Hundred is a web series that revolves around two women. One is going to die. The other is barely surviving. But don’t you ever make the mistake of feeling sorry for Nethra or Saumya.
Nethra (Rinku Rajguru) has recently learnt that she has a galloping brain tumour that will send her to her grave in a matter of days. She mourns for a few minutes and then draws up a bucket list. It includes getting drunk, which proves easy, and getting laid, which is always a challenge.
Saumya (Lara Dutta) is a put-upon Assistant Commissioner of Police. She solves cases only to have the credit snatched away by her juniors, and is condescended to heavily by her boss and more subtly by her husband, a fellow police officer.
Separated by age and social status but united in their disgruntlement, Nethra and Saumya join forces for a lasses-with-sass trip that survives obstacles within and scripting acrobatics without. Hundred, which refers to the supposed number of days Nethra has left on the planet, has robustly written characters, wacky humour and plentiful warmth, and a strong but never tokenistic feminist streak. The setting is Mumbai, the stomping ground of kings and clowns, noble failures, crooked spines and flimflam artists – enough to make locked-down residents of the metropolis deeply nostalgic.
The Disney+ Hotstar series has been directed by Ruchi Narain, Ashutosh Shah and Taher Shabbir and written by Narain, Shah and Abhishek Dubey. The first season comprises eight episodes, each of which explores the latest development in a redemption saga scripted by Saumya and given shape by Nethra.
Saumya meets Nethra on the day Nethra learns of her medical diagnosis. Nethra has a family of male dependents, the endearing but useless Aniket (Suyash Zunjurke) for a boyfriend, and a dull job in the government’s census department – a detail that will prove immensely useful. Saumya gives the mildly despondent Nethra new purpose. Be my informer and live out your final days in a haze of excitement, Saumya says. Saumya might be using Nethra for her own agenda, but a thick bond quickly develops between the tough cop and the kooky adventurer.
Saumya’s attempts to prove her capabilities to her chauvinistic boss Anshuman (Parmeet Sethi) and her smooth husband Pravin (Sudhanshu Pandey) are marked by humour as well as exasperation. Saumya’s workplace woes will be familiar to women forced to perform doubly hard to be taken seriously in worlds ordered by men and governed by their prejudices. But Saumya is neither Wonder Woman nor Mother Teresa. Her machinations reveal her quick-wittedness as well as her ruthlessness. She has a much younger boyfriend tucked away, the aspiring rapper Maddy (Karan Wahi). She knows all too well that her husband’s attentions mask competitiveness, and isn’t above tweaking the rulebook.
The veteran of office politics meets her match in Nethra, a child of sunlight and gossamer. Saumya provides the voiceover for the series and Nethra supplies the laughter track. This combo meal of pragmatism and impulsiveness threatens to upset Saumya’s plans ever so often, but pulls back from the brink in the nick of time with a goofy grin and a silly remark.
Nethra doesn’t let her medical condition obstruct her quest to replace the dreamer Aniket with an actual dreamboat. That is Shantanu (Rajeev Siddhartha), who looks like a Dalal Street notable but is really a shady racketeer. Nethra is smitten the moment she sets her eyes on Shantanu, leading to a relationship that is hilarious in its awkwardness and tender in its passion.
The introduction of Shantanu and his accomplice (played by Makarand Deshpande) takes Hundred into the territory in which all Mumbai-set series inevitably find themselves – the underworld. There is dark talk of a Dubai-based gangster, and an upping of stakes reaches the higher levels of government. It’s soon clear that Saumya – and the makers of Hundred – have bitten off more they can chew, but by then, the series has already crossed the crease on the strength of its players.
Every character is deftly written, with consistent arcs and credible motivations. Among the sharpest performers are Karan Wahi, who is superb as Saumya’s puppy-eyed and large-hearted boyfriend, Rajeev Siddhartha as the aspiring don, and Suyash Zunjurke as the doltish Aniket. Makarand Deshpande and Rohini Hattangadi turn in short but memorable cameos.
The series belong to its flawed and feisty females. Both Lara Dutta and Rinku Rajguru are cast against type, and they grab the opportunity to expand their repertoire. Dutta’s slinky ways in Bollywood films are deployed to good effect in Hundred, in which Saumya proves to be a seasoned schemer. Rajguru, the symbol of tragic youth in the blockbuster Sairat, taps into her comic vein, and is equally impressive when she quietens down, especially in Shantanu’s presence.
The women are surrounded by men they can and cannot do without. The best twist in this female buddy comedy is that when Nethra and Saumya get together, they are a match made in hell.