The audiences are given ample elements to decipher as they watch and re-watch the series
In the last few years, the over the top (OTT) platforms have laid a borderless space for web contents. In the pool of such spaces, the Bengali online video streaming platform Hoichoi has created quite a buzz among the Bengali speaking audience around the globe especially during the few months of lockdown in 2020 marking their successful 3 years anniversary. The newest addition to their web lot is Taqdeer—an eight episode long web series that weaves a tale of a quotidian character--a freezer van driver. Set in the aftermath of a missing journalist lying dead in Taqdeer’s van, the story forward whirls through a series of events and characters that have a past and a present, a vice and a virtue.
It offers a critical commentary of the socio-economic concepts put into context of everyday philosophy. Despite the fictional disclaimer, the audience is challenged to unfold their memories and connect the dots for sources and sauces of life elsewhere. With or without the references, the audiences are given ample elements to decipher as they watch and re-watch the series. Confined majorly in a freezer van, the gear of the story shifts through each character introduced throughout the premises of the first three episodes – Rashatal, Radbadal and Ranakhetra. The etymologies of episode names also reveal philosophical nuances of the happenings.
The first scene opens with a baffling testimony of an event that slipped being documented. The viewer is made aware of prevailing issues and that the subject on record is just one more concept amongst many linked to the political atrocities. The tactics of the screenplay was investigative and fabulatory— in an attempt to pierce the surface in search of a depth that probably doesn’t exist. The conjoined singular moments observed through a prism of arrival and departure and the travelling memory card projecting as the tactile symbol of concealed information are constant reminders that facts remain opaque beneath the thick veil of our physical and psychic limitations. The two female leads both silenced by the hierarchy, confront the public with a ready mix of diverse concepts that converge to the question of power play. Taqdeer as a prostitutes son without source or a father figure could very well hint to the identity crisis of the marginal population.The camera’s interruptions and isolations juxtaposed with objects and obstacles compel the audience to rethink the mechanisms of the human psyche. With the backdrop of violence, the story addresses social complexities through the tenderness of friendship. Taqdeer-Montu, Afsana- Shehzad and Afsana-Rana, the dynamics of each relationship push and pull the story through the journey, forming layers that go far beyond the visual foreground.
The paradoxical storyline touches base with certain events that invoke the land of thousand struggles. With dialogues that expand, contract and explode – the tendencies of overdoing is evident but it has managed to survive. The repetition of catchphrases, obsession for metaphors and obvious visual cues attempted to be placed in parallax doesn’t deliver the intended purpose the definitive thriller category that Taqdeer supposedly belongs to especially with subtitles in bold letters. Perhaps the trailer is a little misleading to the actual setting. From an audience point of view it sometimes feels that instead of creating an antithesis of the power imbalance confronted in the story, the concept is retained through the process of image making. Through the shifts and drifts and too many “oh” clues squeezed within 180 minutes, what remains is a drama that takes different curbs. But most of all it is the concluding episode that seemed under prepared. After the heart wrenching 'Bhaisa' call out, the rest of the story was a forcible act of delivering justice aka the memory card but was quite unjust to the emotional buildup of the audience.
Considering the technical aspects of the project, a commentary of illusionist Protul Chandra Sorcar regarding magic may be appropriate. He has said that magic is nothing but pre preparation. Keeping a finger on the pulse, Syed Ahmed Shawki as the director Barakat Hossain Polash as the director of photography in Taqdeer demonstrates exemplary quality work worth to be called magical at times. As agreed by many of the viewers that the film is more enjoyable in its original language. The dubbed Bangla takes away the local essence of the story however the Hindi gives it a different dimension. The works at the post production are always last moment tasks and are usually subject to backlash. Taqdeer could not outsmart the drawback either.
Taqdeer has some strong performances that support the intense and gripping storyline very well. Besides the A-list performers, the centrifugal force is held tight by his confidante Montu portrayed by Shohel Mondol. He delivered consistent performance throughout the prolonged screen time with Taqdeer. Tamjid Tonmoy and Ratul as young Taqdeer and Montu disclosing snippets of background information delivered skillful performances that elevated and completed the full circles of their leads. A gripping portrayal of the antagonists Intekhab Dinar as Chairman Simon Chowdhury practicing his power with ease and Partho Barua as the hitman with a sense of humour uttering poetic lines offers a varied layer to the story. Visually satisfying performance has been brought especially by Manoj Kumar Pramanik as Moinul Rana was noteworthy. His outlook and expressions showcased his homework in building the character. Mir Rabby as Shehzad displayed a well knit performance within his space.
The background music could remind the audiences of their favourite web series but it still remains largely individual in its use. With characters of a page turner book, the binge-worthy first season of Taqdeer will largely remain archival and retain the memories of the time lived. Through thick and thin, loss and gain he survives the journey. Following the trend of web series, it would not be wrong to wonder if Taqdeer would return with a second season with the missing pieces of this season.
Priyanka Chowdhury is an art researcher and art writer in the making. She can be reached at [email protected].