If a thriller, like a whodunit, tells you who the mastermind is in its first 30 minutes, it better be packing some serious drama into the rest of the show. Bestseller does not. Starring Arjan Bajwa, Shruti Haasan, Mithun Chakraborty, Gauahar Khan, Satyajeet Dubey, and Sonalee Kulkarni, the Amazon Prime Video thriller is a loud, unintelligent show that insults its audience and does a bad job of telling what could have been an interesting story.
Loosely adapted from Ravi Subramaniam's The Bestseller She Wrote, the series tells the story of novelist Tahir Wazir (played by Arjan), who is facing writer's block, and how his chance meeting with a fan Meetu Mathur (Shruti), turns his life upside down. Desperate to fulfill his publisher’s expectations, Tahir decides to use his fan's story for his own novel. This follows attacks on Tahir and Meetu by a social media troll, prompting supercop Mithun Chakraborty to investigate the matter. Attacks escalate, people die, and viewers discover that things might be interlinked. But the problem is that you discover what is happening before half the show is done. And by then, the mystery has vanished.
The problem with Bestseller is not its story, which has its heart in the right place. It's with everything else--from the direction and the acting to the countless plot holes. A good thriller keeps the audience guessing. The Bestseller chooses to reveal its biggest twist with four episodes still to go. By the next episode, even the motivation behind the mystery is out. After that, it's just a question of delaying the inevitable. The show's narrative is like a car stalled on the highway, going nowhere and leaving the passengers annoyed.
Tahir calls himself a 'wannabe Chetan Bhagat'. But the right word would be insufferable. The character is unsympathetic, arrogant, self-centred, amoral, and, quite frankly, eminently unlikable. I get that the makers are trying to set up the second act by trying to highlight his flaws, but presenting him in such an unflattering light makes the viewers apathetic to his and Meetu's plight. The biggest mystery in the show isn't why he is being targeted. It's why his successful ad filmmaker wife (played by the stunning Gauahar Khan, no less) has chosen to put up with him all these years. Shruti Haasan tries hard to nail Meetu Mathur, the small town naive girl. But her accent and wide-eyed expression are off-putting. It never lets you believe in the character. The actor does come into her own by the second half of the show, but by then, the damage is done. Gauahar Khan is easily the most likable actor and character in the show. As for Tahir's wife, Mayanka, she is the one person who you genuinely feel sorry for. Because just like her character, she has done everything right without gaining much.Mithun Chakraborty's ACP, Lokesh Pramanik, briefly breathes life into the show. His entry into the narrative jump starts the stalled car all of a sudden, but even he can't elevate the shoddy writing. His Poirot-esque police detective is reduced to a caricature that even the National Award-winner can't pull off convincingly. His jokes fall flat, and one bizarre scene of him doing a cooking vlog for 'Tube Shube' felt so out of place that I had to check if my browser had accidentally shifted tabs.
Satyajeet Dubey does his part as Parth, the mysterious office intern who hides more than he shows. But the fact that there is a big reveal about his character in episode one itself gives him very little to play with. Sonalee Kulkarni as Cyber Cell officer Urmila Ranade has been wasted completely. The Marathi actor has delivered good performances before. But that is not the actor we see here, who also seems to have been let down by the writing.
The show lacks subtlety most of all. It rushes to drive home every point and does it more loudly than it needs to. Every thought a character has is said out loud. Every lesson is spelled out on screen. Every past instance is narrated through long-winded exposition. In a day and age where makers are increasingly trusting the audience to deduce things for themselves, Bestseller does not seem to think its viewers are that intelligent. It's like a mystery novel for pre-schoolers.I honestly have no idea what the makers of Bestseller were trying to make. Is it a thriller? Then why would you reveal the mystery in episode four out of eight. Is it a moralistic tale about greed? Then probably the point does not even land properly. Whatever the intent of Bestseller was, the shoddy execution means it is a show you lose interest in midway. There is no dearth of thrillers on the internet and this show is miles behind competition.