‘Breathe: Into the Shadows’ review: A plodding plot that lets its actors down

In this day and age, making movies or shows about serial killers is a parlous prospect. How do you grip the viewers in the killer’s cold vice, as they, white-knuckled, try to figure out their next move in the clammy darkness of a demented mind? How do you make them jump in terror or sit in dread as their worst fears about the motives come true?

Nithya Menen and Abhishek Bachchan: devastating news.

Breathe: Into the Shadows , unfortunately, doesn’t supply answers to any of these haunting questions. Instead, it creaks and groans under its own conceit and then goes about propping up the trajectory with trauma poles from the past that get wearier by the episode. Directed by Mayank Sharma — who co-wrote the series with Bhavani Iyer, Arshad Sayed, and Vikram Tuli — the show opens up promisingly, a twinge of terror there (Resham Shrivardhan’s character is ambushed), a slap of emotions here, as psychiatrist Avinash Sabharwal (Abhishek Bachchan) and chef Abha (Nithya Menen) find their tony world shattered when their daughter, Siya (Ivana Kaur) is kidnapped. The cops get cracking and it helps that Avinash provides his services to help them with cases that involve psychiatric evaluation. The kidnapper has other plans, though, and sets the couple on a path of gruesome murders.

Nithya Menen shines through the series.

In the meanwhile, cop Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) awoken from his slumber like a demonic god of Indian Central Jails, roars and attacks and is attacked in one of them. Why he lands up there is also why he lands up in Delhi for his posting post his release, where the Sabharwals reside as well. It doesn’t take a criminologist to figure out paths will cross and mind games will ensue. It also doesn’t take too many episodes to figure out that the labored writing derives heavily from Seven, David Fincher’s darkest, most direly symphonic take on this genre. Breathe does add on to this classic, but only arithmetically to the number of traits. When faced with a complex mathematical problem in school, I flourished my pen on prayer and luck, adding all that I remembered, laying out steps and formulae in a labyrinth of confusion, and then wrote out, “Hence proved”, hoping I’d get some credits for all this effort. That approach didn’t work there. It doesn’t work here, either.

Abhishek Bachchan and Shrikant Verma doing some detective work.

The murders are textbook-elaborate, almost theoretical, and you slowly begin to lose focus on the happenings. Plus they’re carried out with such strange detachment, it’s as if the characters were implementing their latest gardening project. At one point, when it seemed imminent, I found myself thinking, “Good Gawd, not another murder.” Where it should have cut, scythed, and gotten you breathless with tightening plot ropes, the story ties itself into knots that barely unravel. That’s also because characters are seemingly chugged in on a whim. Thus you have the wheel-chair bound Meghna Varma (Plabita Borthakur) whose chirpiness, though sincerely played out, doesn’t in the least levitate you. As is the subplot between Kabir Sawant’s deputy, Prakash Kamble (Hrishikesh Joshi), and college flame Vrushali (Vibhawari Deshpande), that leads to some good-natured banter between Kamble and the Delhi cop Jaiprakash (Shrikant Verma). The actors, especially Joshi and Verma are superb, but there’s not much substance on their menu. Ditto for the glitzy escort Shirley, for whom Saiyami Kher has little to do except coming off looking like an 80s disco queen. (There’s a cryptic note that hints at another season involving her, but I’m not holding my breath.) There’s also some police politics involving Kabir’s boss and colleague (Sunil Gupta and Shradha Kaul, both good), and at one point, these shenanigans were far more interesting than getting poor Siya back to her parents.

Shrikant Verma, Amit Sadh, and Hrishikesh Joshi find clues and are stumped.

Breathe does have some gasp-inducing moments — including composer Alokananda Dasgupta’s end-piece, where her trademark cello treads on a suspenseful track, accentuated by a chittering pause — but those come and go swiftly, replaced by the dull plodding of the plotting, whence you begin to feel as tired and worn out as Abhishek Bachchan’s character. Which is a pity really. You feel for him (likable, sincere, and coming into his own, even as the plot folds up hopelessly under its own weight), Amit Sadh (mumbling and awkward, and yet effective), and Nithya Menen. The actors are let down by the story which is neither a slick thriller nor a bildungsroman. Especially Menen. She’s terrific, holding her own as a distraught mother, an unwilling seductress, a devoted wife, and top-notch chef. The actor shines through the series, no matter what scene she’s in. She’s the lighthouse on the shores of a script that was a washout much before the waves came roiling in.

Breathe: Into the Shadows (2020– ) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Breathe: Into the Shadows is streaming on Amazon Prime and is rated A (For adults only). There’s some intense scenes, violence, and some sensuality.

Breathe: Into the Shadows
Director Mayank Sharma Time ~ 45min
Writers Mayank Sharma, Bhavani Iyer, Arshad Sayed, Vikram Tuli
Stars Abhishek Bachchan, Nithya Menen, Amit Sadh
Genres Crime, Drama, Thriller

Watch the trailer of Breathe: Into the Shadows here.