Human Review: Human, the new thriller series created by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Mozez Singh, bases itself from Bhopal. A couple of times, characters keep mentioning how the city used to be ruled by women warriors. So it is natural that the show itself has two female characters ruling it, asides a third main character who represents the class of people suffering in that rule. That he is played by a male shouldn’t matter in the context, the fact that he is poor is hammered a lot of times throughout the show. Human: Shefali Shah Opens Up About Her Role in the Upcoming Medical Thriller Series, Says ‘She’s Complicated and Unpredictable’.
Shefali Shah is one of the three main leads, playing Gauri, the famous neurosurgeon and the administrator of the hospital called Manthan that becomes the crux of the plot here. A survivor of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy, Gauri is motivated by the many tragedies in her life to see as an excuse to own the city she lives in. Her hospital secretly becomes the trial ground for experimenting untested vaccines on humans, with a new drug S93R being the latest and troublesome one, pushed by a desperate pharma CEO Ashok Vaidya (Aditya Srivastava).
The second main character is Saira (Kirti Kulhari), a supposedly brilliant surgeon chosen by Gauri to be part of the hospital, much to the consternation of a senior surgeon Dr Snehal (Atul Kumar) working there. The issue is we see less of Saira the surgeon and more of Saira the activist in the series, wondering why Gauri even chose her in the first place, considering Saira is after the scandalous human trials Gauri is covertly overseeing from the beginning.
The third main character is Mangu (Vishal Jethwa) who works as a helper in the morgue, and who in a opportunity to earn quick buck, supplies poor folk to the human trials done in the name of vaccination camps, including his own parents. He doesn’t know what he is pushing them into, and the rest of the series sees Mangu grappling with the cost of that mistake.
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Now the malpractices done in the medical field are not something of a unheard occurrence. From vaccinations being rolled out without the trial results being shared to even ministers publicly promoting untested medicines, we have seen it all, especially in the last couple of years (Human acknowledges its time-setting of being based after COVID-19 pandemic). So Human trying to present itself as an expose on these malpractices is nothing to be critical about. That is, if it had come out in some other time.
What’s bothersome now is the series has the potential to be a delight, not for the ordinary viewers who would be left with a sense of tedium and melancholy, but for those who have been strongly holding anti-vaccination views for years. We have seen the rise of such voices during the ongoing pandemic period, with many still refusing to wear masks or get themselves vaccinated. We have all got messages in our family and friends WhatsApp groups of ‘concerned’ members questioning IMA and WHO, while peddling Ayurveda ‘cures’ and benefits of cow urine. It is for them that Human is a ‘delight’, that syncs with their belief that we are being human guinea pigs for the medical fraternity to try out their solutions.
Leaving aside the potential consequences of what Human tries to warn us about, the series still fails to grip me narrative-wise. There are way too many subplots that, in essence are used to expand on the characters’ arcs, but in quite many ways dilute the main plotline. In Gauri’s track only we have several subplots. Like her dealing with being the sole survivor of her family in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (incidentally, this real-life tragedy also had a role in another Hotstar series, Dil Bekaraar that came out a couple of months back). Or, her dealing with the loss of one son while trying to fix her relationship with the other. Or her having her an open marriage with her husband (Ram Kapoor, gets sidelined way too often) with each having their own clandestine affair. Or the many scenes of her using drugs. Or her running some The Handmaid’s Tale-kinda racket with Seema Biswas’ character Roma, that ends up making young nurses have creepy smiles fixed on their faces, as if they are auditioning for the next Truth of Dare movie. And this is just for one character. Human: Ram Kapoor Opens Up About Working With Shefali Shah in the Disney+ Hotstar Show.
Saira has her own subplots going on. From having a troubled marriage with war photographer Neil (Indraneil Sengupta) to having a secret same-sex relationship to having tiffs with her mother, there is a lot going on for her too. The same for Mangu, that ranges from his father’s disapproval of his job to his run-ins with his debtors to his infatuation with a brainwashed nurse (Riddhi Kumar) and so on. The point being, there are plenty of sub-arcs here and most of them are over-dramatised – especially Mangu’s portions – enough to take away the impetus of the main track involving the vaccine scam. The fact that the series is stretched across 10 episodes make it an even more languorous watch, as we want it come to the point.
The performances are alright. Shefali Shah grabs your attention with her antagonistic role, her soft-spoken but eerie attitude and her silkily-calm but sneakily dangerous manner of speaking. But more than often, her performance struggles across the many subplots that she is burdened with. Kirti Kulhari is fine in a character that also suffers from confused writing. It isn’t an easy character to root for, but Kirti’s performance still makes Saira compelling enough a protagonist worth following. The rest of the actors do good with their roles.
– Shefali and Kirti
– Occasionally Intriguing
– Over-Dramatised and Way Too Stretched With Addled Subplots
– Leaves You Worried About Its Setting
Questions about its (ill) timing aside, Human goes a bit overboard in presenting an already terrifying premise with some unreal storytelling, plethora of subplots that dilute its own premise and an over-dramatisation of certain events. Human is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Jan 14, 2022 05:13 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).