Shahrukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment is responsible for producing Netflix India’s latest web series “Betaal” – a horror thriller pitching a remote village a fictional British East India Company officer Lt. Colonel John Lynedoch, his battalion of zombie redcoats and a fictional Indian paramilitary force the CIPD. Betaal is directed by Patrick Graham, responsible for the previous horror thriller miniseries Ghoul. Unlike Ghoul however, Betaal is messy and unorganized. Excessive jump scares and gore, try to make up for terrible acting and a poor story.
Apparently a small village in India holds a shrine to Betaal – who supposed gives some supernatural powers to a British East India Company officer who was buried inside a tunnel underneath the fictional Betaal mountain along with his soldiers during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. In the modern day, the tunnel needs to be opened to connect a Naxalite infested village to “modern India” and as the villagers protest against the tunnel, the corrupt employee of a corporation calls his own personal detachment of the supposedly “elite” CIPD (more on these elite soldiers later).
Now, long story short, they remove the villagers and blow open the tunnel which unleashes the horror within on the CIPD and two villagers left. As they hide in an ancient British era barracks near the village, the story covers how these men and women fight off the zombie sepoys of the Colonel.
The CIPD is supposedly an elite force but their revulsion of basic military tactics is clear for all to see. Squad members more of then not, disappear for no reason. The female villager as we see during the show, has more brains and the figurative balls than most of the elite “Baaz” or Eagle squad has combined. Apparently, just living next to a zombie infested mountain can give you the tactical skills, that elite paramilitary training fails to provide. The zombies apparently, as told by the villagers can only be killed through fire but during the fighting we see them get mowed down by assault weapons, knives and a rusty old cannon. The makeup is such that the zombies which are supposed to scare actually begin to give you a headache due to their bright red eyes and annoying growls.
Betaal is no leap forward for Indian horror shows which in their defense have come a long way since the comically dreadful days of Zee Horror Show and Aahat. But Betaal, which tries to come off as a survivor horror is chaotic and an utter bore fest. The writing which is poor and tries to squeeze in a slurry of Hindi cuss words to compensate for a lack of vocabulary, comes up with some delightfully comical tripe like “Now that’s what you call a hard Brexit” (after a member of the squad eliminates one of the undead soldiers) or another soldier firing at a group of attacking redcoats with classics such as, “Yeh Jallianwala Bagh ke liye… yeh Bhagat Singh ke liye!”
The characters are weak – a female CIPD soldier has a scar across her face which apparently is begging for a back story but never gets one. The corrupt contractor, played by Jitendra Joshi is horribly dull – completely opposite of his delightful role as Katekar in Sacred Games. Boredom sets in quite early in this exhausting horror web series. As far as the horror bit goes, apparently the actors and the director never got the memo about it.
Watch the water tap in your sink slowly dripping one drop at a time instead of Betaal as it would assure more entertainment than the three hours you would lose watching the show.
Run away from this show faster than the lead characters run away from zombies.