Rudra review: Ajay Devgan’s OTT debut is boosted by a moody atmosphere


It was forgotten that Ajay Devgn could walk any other way after so many years of the Singham slo-mo stride, parlayed across so many masala flicks. In ‘Rudra,’ his debut online series as the gloomy, brooding Special Units officer Rudraveer Singh, he remembers not to walk with his arms crossed. He’s dressed in civvies instead of Khakhi, with a black jacket and black pants. And because this is a web series, he is permitted to smoke, something he is not allowed to do in our Sanskaari films. But his single-minded commitment to locating and mending the bad folks remains unchanged: whether it’s Singham or Rudra when he strikes ’em, they stay struck.

Rudra, based on the BBC thriller-drama series Luther, which stars Idris Elba in the title role, is a show bursting with visual chops – pun entirely intended. Rajesh Mapuskar, the director, and Sanjay K Memane, the cinematographer, produce some artistically sombre moments and pictures. Mumbai, in particular, appears to be the deceptively harsh pre-dystopia that it is. Devgn’s melancholy demeanour adds to the darkness as he solves terrible cases for the Special Crimes Unit under the supervision of his no-nonsense supervisor, played by the outstanding Ashwini Kalsekar.

Even though this is Ajay Devgn’s debut streaming programme, he gets a filmi introduction — striding towards the camera, out of the murky shadows and slowly into focus, before bringing down a bad guy. Nonetheless, this is one of Devgn’s finer recent performances, owing to the character’s suitability for the superb actor’s recent single-note tenor. The programme is continuously entertaining due to its dark atmosphere, which is aided by some colourful personalities surrounding him. It isn’t without flaws, most of which are due to some mediocre writing.

With a total of six distinct authors – three for dialogue and three for the screenplay – the instances and situations dealt with in the programme appear all-too-familiar. For some reason, everyone is a crazed serial murderer. Indeed, after seeing this Hindi rendition of Luther, it appears that the Zee5 drama Abhay, starring Kunal Khemu, was partially based on the same source material. Troubled titular cop in a strained marriage because he’s also married to his demanding law enforcement job; vicious killers indulging in monstrous violence motivated by strange motivations; different cases in each episode with larger connections lasting throughout the series; not to mention the overall lurid vibe – the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence.

Abhay manages to distinguish itself just enough with varying features to exclude any immediate links.

It’s difficult to predict if these Indian adaptations of international series will last as long as the originals. Luther had five seasons, so the creators have plenty of time to work out the kinks in the screenplay and make it genuinely engaging in the future. Meanwhile, let’s hope Ajay Devgn doesn’t drop it like the A in his name.