As a title, Karmma Calling is catchier than the American original Revenge. That show ran for four seasons from 2011-2015 and had enough plot stuffing left over to barbeque some more episodes. Because that’s what Karmma Calling is too – the screen version of junk food.
Adapted for India and directed by Ruchi Narain, Karmma Calling is a snug fit for the viewers it targets, their tastes already tainted by the cat-fighting domestic dramas produced by Ektaa Kapoor. The garishly dressed, over made-up women shooting daggers at each other is something Indian streaming channels were missing. The seven-episode Karmma Calling is not great television, but it somewhat counters the macho violence that has taken over streaming platforms.
The makers of Revenge credited Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo, perhaps to give themselves a dash of class that they didn’t possess. The Indian adaptation, which is on Disney+ Hotstar, could be accused of many flaws, but not pretentiousness. It practically revels in its lowbrow-ness.
In place of the Hamptons, where wealthy Americans cavort, Karmma Calling is set in Alibaug, the fishing village now overrun by Mumbai’s elite. The Queen of Alibaug is Indrani Kothari (Raveena Tandon), whose circle includes her friend Dolly (Waluscha De Souza), financial planner (Mohan Kapoor), a rising political contact (Shataf Figar) and a psychic guru (Alpana Buch).
Indrani is annoyed to find that the mansion next door has been rented by a young woman who does not belong to any clan in her social set. Karma (Namrata Sheth), with her wardrobe of cut-away bodycon dresses and metallic strapless blouses, has arrived with a box of memorabilia and a photo with faces she crosses out when she is done with them. Karma is seeking to right a wrong committed against her father Satyajeet (Rohit Roy).
She is aided in her vendetta by tech millionaire Zane Khan (a delightfully campy Viraf Patel). It helps to have Zane by her side because her scheme involves spycams, hacking and interpolation into public presentations. It is also convenient to have Indrani’s social secretary Yana (Amy Aela) as a friend so that Karma can sashay into the endless parties, charity galas and other events the Kotharis organise for Alibaug aristocracy.
Karma catches the eye of Indrani’s son Ahaan (Varun Sood), causing his mother to grind her teeth in frustration. It gets worse when Indrani’s rebellious daughter Mira (Devangshi Sen) hangs out with Dash (Piyush Khati), whose brooding brother Vedant (Rachit Singh) was Karma’s best friend when they were kids. A hot dudes love triangle brews nicely, with Ahaan’s college buddy Krish (Masi Wali) on the sidelines.
At the top of the heap of actors with the biggest roles in this corny and convoluted revenge saga are Raveena Tandon and Namrata Sheth. They must have realised right away that they are meant to be fashion plates first so they don’t move their facial muscles much except to side-eye each other.
If the K-soaps of the past generated a trend in gaudy saris and heavy jewellery, this one has frills, flounces, sheer blouses and power suits feminised with feathers, belts and killer stilettos. Property prices in Alibag might fluctuate too, depending on how the show goes down.
The series warns (in Purva Naresh’s flowery dialogue): be more afraid of karma than god, because god might forgive but karma never does. Is it a coincidence that the name of the show starts with K?