How do you know Samuel, his niece wants to know. Ooty is a small place, Jaggi says. Everybody knows everybody else.
Of course, Jaggi doesn’t know Samuel, at least not until his brother Daljeet accidentally ran over the elderly man a few days ago. Jaggi’s lie, just one of many spun to escape a hot mess, is delivered with 200% conviction. The falsehood is so convincing, in fact, that the makers of Bloody Brothers fall for it too.
The Zee5 web series, a Hindi remake of the Edinburgh-based BBC show Guilt, uses Ooty as mere scaffolding for its plot. Characters run around the hill town without meeting each other for the duration of the six-episode first season. Imposters and charlatans go about their business without any interruption from gossipy neighbours.
Despite this niggling element, as well as a tendency to link just about every character in a larger conspiracy, Bloody Brothers is an entertaining show about the things siblings do for each other. As the tissue of lies that Jaggi and Daljeet have woven begins to throttle them, the show rolls out black humour, nicely observed characters and sharp performances.
Shaad Ali, most comfortable with remakes and seemingly recovered from the debacle that was Call My Agent: Bollywood, directs an adapted screenplay by Siddharth Hirwe, Anuj Rajoria, Riya Poojary and Navnit Singh Raju. Jaggi (Jaideep Ahlawat) and Daljeet (Zeeshan Ayyub) are returning from a wedding one night when their car crashes into Samuel (Asrani). They think they have covered their tracks, but in this depopulated corner of Ooty, somebody is always watching.
Samuel’s niece Sophie (Tina Desai) shows up and starts asking uncomfortable questions. The alcoholic detective Dushyant (Jitendra Joshi), whom Jaggi has hired to throw Sophie off the scent, inconveniently decides to embrace sobriety.
Samuel’s silver-haired neighbour Sheila (Maya Alagh) makes Jaggi an offer he dare not refuse. Jaggi’s multiplying headaches include his neglected wife Priya (Shruti Seth), who finds the love missing from her marriage in gym buddy Tanya (Mughda Godse). The arrival of crime boss Handa (Satish Kaushik) ups the game.
Is Sophie all that she says she is or, for that matter, is anybody? Suspense is low in a show in which red herrings turn into actual plot points. Better than the revelation of the faces hiding behind masks is the treatment of the relationships that develop – or fray – between characters.
The series is commandeered by Jaideep Ahlawat and Zeeshan Ayyub. They are a perfectly mismatched pair, each with a moral compass that points in a different direction, as well as compelling individuals with distinctive personalities.
Ahlawat exudes disarming ruthlessness and unexpected tenderness as the advocate who uses his argumentative skills to talk himself out of situations. Jaggi’s tough love for his younger sibling is never in doubt but is frequently threatened by Daljeet’s bumbling ways. Ayyub is excellent too as the sensitive and poetry-spouting Daljeet who falls hard for Sophie.
The standout actors include Satish Kaushik as a gangster fond of long-winded anecdotes, Shruti Seth as Jaggi’s love-starved spouse, and Tina Desai as the double-dealing Sophie. Jitendra Joshi is hilarious as the detective whose fluid morality matches Jaggi’s cold-bloodedness.
The silly moments include the one in which Joshi’s Dushyant reveals his hand at a bar within the earshot of other patrons. Like several other such scenes in Bloody Brothers, superb chemistry pushes the oversight into the background. The bristling encounters – between Jaggi and Daljeet, Jaggi and Priya, Daljeet and Sophie – lead to a cliffhanger that, for a change, feels earned.