Once you accept Duranga’s premise – the son of a serial killer himself accused of murder marries a police officer while on the run from the law – it’s easy enough to swallow everything that follows.

Duranga pivots on deception, which is practised by the show’s protagonist and is demanded of viewers too. The ZEE5 series has “suspension of disbelief” emblazoned at the top of the menu, expressed ever so often in the form of important leads discussed at high volume, clues lying around in full view, and characters who wander about unsupervised so that they may conveniently open doors and cupboards hiding life-altering secrets.

The show’s title, meaning dual-toned, is embodied by metal craftsman Sammit (Gulshan Devaiah). Sammit is married to police officer Ira (Drashti Dhami) and has a precocious daughter Anya (Hera Mishra). Saamit has managed to conceal from Ira the fact that he is actually Abhishek, the son of dreaded serial slayer Balu (Zakir Hussain). Only a few others know Sammit’s truth, including his parents (Divya Seth Shah and Rajesh Khattar).

A murder in the present threatens to expose Sammit’s carefully constructed facade. Sensation-seeking crime journalist Vikas (Abhijit Khandekar), who grew up in the same coastal town as Abhishek and his beloved sister Prachi (Barkha Bisht), starts following a bread crumb trail that leads to Sammit’s doorstep. Ira, regarded as an ace investigator within her unit, heads off in another direction before developments force her to circle back to her husband.

Drashti Dhami in Duranga. Courtesy Rose Audio Visuals/ZEE5.

Duranga marks lead actor Gulshan Devaiah’s second South Korean connection in recent weeks. In the 2020 film Footfairy, which gained renewed popularity after its release on Netflix this year, Devaiah plays a police officer on the trail of a serial killer. Footfairy stole its enigmatic ending from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder.

Another South Korean export is the source of Duranga. The Hindi-language series is an official remake of the television show Flower of Evil. Anybody who has watched Flower of Evil on Netflix will miss its sleekness, high-calibre performances, and the conviction with which writer Yoo Jung-hee dreams up incredulous plot turns.

Duranga has been developed by Golde Behl, written by Charudutt Acharya and directed by Pradeep Sarkar and Aijaz Khan. The remake benefits hugely from Flower of Evil’s three twists-an-episode rate. The Hindi version is content to rehash its source material, paying scant attention to the casting, performances and production values.

Important secondary characters, such as Ira’s colleagues Nikhil (Kiran Srinivas) and Laksh (Sparsh Walia), are cursorily sketched. With the focus entirely on the murder investigation, the contours of a marriage built on a foundation of lies recede from view.

Drasthi Dhami’s lack of chemistry with Gulshan Devaiah cannot be explained away by Sammit’s talent for duplicity. Like Sammit, who is compelled to lurk in the shadows and fly solo at all times, Devaiah’s compelling performance too is at a remove from the hysterics that surround Sammit.

The nine-episode series ends on a cliffhanger. The temptation to race over to Netflix and learn about Abhishek’s fate is as high as the eyebrow raised at the thought of a fugitive who decides to marry a cop.

Duranga (2022).