The digital platform has been growing exponentially, which means that more and more shows are now premiering on some of our favourite streaming apps. Much like Hollywood, even Bollywood has made its way to the OTT platform and has been churning out some of the biggest and best productions they have to offer. After all, much like having a large audience for Bollywood, there is an ever larger audience for Indian content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the likes. Earlier, it was shows like Sacred Games, Lust Stories, Ghoul and many others that caught the audience’s attention. Sacred Games was even nominated for the Emmy awards earlier this month along with actress Radhika Apte, who seems to be starring in every Bollywood project on Netflix. But the latest addition to the streaming platform, Bard of Blood, has been catching a lot of attention lately.
Firstly, it was because Bard of Blood was going to mark Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s first venture into the digital world; however, instead of being on the acting front, he chose to stick with production for his first digital project. The show, which is based on a book written by Bilal Siddiqi of the same name, stars Emraan Hashmi in the male lead, along with Sobhita Dhulipala and Vineet Kumar Singh. Once the trailer of the series was released, it started drawing a lot of criticism — mostly from Pakistan. According to the audiences, Bard of Blood was focused on the situation in Balochistan and showed Pakistan in bad light. Many even blamed big production houses for not having any quality content and promoting war and chaos between the two nations. However, upon watching Bard of Blood, it comes to a point where it seems to strike a balance between how Pakistan and India are portrayed.
In terms of the storyline, which is largely based on Bilal’s book, there was enough material to prove that there was a lot of propaganda. However, it seemed to be well-managed as if a weakness of Pakistan was put forward, there was another shown from India’s side. Steering clear of spoilers, Bard of Blood shows Emraan’s character, Kabir Anand – a discharged from duty, Indian hostage rescue specialist – who goes on a rogue mission to save abandoned Indian agents in Pakistan. He does so because, according to the show, the Indian intelligence agency has stopped caring about them. So where it shows Pakistan trying to side with the bad team, it also makes it clear that the Indian intelligence agency has also been at fault when it comes to forgetting about their agents. Likewise, while women in Pakistan are often perceived to be kept behind curtains, the show sheds light on the Indian intelligence agency, also doubting its female employees. While initially, it did try to show that the female employee, Isha Khanna – played by Sobhita – was finally given a chance to prove her skills in the field – in the end, her character, much like most Bollywood’s female characters, was reduced to being a damsel in distress, waiting to be saved by a hero. Overall, much like all other spy movies, everything from the start to the end of the first season, seemed predictable. Losing an agent, going on a mission to avenge his death, only to find out that the long lost agent was disloyal and had chosen the other side.
When it comes to technicality, there were a lot of issues with continuity. At times, a scene would seem to go back and forth, meaning that the cuts were not properly placed. At other times, they were too random and abrupt, not letting the audience focus on what was going on. The action – which many were waiting to witness – wasn’t as convincing as one would hope or want it to be, especially when the series revolves around the tensions between India and Pakistan. Apart from the usual stereotype of Pakistanis being shown with surma, namaazi topis and the Aap Janaab, many actors lacked their skill to perform on screen – especially when midway through the season Emraan’s character realizes that he needs to wear surma to blend in with the Pakistanis. While the Pashto accent was far from what it actually is, it was also the reactions and a sense of urgency between conversations that was missing throughout the 7-episode series.
The cinematography, however, was up to the mark and only Vineet – who played the third member of the spy gang, Veer – was, by far, the best performer in Bard of Blood. From his look, to his Punjabi accent and his frustration to not getting a chance to go back to India, the actor delivered all emotions naturally – just how any actor should. All in all, Bard in Blood was just like any other spy film that has been produced by Bollywood. But instead of creating a 7-episode series on the story, only to be followed by another season or many more, Shah Rukh should have opted to produce a 90-minute film on the same. The entire storyline, with the upcoming developments in the plot, could easily be reduced to a cinema experience instead of creating hype while announcing his first project for the streaming platform.