Afsos, an Amazon Prime series directed by Anubhuti Kashyap, explores the theme of death with a twist. The creators of the series, which is a “tragicomedy”, have given a whole new dimension by juxtaposing death with immortality. Death is the ultimate truth of life. But can death be the ultimate solution to all the miseries that afflict a mere mortal?
In Afsos, the protagonist Nakul, played by Gulshan Devaiah, firmly believes that all his problems will go away once he embraces death. He reasons that just like when he was a kid, all his worries used to vanish the moment he went to sleep early whenever he had a bad day. Death will put an end to all the predicaments of his adult life. But there is one problem: death is elusive.
Even after ten attempts to take his own life, Nakul is alive and we are introduced to him when the poor soul is in the middle of his eleventh suicide attempt. Lying on railway tracks while stargazing, Nakul is waiting for the inevitable when he suddenly starts feeling a little uncomfortable. This time it appears death has finally arrived, but Nakul survives.
The first season of Afsos comprises eight episodes and all the important characters are introduced in the first episode. One of them is Shloka, who is the therapist of Nakul. Played by the talented Anjali Patil, the character arc of Shloka gets more and more interesting as the story unfolds. Being someone who’s not afraid to try unconventional methods in treating her patients, Shloka is particularly empathetic towards the plight of Nakul.
She tries to drive home the point that deep down it’s Nakuls’s own desire to live that somehow stops him from actually taking his own life. But Nakul knows best. He must die and so he gives the contract of his killing to Emergency Exit, a hit squad which caters to people who want to commit suicide so that nothing can come in between.
All hell breaks loose as Upadhay, the hitwoman who is assigned the task of eliminating Nakul, is in a hurry to complete the job. Played by Heeba Shah, she is a fascinating character who certainly draws inspiration from some of the most iconic figures of the literary world as well as films.
No points for guessing why Upadhay knows so much about Beethoven and his music, which plays in a restaurant while she is dining with her colleague. Also, the appearance of an advertisement of a detergent named “Fargo” now and then in the frame can’t be a mere coincidence.
Indeed, the characters in Afsos have many layers which unfold as the chain of events, or should we say death, links them in one way or the other. There is a young journalist, a Russian tourist attached to a camera, a small-town cop and of course, Fokatiya Baba, a failed sadhu (saint) who is on a mission to find the Chiranjeevi (immortal man).
Death is omnipresent in the series and it does not even spare a famous stand-up comic who goes by the name Biswa Kalyan Rath. Nakul is inadvertently responsible for a lot of the lives lost. But the creators of the series have kept things very light as far as the overall treatment is concerned. The humour and the premise may be dark, but the director resists from the temptation of painting a sombre picture of the world or surroundings that Nakul finds himself in.
Afsos becomes an effortless viewing experience, but it comes with its own set of distractions. At times the audience can take things for granted, which may take away the edge from a few plot twists. It’s an uncharacteristic style of filmmaking, that one associates with the Coen brothers who directed Fargo.
Interestingly, a bullet stuck in the wrong place and a little bit of inspiration provided by Shloka makes Nakul realise the value of his existence. He has a change of mind and decides to give life a shot, literally. But Upadhay is one killing machine who will stop at nothing to add to her tally of kills, even if it means putting a bullet hole in a dead body.
Now the cat and mouse game between Nakul and Upadhay has turned on its head and fate conspires in such a way that Nakul finds himself back on the railway tracks where it all started. Only this time, he faces a new dilemma that may haunt him forever.
The premise of Afsos, where death is an ever-present phenomenon, rings true to the current problems that have enveloped the world that we live in, courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s something Maria (played by Ratnabali Bhattacharya), who runs Emergency Exit along with Upadhay and Vikram, offers their customers. The choice is between bullets, rope or a gentle push from a cliff.
The series, in a very subtle way, sends across a strong message that life must move on amidst all uncertainties and miseries. It’s the very nature of existence.