Ghoul Web Series Review - Ghoul is cool
Especially, pardon the pun, as Radhika Apte kills it, playing the young Muslim military officer's part
Director: Patrick Graham
Cast: Radhika Apte, Rohit Pathak, Bajrangbali Singh
In case you want to pronounce the title right, before you click on this pic/three-part series—not that you have to—'ghoul' rhymes with 'cool', with the 'gh' sound, the same as the first syllable of 'ghazal'.
Ghoul itself relates to a pre-Islamic myth/legend from what's now the Arab world. It's sort of an undead monster that feeds on human flesh, and passes on its macabre existence on those it preys on. A more western version of this creature would perhaps be a zombie.
So, yeah, this is, in that sense, actually a zombie pic. It deals in equal parts with supernatural/paranormal stuff. And yet, all the way through to the first episode, there is not even a hint/inkling of the show's genre.
Up until then, the series plays out like a dark, dystopian political drama, set in an underground detention centre that maybe looks a bit like Guantanamo Bay, or what would've been Kaala Paani during the British Raj. It feels altogether like a Nazi concentration camp.
Check out the trailer here:
The state runs this horror show. Mostly Muslims get detained on charges of terrorism, or even carrying/producing presumably seditious literature. Brainwashing at both ends—whether among those representing the state, or their religion—is complete. Caught in this conundrum is a young Muslim recruit training to be an officer of the hate-state. Her father's an Islamic preacher man.
What do we really have here then? A full-on horror show with a sub-text so strong that for a third of the series you're certain this is probably a 2014 type version of George Orwell's 1984.
When was the last time you saw supernatural material (completely visceral stuff), with an overt political statement? Well, forget that. When was the last time you watched an incredible Indian horror film that went beyond the usual effects, and tricks? I can't think of any since Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot, which was all the way back in the early 2000s.
Without quite relying on standard genre tropes, the director (Patrick Graham; competent, no doubt) plays it straight, treating this series (originally written as a feature film) like a drama first, adding a couple of spooky flourishes only towards the end.
This may disappoint those hugely excited by the promo, but will definitely have no one going in for a laugh. Which is essentially the litmus test. For, comedy is the inevitable consequence of horror gone wrong. The fact that they were a few giggles, but only of the nervous kinds, while the show was on, should be good news for the filmmakers.
Unlike most viewers who will catch this, perhaps alone, or with just a few people around at home, I watched Ghoul in a dark hall, on the big screen, in a packed cinema—an experience that (who knows) might become a thing of the past for entertainment that isn't aiming for a blockbuster.
Either way, the quality of production (design in particular), performances (Manav Kaul as the Army colonel, more so), is top-notch. The payback? Undoubtedly decent. And I say this while the 'paranormal', personally speaking, is hardly my scene. Usually in horror flicks, I always get a sense that the actors are far too aware that they're faking it, which is not a surprise, since everything is patently fake to begin with. That's not true over here.
Especially, pardon the pun, as Radhika Apte kills it, playing the young Muslim military officer's part. This is Apte's third back-to-back appearance on Netflix (after Lust Stories, Sacred Games). And before you look at her, and go, "not again"—I'm sayin', if ain't broke, why fix it; if looking for Apte at her best, Netflix it. Yup, you should Netflix this show too, for sure.
Here's what Malaika Arora and Arjun Kapoor were up to!