Karmma Calling review: Raveena Tandon is ravishing in this pulpy series | Web Series - Hindustan Times
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Karmma Calling review: Raveena Tandon is ravishing in this pulpy series with diminishing returns

ByDevansh Sharma
Jan 26, 2024 01:33 PM IST

Karmma Calling review: Raveena Tandon's show doesn't merit a keen eye for nuance. It thrives on its excesses, before it catapults itself into indulgence.

Karmma Calling review: In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Raveena Tandon maintained that she's poles apart from her character of Indrani Kothari, despite the fact that both were leading '90s Bollywood actors. As the show unravels, one wonders if Raveena, as we know her, could’ve ended up as Indrani in real life. What did she do right for her to not land in the same world as her spruced up, high-society reel counterpart? (Also Read: Not Karmma Calling, Raveena Tandon's Hotstar debut could have been Aarya. Actor reveals why she said no to it)

Raveena Tandon plays a '90s actor in Karmma Calling
Raveena Tandon plays a '90s actor in Karmma Calling

Raveena vs Indrani

Indrani Kothari was a '90s actor, who gave up on her profession, married a wealthy businessman, had two kids who’ve grown up into adults now, and relocated to Alibaug, where she operates as the centre of a closed circle, so to say. She throws lavish Karva Chauth parties and seven-course charity dinners. She is dressed up to the hilt every day and expects her kids to not venture out of their social sanctum.

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In other words, Indrani is all about perception. When she gets on a chopper to hunt the moon on the night of Karva Chauth because it's too cloudy, she's sending out a statement. That she has the resources to trump adversity of any nature and degree. That her marriage is on the rocks is a fact that can be drowned out by the thickness noise and eclipsed by the heights the chopper can plunge into.

Costume designer Harsh Dedhia chooses outfits with a lot of flare and cuts for Raveena. Every costume screams drama. And Raveena makes them look even more operatic by mixing style with sadness. As director Ruchi Narain disrobes her character's past, Raveena keeps adding more cracks to her heart. Dressed to the nines, whether in a designer saree or a derby hat, Raveena makes her face tell a different story. Concern, trepidation, guilt, remorse – these hues spill all over her face, even though her power dressing suggests control and pride.

It then won't be far-fetched to say that Raveena, the actor, sees a part of her in Indrani, the character. A part that could've been, had she rested her integrity and self-worth in social capital than in tangible milestones, in perception than in creative fulfilment, and in past glory than in moving with the times. Raveena makes sure she consistently plays out Indrani like a cautionary tale, instead of a woman scorned. She strikes the sweet spot between not judging her character's actions and exercising her moral compass as an actor so as to not deify the powerful woman she could've been.

Before Raveena, her contemporary Madhuri Dixit played a ‘90s actor in The Fame Game on Netflix India in 2022. Her character symbolised the dilemma between killing her public persona to escape fame, and running back to it like the forbidden fruit she once tasted and still can't get enough of. Similarly, Raveena's Indrani also encapsulates a dilemma: of resigning to destiny like a '90s damsel in distress or reclaiming her identity like an actor of today.

Desi Revenge

Raveena gets the chance to reclaim ‘ravishing,’ an alliterative adjective associated with her in the ‘90s. Karmma Calling gives her the space, treatment, positioning, and freedom to do so. Yet she’s not the hapless do-gooder of that decade. She not only does bad things, but comes closer to being penalised in every episode. A girl called Karmma (Namrata Sheth) has some unfinished business in Alibaug and all the roads of revenge lead to Indrani. Her backstory is basic, but her devices to scale the social and justice ladder are fascinating.

Ruchi has adapted Karmma Calling from Mike Kelley's 2011-15 ABC show Revenge. Needless to say, there's a ready structure, character graphs, and direction for her screenplay, and she doesn't deviate much either. The surprise really comes from the show's desiness – what unites the haves and have-nots? It's as much the Indian festivals and culture as the urge for retribution. One doesn't have to look beyond the current climate to realise that: being Indian is increasingly being equated to being vengeful.

Yet all the pulp and underlying commentary aside, one can't overlook the mediocrity. Barring Raveena, barely any other actor makes a mark. It's ironic that a ‘90s actor is the only one bringing nuance to an OTT show filled with fresh actors hamming away to hell. Namrata is constantly carrying that catty glint in her eyes like the vamp of a saas-bahu soap, and Varun Sood as Indrani’s sweet, rebellious son can't get us to take him seriously. As the show goes forth in loops, it becomes repetitive and clunky, leading to a climax that feels more like a futile shot in the arm than an organic conclusion.

ABC's Revenge ran for four seasons. If Karmma Calling intends to follow suit, it must ensure that the drama transcends Raveena's costumes and permeates the rest of the show. That the intrigue Raveena brings to her role must be cast over the other characters as well. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but its Indian adaptation doesn't have to be one. Karma must come calling with a broth that's still bubbling.

All episodes of Karmma Calling are now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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