it with its poster showing a lady cop, a cheaply gaudily dressed woman and a young man in the centre, looking like a small-town dude.

But as you dive into the Disney+Hotstar special, you get to know it is about two women and their individual journeys, their battles in their lives to be considered, to be dealt with as real people.

One is a cop, Saumya Shukla (played very effectively by Lara Dutta), and the other is a young government census employee Netra Patil (enacted immaculately by Sairat star Rinky Rajguru). Both are stuck and stalled in their respective lives. The former by her male chauvinist commissioner boss Anshuman (Parmeet Sethi) and her ACP husband Pravin (played by Sudhanshu Pandey), both of whom, believe the place of a wife is in the home producing babies and make no bones about expressing their feelings. The latter, by a visit to the doctor, comes to know that she has tumours in the brain which have spread and she has only 100 days to live.

Netra lives in a chawl and has a down-on-his-luck, lazy father, an ungrateful grandfather and a brother who are dependent on her as their provider. And she has a male friend (her boyfriend), another loser, who is constantly dreaming up some lame-duck-quick-buck scheme. But yet she is bubbly and buoyant prior to finding out about her ailment; she dreams of traveling to Switzerland and is movie-mad, imagines her dream lover to be Shah Rukh Khan as he is in romantic films.

And on that note, the two rather naïve women, Saumya and Netra, bump into each other accidentally. Then begins their journey where both work as foils to each other. Saumya is career-focused and determined to be in the thick of the action, solving crime cases, rather than being sent on school assignments. She convinces Netra to live up the remaining days of her life; trying to fulfil all her dreams.  As part of this living it up, the latter hits the bottle as though she was made for it.

The show brings out very strongly the chauvinism that possibly runs in the police force (how many Kiran Bedi has India created). The politicking that goes on in the police old-boys club, amongst those who we look up to as protectors. They have a single-minded focus: how to pull Saumya down as she successfully solves case after case, despite their opposition. Though she is given harmless assignments like managing security for visiting corrupt foreign dignitaries or attending functions where women cops are felicitated, her boss views her as police eye candy. In her mind’s eye she is that super cop, who is sharp, can solve crimes, is well connected with her network of informers – basically she is a good cop who is not getting her due.

Running over eight episodes, Hundred keeps you engaged as it is pacey – and it gets even pacier in the last four-five episodes - though the script and characters have flaws.

For instance: Saumya is bold enough to hold a press conference to announce how she cracked a case to the consternation of her boss, but has not guts to complain against his misogynist tendencies. Also, the writers seem to skim over some parts. For instance, in one scene Netra is shown to have been cut open by organ thieves; is rescued by Saumya, and is back on her feet in what appears like no time. Surgery takes time to recover from, does it not? What’s going on?  And when she is flouting orders, she has hordes of personnel ready to serve her at her every beck and command; I don't know if it would be possible in the real world. There are several other clichés: while Saumya is shown to be this super cop, almost everyone else in the police force – even senior policemen – is relative bumbling fools. Then there are some useless scenes which tend to drag the story: like when Maddy (played by Karan Wahi) - a struggling Haryanvi musician and Saumya’s adulterous love interest – wants to have a music video of his single shot, with the help of Netra who agrees to fund it only if she is in it. It does not take the story forward.

If you ignore this use of creative licence and some of the writing and directorial lapses, both Rinky and Lara have put up strong performances. Though the former could have brought in better histrionics to her drunken act, whenever she has a pint too many. Lara clearly shines in those scenes where she is on the move and brings emotional energy on the screen when she is standing up for herself.

Others who have meaty roles include Karan Wahi (as a Haryanvi struggling musicians and Saumya’s adulterous love interest), and Makarand Deshpande (as the older money launderer and the partner of Netra’s love interest Rajeev Siddhartha).

Would we advise you to watch. Yes.

Director: Ashutosh Shah, Taher Shabbir, Ruchi Narain,

Creator: Ashutosh Shah, Taher Shabbir, Ruchi Narain, Abhishek Dubey

Cast: Lara Dutta, Rinku Rajguru, Karan Wahi, Sudhanshu Pandey, Makrand Deshpande, Rajeev Siddharth, Parmeet Sethi

Producer: Ashutosh Shah, Taher Shabbir, Ruchi Narain, Neelesh Bhatnagar

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