Betaal, a Netflix original series, is the second series from Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment after Bard of Blood last year.The series is directed by the duo, Patrick Graham and Nikhil Mahajan.Betaal is a zombie thriller in which an Indian paramilitary task force has to fight against an undead army of British soldiers from the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
The story is set in a village that is rooted in the forests of Central India. The village residents know about a secret hidden in the cave, an evil power stuck between life and death. This is followed by the familiar tropes of such tales, like black magic, folklore, gothic stories about supernatural beings etc.
In addition to the horror genre tropes, there is also some political commentary going on in the series.All of this doesn’t quite gel up and some of these threads are introduced but not given enough attention. In the end, the series suffers from such fluctuations in tone and the poor writing.
The actors try, but except for Vineet Kumar Singh, who’s brilliant here, none of them is able to leave any mark. It’s not their fault; the writing fails. The characters aren’t fleshed out enough. It would have been interesting to see the Squad commandant (Suchitra Pillai), the second-in-command Vikram Sirohi (Vineet Kumar Singh), and deputy commandant Ahluwalia (AahanaKumra) fighting demons of their minds as well as the zombies, but such opportunities are squandered.
Betaal starts strong and has some genuinely scary moments in the first two episodes. But once, the undead rise, the series becomes less scary and loses its way. There are many good ideas on the table, such as the British zombies from the colonial times, tribal communities threatened with eviction, and the highway construction company eager to destroy natural resources. However, in the process of making all these themes gel together, the series suffers.