After 2017’s Inside Edge, about the politics and machinations in the world of cricket, Amazon Studios launched its second Indian show, Breathe, on its streaming platform Amazon Prime Video on January 26. Starring R Madhavan and Amit Sadh in key roles, Mayank Sharma’s directorial purports to be a thriller but often stretches the definitions of both plausibility and gratuitousness.
Danny Mascarenhas (Madhavan) is a football coach in Mumbai, A widower, he is facing another impending tragedy: his son’s possible demise to cystic fibrosis, a critical pulmonary condition that can only be corrected with an urgent lung transplant. The list of recipients is long, and Josh, Danny’s son, does not have the time.
So, Danny comes up with the diabolic plan to kill those who have signed up as donors to move Josh up the list. Amazon Prime Video has released four episodes of the series so far (with new ones every Friday), and most of these are devoted to Danny figuring out ingenious methods to kill his targets without arousing suspicion.
His modus operandi, though, may work only in fiction. One donor, for example, is killed when Danny filches his helmet and then runs his car into the target’s bike on a rainy, lonesome evening. The setting is South Mumbai’s financial district. To imagine that someone can get away with this on a Mumbai street, even in the late evening, is to know so little of the megapolis as to discredit the whole point of basing the series there.
The show has a tall premise, one that becomes especially untenable given Danny’s other character traits. He is a much-admired football coach, having earned the respect of generations of aspirants and their parents. He is a devout Catholic who offers flowers at his wife’s grave regularly. To have him turn into an insensate murderer, even to save his son’s life, takes some getting used to.
At the other end is inspector Kabir Sawant (Sadh), battling his own demons. He has lost his little daughter to a gunshot wound (the gun was his) and his wife has swiftly moved on to a new life. He drowns his days in drink but retains the keenness of perception that will help him put together the pieces of the puzzle orchestrated by Danny’s actions.
Both Madhavan and Sadh inhabit their roles consummately. Sadh is particularly good as the depressive who passes his days in a blur. Viewers may have trouble accepting Madhavan as a cold-blooded killer – his soft features do not help – but to the actor’s credit, he is able to walk the contrast between tender and merciless with admirable finesse.
More importantly, Breathe is a pointer to Amazon Studios’ willingness to bet on Indian content, something that has been sorely missing from streaming channels whose USP is their ability to bring locally produced content to a global audience. With two reasonably well-done shows under its belt, Amazon Studios has taken a lead over its better-known rival in India. The upcoming adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, directed by Anurag Kashyap and starring Saif Ali Khan, should give Netflix the chance to redeem itself.