The coronavirus pandemic has spawned a lot of multi-episode web series that sometimes have open endings paving the way for sequels.
Months ago, “Breathe” had Indian actor Madhavan playing a desperate father trying to find a donor for his little son who suffers from a serious lung disease. He murders patients on the waitlist so his son’s chances for an organ increase.
Amazon Prime has begun to stream a sequel of sorts for “Breathe.” Titled “Breathe: Into the Shadows,” it is helmed by Mayank Sharma and has an impressive cast including Abhishek Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan’s son), Nithya Menen and Amit Sadh (the only actor from the earlier series).
In the latest Amazon Prime offering, Bachchan Jr. plays Avinash Sabharwal, a psychologist. His wife Abha (Menen) is a well-known chef at a star hotel in New Delhi. They have a 6-year-old daughter Siya (Ivana Kaur), who gets kidnapped from a birthday party.
Police inspector Kabir Sawant (Sadh) begins a massive search for the little girl, and after nine long months the kidnapper gets in touch with Sabharwal and asks for a strange ransom. He wants a man to be murdered, a man who is terribly afraid of dirt, dust and germs.
Over 12 episodes, “Breathe: Into the Shadows” explores how desperate parents would go to any extent to find their missing children. According to one study, a whopping 174 children go missing every day in India, and only half of them are found. Siya almost gets into the never-found list, and it is not too clear why her kidnapper waited for such a long time before calling her parents.
The series is dotted with several such bizarre incidents. For example, we do not understand why the couple do not go to the police, who are already on the case, after the first phone call. And in some instances, we do not understand why the kidnapper wants some men and women to be murdered. The links are not well established.
The reason for the kidnapper’s behavior, explained through a psychological analysis, is not wholly convincing. While the first part had a clear motive for Madhavan’s character to resort to the killings, the sequel lacks such clarity.
And to weave into this whole affair a mythological angle seems farfetched, even ridiculous. The mix of religious symbolism and psychology is outlandish, and the conflict between good and evil is so cliched. The murders have been written with a sensationalist angle.
To add to this, there are several sub-plots: Sawant’s anger that finally lands him on a transfer from Mumbai to New Delhi; his brief affair with a wheelchair-bound girl that is left hanging in the air, probably to give more screen time to Abhishek, who remains as wooden as he has always been. Sadh is no different.
The only highlights in the acting domain are Kaur and Menen. Both are just wonderful, Kaur as a frightened kid and Menen as an anguished mother who throws logic out of the window. They could have been still better, but shoddy writing lets them down.