By Kulbhushan Kain
I have never written reviews about films or web series. Neither is what I am writing strictly a review – it is to the extent that I am writing about a Netflix series – CAT. But I am doing so because the lead character in it (Gurnam) has been a student of mine when he was in school.
He is now a celebrity – Randeep Hooda.
I have a special fascination for web series that revolve around drugs. I have seen almost all of them. I loved “Escobar”, “El Chapo”, “Druglords”, “Narcos” and many others. When my son, who is based in Chicago, told me to watch CAT – he added a rider, “You will love it. Randeep Hooda is phenomenal in it. It’s much much better than Special Ops.”
My son and I had seen Special Ops together and we had loved it.
Within an hour, I got into my bed, switched on my TV and Netflix.
In a span of 6 hours or more, I had watched all 8 episodes of it.
Very broadly, the plot revolves around the nexus between corrupt politicians, power hungry police officials, criminals – all in the race to dominate and control “chittaa” (cocaine, adulterated heroin). The direction is fabulous. The scenes move, merge and disentangle between a young Gary, who becomes Gurnam in a quest to save his brother, Sunny. Gurnam (Randeep) is splendid and so is the direction. Details that we take for granted – music, lighting, the distance of the camera from the actors, the timing of the dialogue lines, the dresses, make CAT a super series. Writer-creator Balwinder Singh Janjua brings rich local detail and a rootedness missing from most productions. Watch it in Punjabi if you understand it. Sehtab Singh (Suvinder Vicky), Madam Aulakh (Geeta Agrawal), her associate Shamsher (Jaipreet Singh), and policewoman Babita (Hasleen Kaur) are terrific. A special mention must be made of the lame drug dealer, Mukhtyar (Sukhwinder Chahal), and Laadi (Dakssh Ajit Singh). An encounter between Mukhtyar and his young mistress Sweety (Coral Bhamra) that revolves around a samosa makes you realise how important the samosa is in Indian life!
The movie has a familiar plot (don’t most series?). What distinguishes it from others is Randeep Hooda’s performance. Randeep is not new to acting – in many ways he is a veteran. In the past, I have seen him pull off commendable performances – as Sarabjeet, Charles Sobhraj, a police Inspector and many others with ease. For the first time I saw him emoting powerfully, sometimes with his eyes, sometimes with his silence. For the first time he did not either overact or underplay his role. For many years – his good looks carried him through. This is the first time I saw him neither as Randeep Hooda, my student, nor as Randeep Hooda the good looking guy with a chiseled physique – but as Gurnam. He got into the role. When he begs the cops with folded hands for his brother’s release, or when he clubs Laadi to death and then goes to Babita’s house to express remorse, or when he gets angry with his brother on why he did what he did – it was acting at its best. Let’s never forget that what the actor portrays is all that he imagines. Great acting demands great imagination to get into the scene, feel it, and then get out of it. It is said that Peter O’Toole, the great British actor (Lawrence of Arabia, Beckett, etc.), used to seek professional help to get out of who he portrayed! That’s why acting demands great sensitivity to the situation.
After watching the serial, I chatted with Randeep and congratulated him. I told him that, while in school, I always gave him 10/10 as far as looks, decency and intelligence were concerned. I told him that I finally gave him 10/10 on acting as well!
The reply I got was quintessential Randeep Hooda. He wrote, “Thank you so much Sir. With your comparisons and analysis you have put a lot more pressure on me to work harder and get 11/10!”
I used to sometimes wonder where all that bottled up intensity in Randeep goes!
The CAT is out of the bag with this performance.
Go, watch CAT! We in India can do everything better than the best in the world!
(Kulbhushan kain is an award winning educationist with more than 4 decades of working in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)