Rana Naidu, the eponymous lead character of the Netflix remake of Ray Donovan, is a fixer for the rich and famous. He’s a disagreeable man who covers up crimes and scandals and manages to dodge the law every time. Bags of money are passed around ad nauseam and guns are fired without a second thought.

Telugu stars and real-life nephew and uncle Rana Daggubati and Venkatesh Daggubati headline this Indian remake of the 2013 American crime drama that starred Liv Schreiber and Jon Voight. Dysfunctional is the middle name of the Naidu clan. Suicide, sexual abuse, murder, drugs, hedonism, blackmail, infidelity, vengeance and hate follow them around.

Adapted for India by Karan Anshuman, who co-directs with Suparn Varma, the series is about Rana (Rana Daggubati), his brothers Tej (Sushant Singh) and Jaffa (Abhishek Banerjee), who moved from Hyderabad to Mumbai more than a decade ago, and their father Naga (Venkatesh Daggubati). Rana covers up the misdeeds and cleans up the mess of his high-rolling clients – politicians, movie stars, cricketers, musicians.

Naga is a rough-talking thug who, 15 years after incarceration, is a tone-deaf man-child trying to be woke. Tej runs a stuntman training centre. Jaffa is a recovering alcoholic, haunted by the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Singh and Banerjee bring pathos and humanity to their roles, conveying disappointment, hurt, a flash of hope, and dismay. Amidst an array of dislikable and dodgy characters, they are the only ones you feel for.

Abhishek Banerjee, Rana Daggubati and Sushant Singh in Rana Naidu (2023). Courtesy Sunder Aaron/ Locomotive Global/Netflix.

The macho 10-episode series gets energetic and interesting only in the final two episodes. The first eight are peppered with several dispensable characters making entries and sudden exits. Some of the supporting performances and casting are awkward, especially the exploitative spiritual guru, a rapper and his protegee, Tej’s love interest, a builder and his nymphet. More interesting are Rana’s loyal colleagues Lara (Lauren Robinson) and Srini (Adithya Menon) – the two characters who do not get an added dimension or backstory.

Gaurav Chopra has his moments as Prince, a movie star with a truckload of secrets. Some of the other notable supporting cast includes Ashish Vidyarthi, Suchitra Pillai, Mukul Chadda and Tenzin Dalha.

It appears as though the creators directed Rana Daggubati to be one-note. If so, he’s aced it. He rarely smiles and barely gives his rage a break. In the moments when Rana Naidu quietly, but visibly, masks his judgement or extends a compassionate gesture, you feel a connection with him, but briefly.

Every near normal moment in Rana’s day is interrupted by a phone call with a summons to a situation that requires his immediate attention. He repeatedly de-prioritises his family and disrespects his wife Naina (Surveen Chawla), a former actress.

Rana Naidu (2023).

As a husband, Rana is exasperating and insensitive. Buy yourself something nice, he says, tossing a wad of cash at his wife after a fight. He finds no reason to explain his work or his disappearance from home. Naina’s ‘What is going on’ questions are met with, yes, a grimace and glower. Their two children aren’t spared their share of trauma either, almost ensuring that Naidu family therapy sessions will be booked for another generation at least.

Daddy issues abound. No one has a straight conversation and a large neat drink is the default solution for all occasions. The dialogue (by Vaibhav Vishal), a string of slurs and slang, is piercing and painful. With more expletives than nouns, verbs or adjectives, I walked away with an enhanced Telugu slang vocabulary and the nagging lilt of Venkatesh’s Telugu-Hindi echoing in my head like a dull hangover.

Rana Naidu (2023).