Midway through the 9-episode second season of SonyLiv’s Avrodh, I almost forgot I was watching a supposed thriller about counterinsurgency. With all the mentions of government plans for Digital India and notebandi, it felt more like a government PSA, or worse, an election manifesto. And this identity crisis is Avrodh 2’s Achilles heel. In parts, it is a gripping story about India’s brave heroes protecting the nation, while in other places, it meanders aimlessly. Also read: Avrodh – The Siege Within review: The Uri Surgical Strike replay is high on drama but low on josh
The second season of Avrodh is not exactly a sequel but a parallel story. While the first season captured the story of Indian Army’s Para SF commandos’ daring surgical strike after the Uri attacks, this season looks at Army and Income Tax department officers battling against time to foil an ISI plot involving large-scale terror attacks and counterfeit currency.
There is promise in the story and premise. It takes a novel approach of telling a counterinsurgency story from the perspective of a non-combatant, an income tax officer (Abir Chatterjee), whose investigations in counterfeiting introduce him to a dangerous terror plot. The series does manage to stay gripping and realistic as well, at least in parts. The operations, the action, and the military action are well choreographed and depicted.
But the show lacks something important- a human aspect. We see the agents, soldiers, and bureaucrats fighting the terrorists. But we hardly get an insight into who they are, what their background is and what their motivations are. The show does not spend a single frame in establishing solid backstories for these people and introducing us to the real them. In the absence of that, the characters end up being caricatures and stereotypes, which does a disservice to what could have been a good show.
Adding to the woes are shoddy production values. In all the scenes set in airplanes, you can see the fakeness of the aircraft. We all know no show is ever shot in a real plane. But makers put in effort to portray it as realistically as possible. It seemed Avrodh tried to cut corners there, hurting the suspension of disbelief. In a day and age where shows and films take special pains to get every small detail right, such lazy work is unpardonable.
But the plot is intriguing, which is what keeps the show alive, even though all Pakistani characters seem like they are out of a 90s Sunny Deol film, talking in vague poetic verses, throwing random Urdu words in every sentence. Unlike season 1, which was able to show a patriotic story without being hyper-nationalistic, Avrodh 2 throws subtlety out of the window. It is probably trying to play to the gallery with all the Pakistan-bashing and stereotypical depiction of all the bad guys. And frankly, I would have no issue with that had it been done smartly, like Uri did. But Avrodh 2 isn’t smart.
The performances are measured and somewhat save the show to an extent. Abir Chatterjee is believable and likable as the income tax officer, who wants to be an armyman so that he can ‘really’ serve the country (whatever that means). Neeraj Kabi is effortless as the National Security Advisor and gives us some of the best moments and lines of the show. Aahana Kumra brings a much-needed human side to the antagonists with her portrayal of an ISI sleeper agent. But Sanjay Suri as the Pakistani terror mastermind and Mohan Agashe as the Indian Prime Minister are largely wasted. The two actors only have the script to blame for that.
All said and done, Avrodh 2 isn’t exactly a show on a terror plot or counterfeit currency. It is actually a justification of demonetization. It pushes the narrative that the Indian government had to take that step to save the country from greater threats. If you really want to watch that, might want to go to YouTube for any news debates from late 2016. And, if you are hoping to watch a gripping thriller on the Indian forces, there have been several better. Avrodh 2 brings nothing new!