Betaal (2020)

Betaal  | TV Series (2020– ) 2760min | Action, Horror, Thriller | TV Series (2020– ) Summary: A remote village becomes the arena of a breathless battle when an undead East India Company officer and his battalion of zombie redcoats attack a squad of modern-day soldiers.
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

This is not a movie, but a Netflix Original TV series. Four episodes at about 45 minutes per episode. I love this kind of format. Longer cumulatively then just one movie, no need to artificially try to engineer it into a single free standing movie and a hasty sequel, but at the same time wholly manageable within a single sitting if so desired. I guess in a crude analogy this format is a nice sit down meal with several courses: neither a takeaway or an ‘all you can eat’ buffet stretching out before you.

We loved this so much we did indeed consume it all in an extended session in one day. It’s very fresh. Looking at the balance of the user reviews on IMDb, it seems so fresh that some find it too much so.

Let’s talk about the over arcing plot first, briefly.

Amid political tensions and a background soaked in corruption and authoritarian brutality, some local villagers in India are making a stand. They are very clear that bad things will happen when the sealed up tunnel is reopened.

“Seriously, just no.”

And of course, their silly tribal superstitions which have no place in a modern and civilised world are absolutely founded in truth and reality. Because patiently wanting inside the tunnel are an East India Company officer and the scum of all the East India troops – 90th Taunton Volunteers -under his eternal, cursed command.

”They were quite right, you know.”

These are less zombies and more cursed demons, and here I’m going to move away from discussing the plot and talk about production.

It’s pretty cheap, if you look hard enough. Episode one clears most of the extras away, and at this point the remaining cast is quite a tight knot of named characters. The sets are decent but not well connected in reality, there’s not really a clear narrative of room layout. More some loosely connected set pieces. Pragmatically I would be surprised if they had more than, say, a dozen of the full body costumes for the ‘Zombie’ troops, apart from the pretty iconic drummer boy. The rest of the time there are clever tricks to show them without really showing them: silhouettes, out of focus background movement, simple but effective tricks like a field of glowing eyes in the dark, a crowd of people in the right kind of uniform in a field in the rain.

Yet at the one and the same time, what they have got is used well, and clearly. There are some really beautiful and effective shots, not once or twice, but steadily throughout. The sparing and careful CGI effects look seamless.

The plot is simple, but not hard to follow. I don’t think the writers set out to reinvent the zombie genre, just to do something a bit
different, and they certainly did that.

It’s not outstanding in every area it could be, but I really enjoyed it. On a scale of one to ten, I’d rate this a solid ‘yes please’.

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