The new Disney+ Hotstar series Showtime confirms some of the rumours about the big bad ways of Bollywood – but only those that might be expected to be true.

Hard-driving producers, arrogant movie stars, stifled heroines, shady financiers, fame-addicted aspirants – the show takes familiar characters over well-trodden territory, but within a promising framework.

A succession battle pits entitled insiders against rank outsiders. Renowned producer Victor Khanna (Naseeruddin Shah) dies, leaving his storied Victory Studio not to his son and heir apparent Raghu (Emraan Hashmi) but to a barely experienced film journalist. Mahika (Mahima Makwana) briefly wilts from the pressure but soon rallies around to take on Raghu, who simply can’t believe his rotten luck.

Raghu tries to get the preening movie star Armaan (Rajeev Khandelwal) on his side, but Armaan is smarter than he looks. In one of the show’s most hilarious sequences, Armaan expertly sidesteps an offer by Raghu by going on about the produce in his garden. It’s the least we can expect from the man whose fan army calls themselves “Armaanians”.

Armaan’s wife Mandira (Shriya Saran), who has reluctantly put her acting career on hold, and Raghu’s restive girlfriend Yasmin (Mouni Roy) are among the key players in Raghu’s bid to wrest back the throne. Vijay Raaz plays a wily financier who backs Raghu – but with a big caveat.

Only four episodes are out, with four more to come in subsequent weeks. This delayed-release strategy by streaming platforms has two consequence. It makes reviewing a challenge, since it’s unfair to entirely praise or shred a series on the basis of half-baked evidence. On the other hand, such semi-releases risk putting off viewers from what is to follow.

Showtime (2024).

On the strength of whatever has been released, Showtime does decently for itself. The series has been created by Sumit Roy and co-written by him, Lara Chandni and Mithun Gangopadhyay. Mihir Desai directs a diverse set of actors, most of whom, except for a couple, are either miscast or too jaded for their roles.

Mahima Makwana’s Mahika is one of the show’s weakest points. A weak adversary to Raghu, Mahika is barely interesting even by herself. She is barely credible as she goes about grasping the finer points of film production with the wisdom of a veteran.

Rajeev Khandelwal has a gala time as the proudly shallow Armaan. Showtime’s anti-hero is also its hero. Emraan Hashmi, a Bollywood veteran in real life, parleys everything he knows about the Hindi film industry into a well-drawn character.

Hashmi’s rakish screen persona is put to excellent use in Showtime. Self-serving and aggressive but vulnerable and relatable too, Hashmi’s Raghu is one of the few reasons we might return to Showtime to see how it pans out.

There isn’t enough hard work, at least from the available episodes, to understand just yet whether Showtime is the expose we have been waiting for or yet another half-hearted effort to lure us in by promising dirt. The series fares well when it aims for low-hanging fruit, such as the silly things that Bollywood people do because they can’t see beyond their noses.

But then the star cameos start turning up, making the exercise a sham. From Jhanvi Kapoor to Daboo Ratnani and Badshah to Dharmendra, a host of Bollywood luminaries give the show’s much-vaunted take on nepotistic practices a jolt from which it barely recovers.

Also read:

What movies about the movies can tell us about the crisis that has hit Bollywood

‘Larger than life but very real too’: Emraan Hashmi on playing a producer in ‘Showtime’