‘Kohrra’ (2023) Review: A Dense Yet Emotional Investigation Story Set In Rustic Punjab

We all must admit that well-made murder investigation stories will always blow your mind. If packaged and delivered properly, it is an ideal way to spend an afternoon understanding the nuances of a case and what goes on behind the scenes. Lately, there have been plenty of tales in this genre from various regions of the country, which helps the audience understand the local police and the native culture in depth. We have had Disney’s Kerala Crime Files and Shaitan, Amazon’s Suzhal: The Vortex, and Netflix’s Delhi Crime take the audience down roads that were seldom chosen by filmmakers in the past. The new Netflix original Kohrra, created by Gunjit Chopra and Diggi Sisodia and co-created by Sudip Sharma of Paatal Lok fame, brings you the story of a murder that shakes up a small town, putting the police under constant pressure ever since to catch the culprit. What kind of revelations are the family of the victim, the police, and the people of the town anticipating?

Spoilers Ahead


The Plot 

Kohrra begins with the dead body of Paul Dhillon being found amidst the luscious green farms. The police arrive at the crime scene to collect basic information about him. Paul happens to be a British national of Indian origin who was in town for his wedding. Adding to the already tense situation, Paul’s best friend, Liam Murphy, is also missing. The parents, the bride, and her family were informed of the unfortunate news. Sub-Inspectors Balbir Singh and Garundi have been assigned to solve the case. Since the matter involves two British nationals, one of whom is dead and the other is missing, the pressure on the investigative officers from their higher-ups to solve the case is tremendous. Will the team get hold of the killer and unearth many unpleasant truths about the family?


What Does Not Work?

In a good show such as Kohrra, there are only minor hiccups that do not work in favor of the narrative. There were certain subplots introduced in the show that did not have a definite conclusion, and some of them were simply forgotten until the last episode of the show. Rajji and Garundi’s relationship was not well explored. There is no reason given as to why Garundi is having a purely sexual relationship with his brother’s wife, while it is established that their affair has been going on for a decade. The writers could have given us a backstory as a context that could have justified the shades of gray in Garundi and Rajji’s characters. The conclusion of their affair was handled rather hastily.

Veera and Saakar are the prime suspects in this murder case. Their involvement in the crime, along with the relationship the two of them shared, becomes a critical part of the investigation, but this subplot is simply forgotten by the writers midway, and it suddenly springs up in the later part of the show to close the chapter. The pacing of the screenplay was right until the end of the third episode. From the fourth episode on, it slows down, and the writers and the creators of Kohrra are beating around the bush regarding a breakthrough that unnecessarily stalls the storytelling aspect. A certain mishap scene was included in the show just for dramatic effect, which does not make sense because the pacing so far was understated.


What Makes ‘Kohrra’ A Must-Watch?

The name of Sudip Sharma, who was associated with the cult favorite Paatal Lok, should be enough for the audience to start binge-watching this show because, only through six episodes, the writers and the creators were able to cover taboo topics, dysfunctional family dynamics, and the overwhelming ugly face of patriarchy and abuse. The show has a gritty start which is consistently maintained throughout the show. There is no diversion, and on the path to finding the culprit, Balbir and Garundi come across secrets that were harbored by these rich families. The writers correctly portray how NRI Indians are adamant about retaining their culture, but they forget to see that the world around them is moving forward, and they need to move ahead with the times as well.

All the characters in this show are written with utmost nuance and finesse, and almost every one of them has gray shades. Balbir and Steve Dhillon’s arcs are the most well-rounded ones in the show. Both characters have well written redemption arcs. The mothers are also written and portrayed with an interesting mix of emotions and guilt. One must admit that no matter how progressive we get, it is always the mother who feels the guilt of letting down their children. The show also works because it brings to the surface taboo topics such as gay relationships, premarital intercourse, toxic parenting, and emotionally harmful romantic relationships. It makes the audience as uncomfortable as it did to many characters in the show, and that is the point of bringing such subjects to the forefront. Kudos to the writers and the creators for not sugarcoating the above-mentioned aspects of the show. It is shows like these that pave the way for publicly talking about relationships, ill-treatment by partners, and rampant patriarchy.

The direction of the show is excellent and neat, and the entire credit goes to Randeep Jha and the writers for not deviating from the actual subject. Keeping in mind the topics they were handling, not one love-making scene felt out of place, and many of them were shot with the utmost sensitivity, it never felt like they were there just to titillate the audience. Randeep Jha does a good job of presenting such a hard-hitting story coupled with the right emotions that tug at your heartstrings.

The core of the show remains the relationship every father in it has with their respective children. Fathers in Kohrra are inflexible about breaking away from a patriarchal environment laced with abuse. They forget how harmful it is to their children. This show must be one of the most honest portrayals of how children want to break away from the cycle of generational trauma; sadly, one of them had to pay with their life. The title itself is suggestive of the fact that there is a dense fog that blinds the father figures. Their inability to see through it and comprehend what their children expect of them is what makes the show emotional. The major climatic reveal was predictable, but how it is written, executed, and performed makes the show highly impactful.

The cinematography by Saurabh Monga is exquisite because, in this show, we do not get to see the picture-perfect Yash Chopra-ish Punjab. There is a clear divide between the rich and the poor; the roads and lanes are substandard, and many unspeakable things take place inside the dense farms and the palatial farmhouses. It is raw and real. This is the kind of Punjab we saw in Tabbar, Udta Punjab, CAT, and Paatal Lok The music and the background score by Benedict Taylor Naren Chandavarkar do wonders for the narrative. It retains the overall essence of the show, and you could get hooked on some offbeat Punjabi songs.

We saved the best for last because the show could not have been that good if the actors were not perfectly cast. We get to see Rachel Shelly from Lagaan in the Hindi cinema space for the first time two decades. She is excellent as the turbulent mother of Liam. Manish Chaudhari as Paul’s father, Steve Dhillon, and Varun Badola as Manna Dhillon are perfectly cast as the two rich brothers who are dealing with the tragedy in their way.

After seeing Savinderpal Vicky in CAT, there was a concern if his performance would be similar in Kohrra as well, but the man stands out and how. His arc is brilliantly crafted and performed. Barun Sobti’s performance as Garundi could have been fleshed out with more layers, but his performance was up to the mark.


Conclusion

Many stories are coming out of Punjab that take the audience through the never-before-seen landscape of the state. What makes the show highly watchable are its emotional weight, the dark humor, the overall sense of tension throughout the six episodes, the well-crafted climax, and the end credits. This show would have been excellent even if it were set in some other state of our country. Kohrra is a must-watch.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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The core of the show remains the relationship every father in it has with their respective children. Fathers in Kohrra are inflexible about breaking away from a patriarchal environment laced with abuse.'Kohrra' (2023) Review: A Dense Yet Emotional Investigation Story Set In Rustic Punjab