The SonyLIV series The Whistleblower shares with Randeep Jha’s movie Halahal the same subject matter and one of its key actors. Halahal sees Sachin Khedekar as a bereaved father who teams up with a police officer to expose a college admissions racket. In The Whistleblower, Khedekar is the owner of a hospital who is unaware that his son is impersonating medical school candidates.

Both movie and series have been inspired by the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh in 2013, which involved staggering levels of fraud in the entrance examinations process and recruitment for government postings. Reports of a string of mysterious deaths of people associated with the scam raised questions about the true scale of the operation and kept the conspiracy theories coming thick and fast.

In The Whistleblower, it all begins with a young man’s search for a “kick”, a distraction from his privilege and success. Sanket (Ritwick Bhowmik) is a medical intern and the son of hospital owner Ashwin (Khedekar). Blessed with intelligence, wealth, charisma and an unerring ability to score with women, the risk-addicted Sanket is proud to be amoral.

Sanket’s crooked path soon intersects with that of the low-caste politician Jairaj Jatav (Ravi Kishen). Keenly aware of the systemic discrimination against his community, Jairaj has vowed to pack the hospitals with doctors – through fraudulent means.

Written by Ajay Monga and Shivang Monga and directed by Manoj Pillai, The Whistleblower has a host of characters and numerous developments spread across nine episodes. The show convincingly sets up its pervasive perversity. Sanket is hardly alone in his cynicism, and is moved to act only when matters get out of hand. With doctors who are not qualified to practise and policemen who have bribed their way into jobs, only crookedness can unmask the corrupt, the show suggests.

Ritwik Bhowmik in The Whistleblower (2021). Courtesy Studio Next/SonyLIV.

The pot is simmering nicely until a crucial character’s death blows off the lid off the scam. Sanket’s attempts to unravel the mystery lead him to obvious places. As he embarks on a dangerous game with Jairaj, both Sanket’s daring and the viewer’s patience levels are put to the test.

There’s far too much happening and a great deal of it is garden-variety conspiracy thriller. Shadowy figures at the top of the pile are bilking it with the aid of grubby-handed government officers below. Characters enter and leave without warning or impact, including Sonali Kulkarni as Anoop’s boss Zainab and Hemant Kher as a hoarse-voiced financer. Ashish Verma plays a fussy journalist who manages to be nearly everywhere all the time. Suhita Thatte pops up as an income tax official.

In the increasingly unwieldy narrative, two characters stand out. Ritwick Bhowmik solidly plays the smug and cynical Sanket whose misanthropy extends to the two women in his life – the sisters Pragya (Ankita Sharma) and Prachi (Ridhdhi Khakhar). Even when the hint of a halo appears rather unconvincingly over Sanket, it’s the swish of his devil’s tail that lingers in memory.

Ravi Kishan, adept at switching registers between buffoonery and menace in the same scene, is the showstopper of this parade of venality. Kishen’s Jairaj is the kind of man Sanket might grow up to be – unrivalled in ambition and unapologetic about his methods.

The father-son relationship that develops between Jairaj and Sanket contributes to some of the show’s strongest moments. Kishen delivers Jairaj’s latest act of villainy with an unctuous smile or a chilling command, depending on the occasion. This all-weather actor stays on track long after the show has lost focus.

The Whistleblower (2021).