So…my Friday night consisted of a straight 5+ hour binge of Amazon Prime Video‘s latest production from India: Hush Hush.
And there is a very good reason for that.
Once you start watching this series, you are glued to the screen. Creator Tanuja Chandra has crafted a seat-gripping ride with Hush Hush unlike any other Indian production I’ve seen in recent years. It’s a showcase of what talent exists within India’s independent cinema pool, and what can be done when you think outside of the stereotypical storytelling box.
A series of dramatic events sends four friends – Ishi (Juhi Chawla), Saiba (Soha Ali Khan), Zaira (Shahana Goswami), and Dolly (Kritika Kamra) – down a rabbit hole of lies, deceit and secrets that tears apart the foundation of their privileged lives. They try to keep things together as a determined and tenacious police officer named Geeta (Karishma Tanna) starts to cut away the veil hiding things they don’t want found.
The show checks all the right boxes for a crime thriller, and a whole lot more.
The talents = the show
Hush Hush is a symphony of performances. If there is one reason I could give you to watch this show, it would be to watch the cast just captivate you.
The story of the show is quite gripping and engaging, keeping you on your toes as it breadcrumbs you towards its conclusion. I think it is a solid story that weaves in the most important topics of discussion in India today, especially the role of women in society (whether high society or otherwise).
However, the story becomes a mere backdrop to the characters rather than its primary narrative vehicle. The characters actually drive the story, and establish the atmosphere and interpersonal tensions that help set the viewers on their journey.
Chawla, Khan, Goswami and Kamra have such a powerful chemistry on screen. Their conversations are fluid, natural and symphony-like. Their characters are starkly different as individuals, but despite their differences, their friendship allows them to connect in such a way that feels true and real. The talent so beautifully capture their inner emotions, their insecurities, their instincts, bringing forward performances that you as the viewer will appreciate as your mind is also preoccupied with “what will happen next”.
Outside the friendships, some of the other talents I came to appreciate were that of PO Geeta, played by Karishma Tanna, and Zaira’s assistant Meher played by Kavya Trehan. They both play the opposite of stereotypes we see in other productions. They both have so many layers that, by the end of the show, you still feel you are missing something. This keeps you engaged and curious, great qualities for characters in a thriller.
This sentiment actually extends to the rest of the supporting cast who elevate the story of this production. As much as this show does spotlight strong female characters, I like the many male leads in this production. Characters played by talent like Chaitannya Choudhry and Nitish Kapoor help give these strong female characters an opportunity to be challenged, providing room for development.
Barrier breaking storytelling
With streaming comes the freedom and ability to think outside the defined dimensions of the industry, whether they be commercial limitations or societal ones. This show takes liberties to go outside that box to break down barriers that sadly have been artificially created, which as a result locks out talented people.
The talents in this film, especially the friends played by Chawla, Khan, Goswami and Kamra, are easily a few of Indian cinema’s underappreciated talents, too often pigeonholed into buckets created for them. I think this show is a proof on just how much the industry is missing out on talent that they just typecast or ignore because of the archaic thinking. It’s a shame, but I’m glad Chandra and Amazon Prime Video saw their potential and made them shine in this production.
I also appreciate that Chandra and her team took some risks with this production, tackling issues of identity, sexuality, and the role of women in society. The story weaves in very common elements of South East Asian culture without dramatizing to the degree that other productions do. I also appreciate that the show actually showed progress for some of those topics, not leaving it as a constant round-and-round discussion which I think does the topic and the characters involved in them justice.
I also think this show is a very good example of the value women bring to film and television. I don’t label myself as anything, such as a feminist, because I think there is a very simple logic to things: gender doesn’t determine potential, especially in film and television. It was wonderful to see a creative team that is comprised of so many talented women who have contributed to what is a wonderful show.
I am often very positive in my reviews, as some have very candidly told me. The fact is, I can rip a production to shreds if I want, but can I actually make a good production if I was given all the resources and tools? No, I wouldn’t. Talented creatives and artists have invested their time and lives into making these shows for us, and seeing what value we can extract is pivotal to determining if it was worth our time. This is even more important when we are gifted shows like Hush Hush that are made by those creatives who are already shutout from storytelling by the barriers established on them.
Hush Hush adds itself to the very short list of Indian productions that, to me, showcase the very best of Indian cinema and talent. It’s a well crafted thriller that I have never really seen from the region before, with performances that go beyond what I’ve seen each of the talents deliver before. Chandra and her team have made something worth watching, and after 5 hours of spending my own time on it, I can tell you its worth it.
Hush Hush is streaming now exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
Cover Photo: Cast of Hush Hush | Photo: Amazon Prime Video