Imagine a writers’ room ideating on an elaborate 12-episode series. They are circling a script like a group of witches on a full-moon night, throwing into a boiling pot everything they consider essential for a ‘nailing-biting’ thriller: ceramic masks, bunkers, kidnappings, torture, blackmail, media frenzy, brooding cop, sidekick constables, mind games, morality, mythology, phobias, psychiatrist, prostitute, lesbian, night shots, and haunting pasts. But it’s still not enough to fill a dozen 45-minute episodes, so they double up the portions, stretch, twist and bring in some bizarre logic. In the end, you are served, Breathe: Into The Shadows, an utterly juvenile show, desperately trying to be clever and suspenseful, knocking on the doors of every successful thriller to borrow ingredients that may have worked for them in the past.
One could argue that thrillers by nature are contrived. They are designed to generate adrenaline. But the second season of Breathe: Into The Shadows, starring Abhishek Bachchan, Nithya Menen, Amit Sadh, Saiyami Kher, wants to be both realistic and a creepy anomaly.
The story is focused on the kidnapping of a six-year-old single child of a psychiatrist and a chef, yet it’s so hard to sympathise with the parents. The show presents a farrago of twists and rudimentary cliffhangers, akin to soap operas. You continue to watch because you want to know what happens next; though not because you are emotionally invested in the lives of these characters.
Breathe: Into the Shadows
- Director: Mayank Sharma
- Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Amit Sadh, Nithya Menen, Saiyami Kher
- Storyline: The parents of a six-year-old are compelled to take up crime after their daughter is kidnapped
Like most series on streaming platforms, Breathe: Into The Shadows is in many ways, the epitome of binge-watching content hijacking streaming platforms. Even though there is tons of melodrama and sentimentality, one is seldom allowed to engage with the characters on an emotional level.
The actors are lost in the constant reveals, action, and reaction. The series is Bachchan’s foray into the digital space, and he is given (at least on paper) an enviable role. But his default expression is of stoicism, making you wonder whether he is acting or that’s just his resting face. Menen’s default mode is of concern, and Sadh is always brooding.
The makers have to resort to all sorts of audiovisual gimmicks to compensate for the flatness in characters and actors. The series has a grey, smokey texture, which seems to be the de rigueur aesthetic for streaming platform thrillers. Besides manufactured suspense, there is nothing visually arresting in the show. Even the props, the body language of the evil and gory murders are trite and unimaginative. The desperation to appear unconventional is blatant when the characters keep reiterating how gruesome the killings are. If you show, you do not need to keep telling.
The sequence of events is structured with an intent to throw you off, but when the incidents do begin to form a pattern, the series becomes simplistic. The visual tone and acting pretend like we are witnessing something complex, but there is no intricacy in the narrative. The answers are over-explained and facile. What could have remained haunting questions of the human psyche, are given definitive, almost authoritarian, explanations. Successful psychological thrillers leave you questioning the ordinary, but Breathe: Into The Shadows makes even the most complex phenomena seem banal and comical.
You spend nearly 10 hours of your life, wanting to know what happens next, and leave the experience remembering very little, and walk away with no impact, thought, or rumination. All you have done is killed time in a pandemic.
Breathe: Into the Shadows is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video