If you expect ‘Hasmukh’ to tickle your funny bone just because of its title and Vir Das in the lead role, you’re in for a surprise. Far from comical, the Netflix series subtly sheds light on issues that are conveniently swept under the rug or considered off-limits in the world of movies and television.
The Plot: He’d Kill To Be A Successful Stand-Up Comedian – Quite Literally!
The web series begins with the protagonist, ‘Hasmukh’ struggling to create a place for him in the world of stand-up comedy in the rural pockets of Saharanpur. He dreams of taking the stage by storm, but his aspirations are quashed by his mentor, Gulati, who constantly belittles him and his potential to tickle the fantasy of the audience. One day, in a fit of rage, Hasmukh murders Gulati (played by Manoj Pahwa). Surprisingly, this gives him the adrenalin rush needed to overcome his stage fright. His manager Jimmy (Ranvir Shorey) eggs him on to commit one murder after another to help him climb the ladder as a stand-up comedian. One murder after the other leads Hasmukh on a success spree as a stand-up comedian, who manages to win the heart of the small towners. The catch is that he always kills the bad guys. However, right until the end, guilt is writ large on Hasmukh’s face for trading people’s lives in exchange for his popularity.
The ultimate stepping stone in his career comes in the form of an invitation to Mumbai to compete on a TV show where stand-up comedians battle it out in front of a live audience. Desperate to outshine his rival, KK (Suhail Nayyar) on the show, Hasmukh once again gets his hands dirty by looking for people to kill. In the midst of it all, famous actor Raza Murad steps into the shoes of a gangster with close affiliations with the TV actors. He makes a hard-hitting impact as Jameel Indori, who sends a chill down the spine of people.
The plot then moves on to unveil the answers to questions like – “Will a village boy like Hasmukh be able to entice the cosmopolitan audience of Mumbai?” “Will he outshine his rival KK to make a place for himself in the comedy industry?” “Will he emerge as the supreme king of the show?” “Will the cops catch hold of Hasmukh and Jimmy and put them behind the bars?” Well, you have to watch the series to find out the answers to these questions, which will unfold slowly on the show.
The Acting: All Actors Are Mind-blowing In Their Characters!
All the actors do complete justice to their characters by showcasing their powerful acting skills. Vir Das in the role of Hasmukh is convincing both as a rustic guy from the pockets of Uttar Pradesh and a migrant to the city of dreams Mumbai, looking for the love and approval of those around him. The actor will truly endear himself to you as he brings alive a range of emotions that he expresses on the show with equal perfection – guilt, remorse, anger, revenge, humor, and love.
Ranvir Shorey, on the other hand, is just as superb in his portrayal as the manager. His character is piqued in shades of grey, at once conniving and innocent.
Ravi Kishan, who plays a lecherous Channel Head, truly sheds light on the not-so-good-world of television lending a sense of reality to the series. There is even a reference to the #MeToo movement on the series.
The Verdict: It’s A Must-Watch!
For me, the series makes for a compelling watch not just because it stars my favorite stand-up comedian, Vir Das, but also because in true Vir Das style, it touches upon grave social issues such as child abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, etc. in the world of television, the nexus between the mafia and actors and corrupt policemen. The series truly brings out the idea of the survival of the fittest in the dog-eat-dog world of Mumbai.
If you can look past the several anomalies, such as Hasmukh walking scot-free throughout the series of the same name, you will be intrigued as much as I was while watching it.
The best part of the ‘Hasmukh’ for me is the end, which certainly took me by surprise and in true television-style sent out the message – “The show must go on!”
My final verdict is you should watch this memorable series for its strong plot, the fine acting skills, characterization, social issues, and the stand-up comedy scene in rural areas of India, where crass, sexual, and gaudy jokes are appreciated. The stand-up comedy scene in Mumbai, on the other hand, offers a good contrast to this as it is more about poking fun at each other’s competitors and speaking in a sexual entendre. All in all, I’d emphatically ask you to watch it, especially if you’re a fan of stand-up comedy.