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The femme fatale has a long history in Indian film. We've seen a broad spectrum of excellent actresses portray the seductive seductress to perfection, from Madhubala in Howrah Bridge to Aishwarya Rai in Khakee. The new Netflix drama Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein takes the aforementioned femme fatale to a tiny UP town surrounded by the politics and brutality of the countryside

Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein follows Vikrant (Tahir Raj Bhasin), an engineering graduate who longs to leave his village, Onkara (subtle nod to Vishal Bhardwaj there). But he finds himself the undesired focus of the town's gangster-daughter, politician's Purva's, attention and yearning (Anchal Singh). This changes his life as he fights Purva's approaches and pursues his desire of starting a family with his lover Shikha (Shweta Tripathi).

However, as intriguing as the theory is, the execution falls short. In the past several years, we've witnessed a slew of series set in rural towns throughout Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Hearing that speech and seeing that environment on film used to be refreshing a few years ago. Unless it's really necessary, it seems to be a simple method to add roughness to the plot. The cliche works to some level in this programme, but the issue is that sequences that are supposed to be surprising seldom are. We've seen it all before: murders, politics, police serving as criminals' henchman, and bearded henchmen.

By making the guy the victim and the woman the attacker, the programme gives us a new perspective on obsessive love (or, as we should properly call it, harassment and stalking). It only needed to do it with a little more thought. Instead of focusing on the random actions of hacking up corpses, I wish the episode had spent more time focusing on Purva's mind and addiction.

The plot is straightforward, if not subtle. The protagonist's narrative does not help the show in any way. It's not always necessary to say everything, and the audience may be trusted to figure out what's going on or how the character is feeling without having to be told every 15 minutes. The programme, on the other hand, keeps you interested. Even though you can foresee what will happen next at times, you are truly interested in the characters' arcs and what will happen next.

The show's redeeming virtue is its cast. As Vikrant alias Vicky, the guy stuck between a rock and a hard place, Tahir Raj Bhasin is compelling. He expertly brings the character's desperation to the fore and carries the show on his shoulders. Anchal Singh is a surprise as the show's titular kaali kaali ankhein. She demonstrates that the femme fatale does not need long black gowns and dark red lipstick. In a salwar suit, she may seem just as enticing. For that, she and the programme get full marks. It's admirable that the filmmaker opted not to objectify her while yet portraying her as a type of temptress. Anchal has done an excellent job at portraying a blend of tenderness and ferocity.

Shweta Tripathi reprises her Golu Gupta role as a small-town educated girl caught in the heart of a violent situation. Surely, an actress of her caliber—which she has shown in Masaan and Haramkhor—can find more diverse parts. I wish we could see more of her on tv. Her connection with Vikrant, played by Tahir Raj Bhasin, and their relationship deserved to be developed a little further, especially as it is one of Vikrant's main goals.
Character actors, as we like to call them, are the show's stars. Akhiraj, a gangster-politician played by Saurabh Shukla, steals the show. At the same time, he is intimidating, strong, and humorous. I can't recall the last time I wasn't wowed by a Saurabh Shukla performance. Brijendra Kala, who plays Vikrant's father and Akhiraj's accountant, is another standout for me. He's amusing in his role as a middle-aged parent who believes his kid is a slacker.

Kaali, yes. Kaali Ankhein does a good job of telling a familiar narrative in a new way, but she doesn't go all out. It keeps using the cliches that have made previous series successful, partly to ride the wave and partly to compensate for the narrative's shortcomings. It's enjoyable, yet it leaves you wanting more.


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