The first season of Breathe, in my opinion, was a dud. It never felt like a series that got developed using the possibility of the series format. It was in a way constrained to just two tracks that had familiar or assumable trajectories. I am talking about the first season of Breathe in the review of its second season Breathe: Into the shadows because when you compare it with the R Madhavan version there is a massive improvement in the key areas such as writing, cinematography, and direction. I am not really overwhelmed by the overall quality, but as I said, the improvement certainly made the series all the more engaging and you get to feel that high towards the end. SPOILER ALERT: The series itself breaks the major suspense in an early stage, so it won’t be that easy to write a spoiler-free review.
From Mumbai, the setting now gets shifted to Delhi. Dr. Avinash Sabharwal who is a consultant psychiatrist of Delhi police and his family is our focus this time. One day after a birthday party his daughter Siya goes missing and a few months after when the couple sort of gave up on their hopes they started receiving video footage of their daughter and certain demands from the kidnapper. And the demands were to kill certain people. Inspector Kabir Sawant who was serving jail term in Mumbai for an unfortunate accident during one operation decides to go to Delhi for a change and ends up investigating the murders that Avinash was forced to do by the kidnapper. Avinash and his wife Abha’s struggle to get their daughter in the midst of this uncontrollable mess is the core of this thriller.
If you look at the structure of it, the series has a close resemblance with the season 1. And I feel this particular structural resemblance is perhaps the only logical reason for them to call this a second season of Breathe as the term breathe technically has no real connection here. A father who is willing to do anything to save his kid including the murder of another individual, a police officer who has a personal struggle that has some connection with his professional life and the cat and mouse game between the two was the soul idea of the first season. And if you look at Breathe: Into the shadows, you can see the same pattern repeating along with a lot of subplots and characters. Written by Bhavani Iyer and Vikram Tuli along with show director Mayank Sharma, this second season has an interest in detailing the events and exploring the characters. Even that extended cameo-like role of Saiyami Kher becomes a relevant character in establishing the inner turmoil of the antagonist.
In the first season of Breathe, the character played by Madhavan was a football coach and a lot of the things he did in that series to kill people lacked conviction. There was no solid explanation of how he was able to do all that. But here Mayank as a director is a little more conscious about such details. Yes, Avinash initially will remind you of Danny. His modus operandi is similar and in certain killings, we do get a feeling that they are not considering his fear in the character development. But there is a rereading required to almost all scenes once the suspense gets broken in an early stage. In my opinion that sort of answers the nonsensical demands of the antagonist. And the revelation we get to witness had more layers which get unfolded as the series progresses. We have seen the idea of split personality getting used for vigilante thriller movies like Anniyan, but here they are using it in a setup that looks grey and gritty. Showing us the killer in the beginning and then making us watch how Kabir Sawant finds the killer is the format that gets repeated here as well, but in that journey, we are getting to know more about Avinash.
The character played by Abhishek Bachchan has two different tones here. One is that of a professional psychiatrist father who loves his family and the other is of a man who is extremely lonely and is frustrated about people not showing enough faith in him. While Abhishek is extremely convincing in being the first one, the latter version is a bit too animated and gimmicky. It kind of reminded me why his performance didn’t work for me and a lot of people in Raavan. Amit Sadh reprises his role of Kabir Sawant and this time we get to see him in familiar and jovial spaces. The relationship between Sadh’s Kabir and Plabita Borthakur’s Meghna felt really lovely on-screen. Nithya Menen gets to do a meaty role here. Abha is a chef in a well-known restaurant and the character has some good details in the screenplay. She has a role in the whole operation and she is like that supporting system to her husband in this unprecedented mess. In that whole phase with the character Natasha played by Shruti Bapna, the series depended on Nithya’s performance heavily and she was able to make things look convincing. Hrishikesh Joshi reprising the role of Prakash Kamble was funny and this time the screenplay gives his character a little more space to leave a mark. Saiyami Kher as Shirley doesn’t have too much to do here and it seems like she will have a major role in the next season.
There is silliness associated with the motive of the villain to kill all those people. But slowly when we realize about the headspace of the villain you sort of understand why it became such an issue for him. In the first season, empathy wasn’t created in a subtle way. Here they are sort of making us think whether to have empathy towards the villain or not and this murky space makes it very intriguing for the viewer. The last two episodes have so much about the villain that we almost forget about the lack of conviction one gets to feel in the beginning episodes. The cinematography this time plays with the color palette and lighting to create that tension. One can see elements of red and good usage of silhouettes here and such visual storytelling was missing in the first season. The background score gets used in the same way this time as well and it felt good. Just like the first season, the CGI backdrop whenever people where driving cars looked trashy.
If you are of the opinion that the first season of Breathe was okay, then this new season will floor you for sure. But like me, if you were disappointed by that first season, then the drastic improvement here will surprise you. I found Breathe: Into the shadows as an engaging show that used characters effectively. The detailing you get to experience in the screenplay is trying its best to cover up the flaws in the major cinematic fantasy element in the story, but occasionally the dramatic storytelling ends up showing us those weak spots.
Like me, if you were disappointed by that first season, then the drastic improvement here will surprise you. I found Breathe: Into the shadows as an engaging show that used characters effectively.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended