The inspiration from Hollywood films like 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'Seven' is quite apparent.

Abhishek Bachchan Amit Sandh and Nithya Menen in Amazon Prime Video web series Breathe Into the shadows
Flix OTT Friday, July 10, 2020 - 16:36

Any parent would agree that when it comes to protecting their child, there is little that they will refuse to do. The premise of the Breathe series on Amazon Prime Video is simple enough â€” Would you take a life to save the life of your child?

After the first season that saw R Madhavan take lives to make sure his son gets an organ transplant in time, Breathe: Into The Shadows, tells the story of Avinash and Abha Sabharwal (Abhishek Bachchan and Nithya Menen) whose 6-year-old daughter Siya (Ivana Kaur) gets kidnapped from a birthday party. After a tortured search for over nine months, the couple is contacted by her kidnapper with news that she is alive and well but that to keep her that way, they will have to kill a man.

Avinash and Abha are a respectable upper middle class couple with successful careers as a psychiatrist and chef respectively. He even helps the police by conducting psychiatric evaluations of potential criminals. They grapple with the moral and deeply problematic implications of what they are being asked to do, but worried that their daughter who is a diabetic will stop getting insulin shots as threatened by the kidnapper, they actually plot and commit the first murder, and then a second. But Siya is not returned to them.

Instead, they have to now deal with beleaguered but brilliant cop Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh reprising his role from the first season) who gets transferred from Mumbai to Delhi, and dives straight into investigating both the murders. Worried that he is getting a little too hot on their heels, Avinash offers to help out with the investigation and give his psychological insights into the killer’s motives. But, as they struggle with their guilt and are constantly covering their tracks, will Avinash and Abha manage to stay a step ahead of Kabir, or will the law catch up with them before they reach Siya?

Breathe: Into The Shadows, is created by Abundantia Entertainment and Mayank Sharma, with Mayank also serving as director and co-writer of the story. The series has an interesting and relatable premise that ties in thematically with the first season but here, screenplay writers Bhavani Iyer, Vikram Tuli, Mayank Sharma and dialogue writer Arshad Syed, add thick layers of the OTT content favourite, mythology, albeit all too literally. They offer us explanations multiple times about how the ancient and modern intertwine in this 12-episode long saga that starts running out of breath by the virtue of its sheer girth.

It also seemed like the writers watched Hollywood films Shawshank Redemption and Seven before they sat down to write this tale, and the ‘inspiration’ from both these brilliant films is quite apparent. But, by focussing on the parents and more importantly Avinash instead of exploring the emotional journey of two people desperate to find their daughter, the writers deny us the opportunity of getting emotionally invested in Avinash and Abha.

There are flashes of brilliance in the narrative, some genuinely good scenes and twists, and a few fabulous cameo performances. I particularly loved the episodes with Shruti Bapna playing Natasha Garewal, and Pawan Singh playing Avinash’s old college friend Angad. Amit is in great form too as Kabir and the actor, who has bulked up for the role, creates a nice contrast by displaying a body language that seems weighed down by past misgivings.

While people do process grief and shock differently, Avinash’s stoicism and perfect grooming even as his daughter remains missing for months really seem unnatural. Abhishek, who now spells his full name with an extra A, tries to turn in a restrained performance but his lack of emotion started annoying me pretty quickly. Which is unfortunate, because when he is given a chance to emote, Abhishek is excellent and makes an immediate impact. Watch a scene later in the season where he questions his wife on whether she can ever look at him the same way again, or his reaction after being asked to identify if a dead child’s body is his daughter. He has a very expressive face, and constantly underplaying does him a disservice.

Nithya Menen is in good form as a torn mother who stops being an emotionally supportive wife, only to be drawn into the kidnapper’s warped game. She is especially good in an episode midway through the season and it made me wish she had more such occasions to shine. Instead of them working together as a team with each of them bringing unique skills to the table, the makers put Abhishek in the spotlight and allow him to mansplain to Nithya for almost the entire season. He makes all the plans, he tells her what to do and apart for a few instances of quick thinking, Nithya is not allowed to really become his equal partner in crime, quite literally.

Plabita Borthakur as Meghana who has a connection with Kabir’s past is good in a supporting role as are Hrishikesh Joshi, Shrikant Verma and Saiyami Kher who each play their parts convincingly.

Breathe: Into The Shadows has definitely been designed as a grand web debut for Bollywood star Abhishek who is resurrecting his career after a two-year break from films. But focussing the story on an adult and his journey when there is a missing child involved immediately dilutes the emotional core of this show. In fact, there are entire episodes where we don’t see the child at all, almost as if we don’t need to be told repeatedly that she is alive and well.

Watch Breathe: Into the Shadows if you have nothing else to do this weekend. Otherwise, 12 almost one-hour long episodes that tell a slow uneven tale is not something I would recommend in this already troubled time. 

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