Streaming on Netflix 10th December 2022
The representation of Punjab in Hindi Cinema so far has been largely about mustard fields, Bhangra dances and families living in big havelis. However there have also been exceptions like Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Udta Punjab was a searing take on the heavy drug abuse and its aftereffects in Punjab. For obvious reasons it faced issues with the censor: however the film eventually came out with flying colors. CAT directed by Balwinder Singh Janjua tackles both militancy and drugs through its protagonist. The past of CAT aka Garry aka Gurnam singh was ravaged by militancy and his future is threatened by drugs.
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For those who don’t know the word CAT it refers to people who were roped by the Punjab police to spy against the militants. Certain events force a young Gary to become a CAT. He later quits that line of work and starts leading a peaceful life as a mechanic. However things take a turn when he finds that his younger brother is doing drugs much like many young men of Punjab. This leaves him with no other option other than to become a CAT again, this time the mission is busting a huge drug trafficking run by a political leader Madam Aulakh (Geeta Agarwal).
However, this is just the surface of the story as many things are happening simultaneously. For example there is a sportsman turned drug trafficker Laadi (Dakssh Ajit Singh). Another important character is that of police officer Babita (Hasleen Kaur). In a nutshell the series is about whether Gurman is able to bust drug trafficking and more importantly whether he is being used as a pawn by his superiors.
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The best thing about CAT is how the director along with his writers use the backdrop of militancy and drugs. Both are serious issues which need nuance and the team does a mighty good job. All the central characters have got their own back stories and this helps in adding more intrigue. Some of the back stories continue to unfold even in the last episodes but as an audience you don’t complain.
Balwinder Singh also deserves credit for how he intersperses the past and the present of Gurnam. They add to the drama and as an audience you root for Gurnam. Special mention here must be made of Abhishant Rana who plays Randeep’s younger version. Abhishant is terrific in his portrayal of a young man who has lost his parents. There is a scene where Abhishant kills a man in the field and blood splashes all over his face. It is a scene that is going to stay with you for some time.
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Another track worth mentioning here is that of Survinder Vicky who plays Gurnam’s handler. The scenes featuring these two give the show some of its best moments.
Through the eight episodes the director weaves a narrative that packs in a lot. The nexus between politicians and police, along with the web of doping in sports, gun culture among other aspects could have easily become convoluted. But thankfully it doesn’t because of the tight direction and writing.
CAT gives Randeep Hooda a vast platform to display his histrionics and the actor doesn’t disappoint. With this performance he shows once again why he is one of the most talented actors around who deserves much more.
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He is supremely effective in bringing both the vulnerability and strength of Gurnam. Among the supporting actors Hasleen Kaur does a wonderful job in her de-glam avatar. Survinder Vicky as the handler is brilliant in showcasing the ambition, jealousy and lust for power.
Final word: CAT is a thrilling ride that keeps you invested in the emotional journey of its protagonist. It takes us a step ahead from Udta Punjab. Randeep Hooda is the icing on the cake.
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