Twenty four years after the acclaimed psychological thriller Dushman, which starred Kajol in a dual role, filmmaker-writer Tanuja Chandra is back with another crime thriller drama, Hush Hush. And if looked at meticulously, the entertainment industry has undergone a rather drastic transformation in these two-and-a-half decade. A key one being that it’s no longer a man’s world and that women, off-screen, are calling the shots with aplomb.
The Amazon Prime original series Hush Hush bears a testament to the same. Apart from a female-led cast, the off-camera team boasts of a team of talented women, who has made the story come to life. Shikhaa Sharma has written the story with dialogues penned by Juhi Chaturvedi. Eesha Danait is the associate producer and Antara Banerjee is the one co-producers. Sharma and Chandra, who is also the director, are executive producers. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. One look at the credits and we can assertively say that if there is a show that makes a successful attempt towards changing the gender-based narrative without much brouhaha, it is Hush Hush.
And that is partly spilled over into the script of the web show and its characters. The seven-episodic series delves into the lives of four friends – a powerful lobbyist Ishi Sangamitra (Juhi Chawla), an ex-investigative journalist Saiba Tyagi (Soha Ali Khan), a self-made fashion designer Zaira Shaikh (Shahana Goswami) and a trapped-in-society housewife Dolly Dalal (Kritika Kamra). They find themselves hurtling down a rabbit hole of lies, deceit and secrets after their privileged world turns dark and dangerous. Their lives turn upside down when an intelligent cop Geeta Tehlan (Karishma Tanna) sets out to unravel the mystery that also involves Ishi’s childhood friend Meera Yadav (Ayesha Jhulka).
Kudos to the writing team consisting of Sharma, Chaturvedi and Ashish Mehta for sketching most of these characters through the lens of sensitivity and compassion. Underneath the vulnerability and fragility of these women, who are a part of the upper echelons of the society and lead a rather glossy life, is a sense of unflinching strength, which go a long way in humanising them and keeping them rooted to reality. And one will resonate with most emotional fibres that make them up. They are flawed, they are often scared but they always stand united in the face of adversity. Isn’t that how women strive and straddle in the modern world? The men, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to do.
The use of grey backgrounds and gloomy lights that veil major portions of the narrative set the tone of the mystery drama. But the world created in Hush Hush doesn’t have a fresh charm to it. Plus, the languorous pace of the story is bothersome and doesn’t help much in establishing characters and emotions or the lack of it (in a few instances).
The relationships shared by these women are dealt with a lot of empathy. That’s also how the sub-plot of Dolly’s relationship with her husband, in-laws and parents are written and projected, which remains memorable. Perhaps, this is what happens when you have women telling stories about women. But with several other things packed into the narrative, Hush Hush often derails and digresses from what it set out for. The ‘slow burn’ technique, an integral part of a thriller or a mystery drama, doesn’t seem to work here, thereby making the series stretched out.
Here, the women are modern and take their own decisions but are also dealing with simmering tension and often fighting their inner demons and to break from the clutches of conditioning, mostly silently. With inclusivity being the ‘it’ word in showbiz today, the makers subtly incorporate the themes of homosexuality and mental health issues sans any over-the-top and chest-thumping preaching.
Jhulka, who marks her return to the screen with Hush Hush, makes an impressive comeback in her debut OTT project. Her portrayal of Meera, who isn’t afraid to fight for what is right despite fearing the consequences, is graceful and subtle. Kamra’s Dolly is a quintessential high-society homemaker, who apart from dealing with a personal loss, is fighting the shackles of a suffocating and frustrating domestic life. She plays her part beautifully. She lets her eloquent eyes do a lot of talking and the pain in them is palpable.
Goswami’s Zaira is all about tough love. She does a lot of heavy-lifting and shines in some key scenes. Khan’s Saiba is a mother of two and her fight to protect themselves from the pandemonium that has consumed her regular life is decently performed. Brownie points to Tanna, who delivers an impressive act as a no nonsense but a warm-hearted cop. She grasps the language with a Haryanvi twang, quite aptly. A revelation is Kavya Trehan (Zaira’s assistant Meher). The unpredictability that she brings to the table is noteworthy.
But it is Chawla, who the script and progression of events completely rests on. Known for her chirpy image, she seems to be quite a misfit in the show. Here, she does take a risk but seems uncomfortable cussing people around her and leading a maverick life. We get a very lopsided and surface-level view of her which do not capture our sympathy, empathy and compassion for her or her actions.