High review: OTT offerings of Indian content makers have been quite dark this year. There's Patal Lok, Flesh, CU Soon and many more. High is an addition to the same but it's a lot tamer than the ones mentioned above. In fact, many would say it could be the best premise to hit ZEE5 what with news channels screaming about drug abuse in Bollywood. Although the show doesn't target any community or an industry, it does throw light on why some drugs are banned and others aren't. Even the name will lend itself to people's curiosity because presently, they have been made to believe that only Bollywood does drugs. But it's deeper than that. High: Akshay Oberoi Opens Up About His Role of a Drug Addict in MX Player Show
However, more than the actors' attempt to talk about a drug that can cure addicts and other ailments, it is the situational commentary on the state of journalism in our country that will stand out because what's happening now can make anyone sick to the bones. So High is more than just a swries on drugs or addicts.
Shiv Mathur (Akshay Oberoi) being chronically addicted to all forms of drugs. His life went for a toss when he witnesses the suicides of his parents. He goes completely off track but one day, during a reunion, he meets his ex and overdoses. He is sent off to a rehab and research facility. During the night, he is given a compound to snort by someone from the facility which is unlike anything he has done before. It cures him completely and gives him perspective, I guess. He finds out that the three doctors Roy (Prakash Belawadi), Nakul (Nakul Bhalla) and Shweta (Shweta Basu Prasad) have come up with a substance that could be a cure-all for every illness. The only issue is it is illegal and has been banned in the 70s.
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It's a plant extract which when taken in controlled regular doses can make even psychologically ill patients get better. Shiv wants to sell the substance with help from all the three. Initially, the doctors resent it but when they need money to save the research facility, they accept Shiv's plan. Given that he was a drug addict who has dealings with nearly every peddler, Shiv manages to spread the word and the powder around. It starts healing people and gets in the way of many. Obviously, everyone starts looking for the source but find it difficult to trace because Shiv has told everyone it's a Chinese drug. The people looking for them include a pharma company that hires a henchmen Lakda (Ranvir Shorey) to kill them off, drug gangs looking for a monopoly of the market and a journalist trying to prove she is a journalist.
Nikhil Rao, Emil Thomas and Nishant Goyal's story starts quite well. It begins in 1970 when a bunch of doctors go on a field trip to search for a rare herb which has magical healing powers. The story keeps moving back and forth between the 70s and the present day to give an idea of how things have changed or haven't changed. It gives the drug a lot of histroy in the series which you will actually admire. It gives you a lot of context on why it is illegal. What happened 30 years back, gets repeated but this time, there's more in the mix.
However, after the initial rush, the movie gets painfully slow. Although a lot is happening on screen, you lose interest easily. How Shiv goes through his day hopping from one substance abuse to another gets boring after a while. It's only when it reaches the third episode that you are truly sucked into it. It's quite a brilliant premise to show a drug addict, who is clean now thanks to the compund, is using his own drug histroy to make it popular. Obviously, there's some heroics added to it as the fantastic four want to save their facility and cure drug addicts. In fact, when some of the users start listing out its good effects, it makes you wonder if such a thing can really exist. So it does give you hope for a cure-all drug.
But a certain subplot will draw your attention a little more than usual here. The way the series nails the media circus going on in the name of Breaking News in our country is simply brilliant. And the best part is, the screaming news anchor on TV, played by the magnificent Mrinmayee Godbole, actually grows a conscience. That happens when during a job interview someone calls her 'Poster girl of fake news'. Now can you blame him when her last news story was Maya devi ki laash in a bathtub. Rings any bells? One fine day, she becomes the Breaking News! So personally, I would like to doff my hat to the writers for very sensitively protraying how journalism is on crutches in this country.
Watch The Trailer here
Now coming to the flip side of it all, a lot of things are unexplained. How Shiv ends up in the facility is a mystery. Neither do the writers explain nor is Shiv concerned about it after asking it once. There's no explanation as to why his parents committed suicide because a POV montage shows he had given a Visa interview the day his dad shoots himself and his mom. They call the drug Magic and share nothing more about it. There are lines after lines explaining its healing effects but no description on what substance is it. The series has 9 episodes and I feel it's quite unnecesary. The story could have been wrapped up in 6-7 episodes. OTT does make directors quite indulgent which is Nikhil Rao again. Shweta Basu Prasad and Rohit Mittal Separation: Even After Parting Ways, the Actress Hopes To Work With the Filmmaker Someday
Performances by the entire cast is just admirable. Akshay Oberoi as a drug addict first and a man with a mission later has been amazingly portrayed by the actor. He never strays from his character which helps you pick a side. A henchmen fighting his inner demons is a tried and tested character plot but Ranvir Shorey adds a lot of finesse to it. Shweta Basu Prasad has become quite a regular fixture in many web shows and yet fatigue has not set in. She does complete justice to the role of a voice with reason. We all have been a fan of Prakash Belawadi since we saw Airlift.
- Excellent performances
- A just dig at journalism
- The before-after theme
- Too long
- Meanders at the start
- A lot of unswered questions
Final Thoughts: High will definitely give you a high on the whole concept of what are the parameters of labelling a drug contraband. Alternatively, it could also be a conscience awakening moment for Indian journalism, in case these people still have that!