After playing a serial killer in Dahaad, Vijay Varma slips into a police officer’s uniform for JioCinema’s web series Kaalkoot. In the eight-part crime drama, Varma’s Ravi Shankar Tripathi is an average man with low self-esteem. Weeks into the job, he wants to resign from the police force. Before his resignation is accepted, his senior officer (Gopal Datt) puts him in charge of an acid attack case.

The victim is college student Parul (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), whose marriage proposal lies amongst a pile of photographs languishing in Ravi’s drawer. Ravi feels invested in the case, the solving of which opens up a Pandora’s box of local issues.

Ravi’s mother (Seema Biswas) is single-minded about finding a match for her son. His deceased father is an academic whose righteousness and poetry are threaded through the narrative. His poetry is an unexpected source of clues and inspiration.

In an attempt to pack in several issues ranging from gender and sexism to patriarchy, sexuality, power and entitlement, the script bumps around. The investigation into the central crime faces a number of diversions, including Ravi’s quest for a bride, egos, responses to betrayal and humiliation and political rivalry.

Director Sumit Saxena handles the interpersonal relationships with dexterity, including those between the fellow policemen and officers. But the broader investigation is a bit loose, distracted by local politics and a secondary issue of a girl considered damaged because she is epileptic.

Kaalkoot (2023).

The circuitous resolution gets a little frustrating as Kaalkoot, weighted by good intentions, effortfully tries to cover all bases related to the motivation for the acid attack. It concludes with a firm comment on deep-rooted gender discrimination, the need for compassion towards victims and acknowledging moral judgments and generational conditioning.

More than the world-building and intrigue, Kaalkoot’s strength lies in the performances of the lead actors, shepherded by Vijay Varma. He is ably supported by Yashpal Sharma as his ingenuous colleague and confidante. Datt’s character transforms from acerbic senior to Ravi’s mentor.

Suzanna Mukherjee makes the most of a confused and confusing character, while Shweta Tripathi Sharma draws sympathy as the victim coming to terms with the import of the terrifying attack.

Ravi’s arc is the most interesting. His evolution from reluctant cop into intuitive investigator, as well as his coming of age as a dutiful son and husband-in-waiting, makes this role a commendable addition to Varma’s impressive repertoire.