‘Birohi’: The Web Series that Gives Bengal its Own ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’

The title may be clickbait for people who have and haven’t watched Birohi. One could expect some sort of backlash, considering the cult status that the Anurag Kashyap creation enjoys. However, it’s worth noting that Birohi makes a better point with its nuanced understanding of the class character of violence. Rather than a thin-lined distinction between the feudal lord and the toiler in mines, Pradipta Bhattacharya, the director, weaves a more intricate cast of characters. He is not preachy about the way the characters have been subject to the societal conditions that made them as they are. If you think for a moment, he did not need to be so, with that powerful a narrative.

Krishna Halder finally gets a job as a schoolteacher at Birohi, a place that’s insanely far from his house. The village surrounding this school is preoccupied with locally made bombs, locally made highs and locally made erection sustainers. The last two are needed to keep people spending the time when they make bombs and when they do not. Krishna is visibly overwhelmed, as anyone naive enough to expect students in a remote village school would be.

He meets Jomidar, the school janitor, whose voluptuousness nearly lands him in trouble. Soon after, Krishna learns that she is the wife of his arch-nemesis, the pistol-wielding Tnyapa. Apparently, he is a seasoned criminal and a sworn enemy of the people of Birohi. However, as the climax tells us, the family (Jomidar, Tnyapa and their kids) moves away like a fly dabbed in the ink of poverty, taking the path of the lumpenproletariat. They flee, apparently, from a community that is forever destined to serve the bomb-appropriators.

The genius of the director lies in the handling of the narrative that allows for a sleight of hand to slip in a larger plot. There is humour and there is romance, the latter sublimely augmented by Satyaki Banerjee’s music. In his eye for grandiloquence, Bhattacharya constructs allegorical scenes that fit perfectly in the integral narrative of struggle. There’s a shot that captures him crossing a river as a part of his school itinerary, naked for his undies, a hired bicycle firmly held above his head. This struggle to keep body and soul together is no less exacting than jumping into the sea to be free from earthly consciousness, as Sri Chaitanya did. The director adds his two cents by making Krishna’s love interest, Radha, watch this episode. The musical score only completes the narrative in the best way possible.

Not without occasional lapses, acting has been top-notch in this suburban noir. Satakshi Nandy as Radha deserves a special mention for her almost lyrical expressions that might be influenced by her stint with dancing. The director captures the language of the youth with bold, realistic tones that never fail to amaze in their apocryphal ingenuity. If you are waiting for a quirky web series that easily captures the mindscape and pleases the soul, this one is worth a watch.

Koushik Sen is Assistant Professor (English) at LJD Law College, West Bengal

Featured image credit: YouTube