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    Hush Hush review: A good-looking, sprawling whodunnit that never reaches its potential

    Hush Hush review: A good-looking, sprawling whodunnit that never reaches its potential

    Hush Hush review: A good-looking, sprawling whodunnit that never reaches its potential
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    By Sneha Bengani   IST (Published)

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    Hush Hush could have been as solid as HBO’s Big Little Lies, also a show about a quartet of female friends stuck with a crime that unravels all they had carefully hidden inside closed doors, shoved under the carpets, or buried in graves. But despite a stellar cast and an impressive world-building, Hush Hush falls short.

    Amazon Prime Video’s latest show Hush Hush opens in Baranagar, Kolkata, in 1978. Two young girls are being chased by a man for stealing his wallet. In trying to flee, one of them suffers a nasty cut on her arm; she is bleeding. Later at night, they are snuggled inside a mosquito net in an impoverished orphanage. The elder one of the two—Ishi—tells the other of the first time she made a go at street crime. The man she stole from ran after her, stumbled upon a stone, and crashed. His skull broke open. The two girls giggle at the story.
    Ishi then reads to her friend from a book and ends up making her a promise—that she will take her away from all the poverty and grime, to a place where there will be only magic, and that she will always be there for her.
    Cut to 41 years later. It’s 2019. Ishi (Juhi Chawla) is now a high-profile PR consultant, the kind whose “movements represent the flow of power in India”, the kind whose dealings are so murky that she keeps a revolver handy in her car’s dashboard, the kind that is a staple on television news, the kind everyone loves to gossip about. She lives in Gurugram’s La Opulenza, a gated community so plush its residents need golf carts to visit people in other towers.
    Ishi is friends with three other La Opulenza women—former journalist Saiba (Soha Ali Khan), celebrated designer of bridal haute couture Zaira Sheikh (Shahana Goswami), and Dolly, a young woman disillusioned with her married life. They wear statement heirlooms, order Japanese meals at swanky restaurants, have organic farms, fly in chartered planes, and have hydration apps on their phones that remind them to drink water. All is well until the anniversary soiree of Dolly’s parents-in-law during which they unwittingly land themselves in a situation too big for any one of them to make sense or get out of.
    A can of worms opens, things spiral out of control, and their lives change forever. Directed by Tanuja Chandra, Kopal Naithani, and Ashish Pandey, Hush Hush could have been as solid as HBO’s Big Little Lies, also a show about a quartet of female friends stuck with a crime that unravels all they had carefully hidden inside closed doors, shoved under the carpets, or buried in graves. But despite a stellar cast and impressive world-building, Hush Hush falls short. It starts off strong but never quite reaches its potential.
    The story by Shikhaa Sharma and Ashish Mehta is too meandering, the constant cross-cutting between the past (five years ago) and the present is too disorienting. We are never told how the four women, who seemingly have nothing in common except that they all live in La Opulenza, came to be such good friends. The show builds up to several crescendos through its seven episodes but they never arrive. It jumps genres and details, adds minor quirks, and checks too many boxes, but none of it adds up to anything.
    For instance, Hush Hush tries too hard to be diverse. It has room for it all—a physically-challenged character, lesbians, a mental illness, Muslims. There is no problem with it, only that all of it amounts to nothing. It has strange men on the loose—one with long hair does a headstand in the middle of nowhere and then in another scene shaves off his mane, another keeps following one of our lead women and then is taken care of. It just doesn’t make sense. In fact, the scenes between Zaira and her assistant, or Dolly and her husband, or the case’s investigating officer Geeta Tehlan (Karishma Tanna) and her senior officer change tones so quickly, they leave you befuddled. You don’t know what to make of them. However, despite all the inconsistencies, it’s the premise on which the show stands, that gives it away. It’s so shaky that it’s incredulous.
    Though Hush Hush revolves around her, it doesn’t give Juhi Chawla much to do. She never comes across as questionable or unethical as the show wants you to believe; she is too beautiful, too regal. But she does ace the scenes in which she needs to be vulnerable. Soha Ali Khan and Kritika Kamra hold the fort efficiently but it pained me to see an actor of Shahana Goswami’s caliber be handed out a role as underwritten as Zaira’s. Her character has too many loose ends without any substantial center. Karishma Tanna as the upright young cop too invested in this mess of the rich to let go is earnest despite her faltering Haryanvi accent. Ayesha Jhulka, as the caretaker of an orphanage for girls, makes an entry much later in the fourth episode. After her arrival, the dots begin to form a picture. But it is neither cohesive nor engaging.
    The show ends teasing a second season, in which the women will finally face and fight everything that they are currently running away from. They will take on the big bad world hardly aware that all roads lead home.
    Hush Hush is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
    Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here.
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