Rangbaaz – ZEE5 – Series Review
Rangbaaz – ZEE5 – Review
In 2018, India saw the rise of OTT platforms. They slowly became the mainstream source of entertainment for urban India. With the success of shows like Sacred Games on Netflix and Mirzapur on Amazon Prime, the gangster genre quickly caught on. It helped both the medium as well as production houses and newer OTT platforms started popping up. ZEE5 too tried their hand at it and their flagship-ish gangster product was ‘Rangbaaz.’
The basic plot is based on the real-life story of one of the most dreaded gangster of 90s of UP, ‘Shri Prakash Shukla’. The story shows how he went from being a meritorious student to one of the most feared names in the gangster circuit of that era. He infamously once took money to kill the then chief minister of the state of UP. At his peak, he was the second most wanted criminal in India and was even featured on one of the popular TV series of that era; Sohaib Illyasi’s India’s Most Wanted. He was killed at the ripe age of 25 by a special task force created for the same purpose.
Rangbaaz, is a ZEE5 original web series set against the rustic background of the Gorakhpur of the 1990s. Rangbaaz crosscuts between a story set in 1998, of Shiv Prakash Shukla being trailed by a team of police officers, and a story set in 1993, of Shukla’s metamorphosis from college-going boy to blood-lusting gangster.
Personally, I loved the title, as it is a slang in UP for notorious rogue elements. One thing that differentiates Rangbaaz from Sacred Games and Mirzapur is, unlike their lead gangster characters – Gaitonde (sacred games) and Kaleen Bhaiya (Mirzapur), who are fictional novel characters, Rangbaaz is based on the life of a real-life gangster.
The formula has been used by filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia and Rangbaaz doesn’t offer anything special in that regard, but the acting and writing is what stands out in the series with a predictable (already known) story line. The series does justice to the real life details of the original gangster.
The pace of the series is good and it also very aptly showcases the then political scenario of the 90s and their nexus with the underworld, which is ever increasing even to this day. The makers could have definitely avoided many song sequences from that era to create the feel, which definitely stem the flow. A little better job could have been in setting and re-creating the Gorakhpur of the 90s other than relying on songs.
I wish there was a scene like Irrfan Khan’s Paan Singh Tomar where he has dinner with a kidnapped journalist. It gives an authentic touch as to how Shukla was in his real life. It is a joyous ride, from the entertainment perspective, while it lasts but you don’t take the characters back with you.
Cast and Crew
Tigmanshu Dhulia, himself famous for being at helm for many of such projects, plays a key role in the series, is in fine form. There are seasoned actors like, Ranvir Shorey and Ravi Kishan who does a decent job of their roles. A little more bite from them into the role would have been really wonderful. Something what Kuku or Bunty does for Sacred Games or even Katekar for that matter.
Aahana Kumra, who plays Shukla’s love interest in the series also shines. A lot rests on the shoulders of Saqib Saleem, playing the lead character of ‘Shiv Prakash Shukla’ and he does a great job. He does get into the skin of the character and knows how to underplay it. He looks at ease and confident especially in the 1998 version of him.
A movie is for a director whereas a series for a writer. The medium gives a great opportunity to develop the characters fully. In a movie where a small character might end up getting only a scene, here in this medium it gets more space. The actors also get to focus on small nuances in detail. The abuses are kept at a surprisingly low level compared to the other series from the same genre.
Almost everyone has watched the earlier two mentioned series and if you are looking forward to watch something from the same genre with that rustic milieu set up in the 90s, then you must definitely give Rangbaaz a try. It won’t blow you away – but it is a decent one-time watch.
An IMDB rating of 8.6 after a such a long period is a proof in itself that the series works on many fronts. Don’t miss it this lockdown, if you are searching for good content to watch on OTT platforms.
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul