Human Review: Shefali Shah's medical thriller is a mismatch

Human Streaming on Disney + Hostar. (Source: DisneyPlus Hotstar / YouTube)

Human Streaming on Disney + Hostar. (Source: DisneyPlus Hotstar / YouTube)

Man | Director: Vipul Amritlal Shah, Moses Singh

Starring: Shefali Shah, Keerthi Kulhari, Ram Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Vishal Jetwa

Language: Hindi | Rating: 1.5

Human, a ten-episode medical thriller, makes Shefali Shah worse. This revocation seems bold for an actor who is free from poor performance. Until now, that is. In her two-decade-long career. Shaw’s craft has never been discussed. Still, Delhi Crime (2019) boosted her credibility and validated something that many already know: Shay can achieve with her eyes what other actors try with dialogues. Take Netflix anthropologist Ajeeb Dustans (2021), for example, in their last short film, Ankahi. Shah describes the role of a helpless mother in the face of her daughter’s growing deafness, and the betrayal of a wife trapped in a loveless marriage. It is a character who relies on gestures and silence for liberation. Her turn is impeccable, and though she is the one breaking, it conveys the plight of the broken heart.

Yet, in her recent outing, the actor’s performance relied on the tropes of Shefali Shah’s portrayal — the occasional breakdown, the burning look in those eyes – with the triviality that it felt like a parody. Otherwise she is the one doing it.

The film stars Gauri Nath, a renowned neurologist and owner of a multi – specialty hospital in Bhopal. She is a rival at the heart of a tragedy. It’s a character she doesn’t like, and she wants to transcend the invisible line between conscious performance and real conviction. But her portrayal is very uneven and almost practiced as the performer knows. Sure, she uses those eyes to bubble at will, but she does it whenever she gets hurt. When she does not, Shah becomes emotional, a curious combination of ignorance and improvement. It comes against the backdrop of a show of extreme mismatch, with the brown savior suffering from the complex.

Created by Vipul Amritlal Shah and Moses Singh (both five- and 45-minute episodes each), he explores the gruesome underpinnings of human medicine practice: unjust vaccine experiments. The series seeks to expose the ways in which big companies make guinea pigs from humans by experimenting with banned drugs and then evading responsibility. In a world full of infectious diseases, proficient in the language of vaccines and experiments, the introduction is a low-hanging fruit, but not entirely irrelevant.

The setting is the world after Kovid. Pharmaceutical companies are struggling to gain a foothold in the market. One such is Air Pharma, which aims to modify the banned drug, which is sure to become a game changer. The problem is that, fueled by greed, they accelerate their experiments and carry out experiments on humans, even when they are not safe. All this is being organized by Dr. Nath (Shah), who has spent all his weight and money to sanction the drug S93R, which has been renamed as Savior. But the intended morality is a smokescreen that hides her selfish needs. She has to approve medicine to access a foreign trauma eradication technology. The eternal sunshine of the mind that has not yet been tainted.

Although the ten episodes are long, Human does not manage to combine multiple subplots, and this does not give a good reason for Gauri’s brutal plans to elevate the world around her. Spending the episodes after the episodes confirms how rich and powerful she is. She can twist politicians and deal with everyone around her. Yet she wants to destroy a technology that, with all its logic, she can gain all her access without trouble.

Instead of resolving this confusion, the series invests itself in creating a character that should be considered a ‘complex female role’ in the narrative. It is also a product of horror writing (the show was written by Ishani Banerjee and Singh), one with all shades of no color. Gauri is portrayed as a transformed monster who carries one tragedy after another. She is a doctor with a complex of Gods, sacrificing others on the altar of her desire. Yet all of this turns out to be just sound, a convenient acronym for not trying to explain who she is. She remains as obscure to her husband (terribly misunderstood Ram Kapoor) as she is to everyone else.

In fact, a show titled ‘Gauri Nath’ and ‘Saira Sabharwal’ (Keerthi Kulhari) have two women – man has no clear idea about these. This ambiguity works to some extent for a doctor who carelessly fights the demons inside her, the idealist Cyra. Keerthi is consistently talented, especially in a scene where she quarrels with her husband, using her denial as a defense.

Yet this ambiguity does not exist when the facts are exaggerated. The characters in the show are constantly uttering subtexts, giving the audience information like parrots. A transaction between two executives at a pharma develops like this: “You completed phase zero and animal testing in record time” “Yes, because you are the best dealer in the international pharma, you will give me the best deal”. One villain in particular describes himself as “pretty dangerous.” A Dostana song is played on TV as a (closed) lesbian enters her home. All of this continues to develop after the fifth episode, where each one begins with an exposure heavy flashback, which reveals the inadequacy of writing very sharply.

Still the most worrying thing about man is the look of the show. At its core is the old story of the rich exploiting the poor. Using Bhopal’s background, it seeks to critique the practice of monetizing poverty and disaster on a regular basis (which is not surprising, as an NGO activist wrote to a photographer in a scene). But the series’s perspective on poverty, for all its awareness, is a perspective on poverty, repeating the inclination it was determined to challenge. In one order, a drug-addicted family sits on a bus, frustrated with their future. A merchant comes to them. Their inability is obvious, but soon one of them says, “We have no money after buying the tickets”. This is a curious example of digging into misery and making it easier to understand. It repeats itself across human beings, extending to the final resolution and the insignificant way in which it manifests itself.

This series seeks to rearrange our perception of man and inhumanity, but does so with the rigor of a dinner table conversation. Subplots and characters appear and merge at will, dragging a show that should be less than five episodes. But more importantly, it reaffirms that Indian writers still do not know how to write middle-aged female characters who are not police officers.


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