When the Hindi film industry was busy making us believe that Punjab is synonymous with ‘Sarson ke khet’ and joint families living in huge ancient havelis, it was dealing with two problems: first militancy and then drugs. It’s very recently that shows like ‘Tabbar’ and films like ‘Udta Punjab’ have made the audience outside Punjab realize the reality.
Netflix’s ‘CAT’ with which Randeep Hooda debuts on OTT deals with both issues. Randeep plays CAT aka Gary aka Gurnam Singh. His past is ravaged by militancy and his future is threatened by drugs.
For the unversed, those who were roped in by the Punjab police to spy for them against militants were called CAT. Certain events force a young Gary to become one. He later quits that work and is now Gurnam, a mechanic. However, once again circumstances compel him to spy for the police, this time to bust a huge drug trafficking network run by a political leader, Madam Aulakh (Geeta Agrawal).
Created and directed by Balwinder Singh Janjua, CAT is a winner from the first episode itself. Writers Balwinder Singh Janjua, Rupinder Chahal, Anil Rodhan, and Jimmy Singh have deftly used the backdrop of militancy and drugs to create believable characters and situations which are high on earthiness. All central characters do have a backstory, sometimes it continues to unfold right up to the last episode. But it ensures that the interest of the audience does not wane. A few subplots like that Mukhtyar get too much weightage adding to the total length of this eight-hour-long series. Also, showing past events at times does derail the momentum of current events. Fortunately, it picks up pace again.
If it is Punjab then for sure you will have foggy mornings and evenings adding to the haunting effect and winters ameliorating the gloomy feel. CAT ticks all these boxes. The vibe is quintessential Punjabi and the treatment is dope.
Randeep Hooda in the titular role and Machiavellian police officer Sehtab Singh played by Suvinder Vicky are outstanding. Randeep once again tells us why he is one of the most talented actors around who is yet to get his due. His track becomes bildungsroman and Randeep effectively brings to life Gurnam’s vulnerability and strengths. Abhishant Rana who plays Randeep’s younger version is terrific in his portrayal of a young man who has lost his parents. The scene in which he kills a man in a field and blood splashes all over his face stays with you.
Dakssh Ajit Singh plays Laadi, a character small length-wise but he still does justice in his portrayal of a sportsman-turned-drug trafficker. It is these small characters that go a long way in ‘CAT’ to create a Punjab in the grip of the drug menace.
Former beauty pageant winner Hasleen Kaur in her de-glam avatar as the police officer Babita does a wonderful job. Both Gurnam and Babita are mere pawns in Sehtab Singh’s hands and the story becomes even more interesting when they realize this.
While most of the tracks intertwine and meet their logical end, ‘CAT’ ends on a cliffhanger hinting that this season might just be a precursor to another one.
‘CAT’ has the tenderness of ‘Razi’ and the complexity of ‘Wasp Network’. With a riveting background score, impressive performances, and an engaging story told in a powerful manner, this CAT for sure has nine lives. Right now, it is meowing, rather roaring with feline ferociousness on Netflix....