Remakes are the talk of the town, especially in the Disney+ Hotstar universe. On one hand, The Night Manager was a huge success, while The Trial, the remake of the CBS drama The Good Wife, did not receive much appreciation because of the unsatisfactory writing and terrible understanding of the nuances from the original show. The third show in line after these two remakes is Karmma Calling, an official adaptation of the ABC show Revenge. The Hindi remake was created by Ruchi Narain and released on January 26, 2024, on Disney+.
Karmma Calling is a seven-episode-long show that covers the life of Indrani Kothari, the matriarch who used to be a superstar in the Hindi film industry. Her life post-marriage to the rich businessman Kaushal Kothari led her to move to Alibaug and become a part of the elite group living lavishly by the seaside. In comes Karmma Talwar, who seems to have it all, but Indrani’s inability to find any dirt on the new neighbour drives her crazy. Karmma moves fast, and she starts dating Indrani’s son, Ahan. Karmma Talwar is Ambika Mehra, who is back in town to exact revenge on Indrani and a group of people who were responsible for her father Satyajeet Mehra being wrongfully accused in a bank scam. His arrest, followed by a smear campaign against him, made sure he was not given lenient sentencing. Ambika now, as Karmma, wanted to punish each person responsible for her father being sent to jail, and her campaign had just begun. Was Indrani responsible for her father’s wrongful arrest? Is there a chance someone from her family or friends would catch onto Karmma’s real plan?
The show begins in a tacky manner, which is an indication of what lies ahead in the next seven episodes. It only gets worse, and sadly, there is no redeeming quality that could make Karmma Calling worth the audience’s time and inclination. There are plenty of plot holes and confusion regarding what exactly is happening at a given time, and the narrative only gets unnecessarily convoluted. The show has hired only a few good actors, but the makers could not make them perform up to the standards of their talent. The biggest example could be Raveena Tandon, a yesteryear actor whose talent was not utilized in full capacity.
There are several subplots introduced at a time that close so quickly that there is no time left to breathe for the rest of them. Also, people in Karmma Calling are dropping like flies, and there is no one willing to point fingers at her at any given time. Karmma comes across as clever, but there could have been other ways to prove she was good at hiding her trail. There is no time given to the so-called love story brewing between Karmma and Ahan. There was supposed to be a history between Karmma and a local café owner, Vedanta Koli, and nothing beyond a few flashback memories is added to explore that subplot. The subplot involving Ahan’s best friend Krish trying to prove his mettle in the Kothari office is only given a decent start but it is abandoned halfway. There is an unnecessary gay angle introduced to titillate the audience.
Zayn Khan, a random character who is supposed to champion Karmma, aka Ambika, has hardly been given any depth. This show is filled with tacky dialogue, a tawdry and predictable screenplay, and a train wreck of a story. No one talks or walks normally in the show, which adds to the frustration. Everyone has a few words of wisdom ready and always look at each other with a pout and an air of dismissal. These are projected through a bunch of oddly dressed, uber-rich women. We wonder why the show makers adapted Revenge and not any other good show from ABC. Misogyny, affairs, best friends falling out, distrust, and rich kids with plenty of emotional issues are some of the themes explored.
Flashback sequences slow down the screenplay and direction, and there are many in this show. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that Indrani’s husband’s having an affair is shown in a bad light, while her affair in her younger days is seen as her way of getting away from the marriage. Why are there such double standards in writing? The show tries hard to be like Gossip Girl, where they want to project the fact that everyone is sleeping with everyone; sadly, this underlining narrative makes the show not up to par. The lazy voiceover given by Karmma/Ambika at the beginning and end of each episode does not make any sense beyond a point. There is a sex scandal and controversy regarding a spiritual healer, executed in a shoddy manner.
The direction by Ruchi Narain needed a little upgrade. There was nothing new to offer in terms of it because people in the show were just walking in and out of the frame and delivering dialogue rather than performing the role assigned to them. There was a scene that involved Indrani’s character being called in for questioning by the police, but there was no presence of a lady constable, which is the norm. Detailing such as this is missing from the show. Such subtle nuances may have changed the course of Karmma Calling, but sadly, they only add to the list of reasons why this show does not work.
The production design, the over-the-top costumes, and the gaudy makeup only give the show the look of a soap opera. The show reaches a point where it enters the category of ‘so-bad-that-it’s-good.’ The show begins with the engagement of Karmma and Ahan, but it ends on a cliffhanger that paves the way for the second season. The revolting execution makes the hope for a second season very bleak. The casting done for the show is not up to par, as many actors, including the female lead, are hardly able to emote.
Namrata Sheth, as Karmma/Ambika, has been given almost nothing to work with. There is no mention of what her character does for a living, as she keeps walking around plotting against Indrani and her acquaintances. Ambika has a strong motive, but that anger hardly translates on the screen. It is the laidback writing and performance that are the culprit, and there is no drive in her motive to find the closure she is desperately seeking.
Raveena Tandon, a veteran actress herself, has been reduced to a vamp with the bare minimum of redeeming qualities. Her role only involved wearing gaudy clothes and suspecting every living being around her, which gets repetitive and, frankly, boring after a point. An actress who delivered a stellar performance in the Netflix original Aranyak has been given nothing to work on, which is sad. As an actress, she deserved better. Besides the female leads, there is Rohit Roy, the father of Karmma/Ambika, who has maintained a clean-shaven look throughout his time in prison. Viraf Patel, as Zane Khan, had the potential to become an interesting character with shades of gray, but that was a lost opportunity. The rest of the cast of the show failed to deliver performances that could be called worthy of mention.
Karmma Calling is a rather laidback title given to a saga that is purely based on a revenge spree. The cliched plot, coupled with many other aspects like the lack of a good female lead was the reason behind the train wreck. Karmma Calling is a tacky remake with nothing new to offer in terms of storytelling.