When it comes to making a thriller for screen, the cardinal rule is to have one additional twist after the one that has already been exposed. Now that’s what emerges as a true pay off because just when you believe that you have figured it all, the grand finale with the cat finally out of the bag is what gets you all charged up.
Well, this is what Code M turns out to be. Even though you get do a gist of what’s your coming your way a little after the middle of the 8 episode series, the one that comes right at the end is what makes you appreciate this effort all the more.
The base is set right at the beginning when a couple of army officers [Aalekh Kapoor and Keshav Sadhna] kill a couple of terrorists on the Rajasthan border with Pakistan. In the crossfire, their fellow army officer is killed as well. When the mother [Seema Biswas] of the alleged terrorists claims that her sons were innocent, the army colonel [Rajat Kapoor] summons an army lawyer [Jennifer Winget] to help investigate the proceedings. In this mission, she is joined by another lawyer [Tanuj Virwani] and together they have a task in hand to solve the mystery.
The good part about this web series on ALT Balaji and Zee 5 is that it is quick and snappy with no tangents thrown on. With each of the episodes lasting between 25-30 minutes, the 8 part series can be wrapped up in a single go. That said, it does take a couple of episodes to build the base for the investigation. As you gain an idea around how the army base looks like, how do the officers out there function, the various meetings in the army mess as well as the interrogation rooms, as well as the army protocols, the real story starts setting in.
There is a Rashomon like narrative that unfolds where you get to hear ‘our side’, ‘their side’ and ‘the true story’, hence staying true to the core of Code M. As a peripheral character claims right at the beginning of the series, the truth is like an onion, the more you peel, the more would arise from beneath the surface. This is what actually happens as the investigation unfolds. By the time you are through with the fourth episode, you are hooked on to the proceedings and then from there till the eighth episode there is no looking back whatsoever.
While Jennifer’s character is shown to be quite headstrong, at least at a couple of points she comes as rather unreasonable when it comes to matters of heart, be it with her ex [Tanuj] or her current fiancée. Of course it is that stubborn side of her which helps her solve the case eventually. Still, a little more reasonable persona could have made her a bit more believable. It is credit to her performance that she makes the character comes across exactly as it was written. She does well.
On the other hand Tanuj Virwani is happy to be playing a part where he has to help out Jennifer with her mission. The kind of exuberant personality that he is (as evidenced in Inside Edge as well as Poison), there is a definite spark that comes on the screen whenever he appears. Realistic in his performance and natural to the core, the style factor comes quite naturally to him and he makes the best use of it, even as Jennifer gets majority of meaty scenes by the virtue of being the central protagonist. However, he makes the best use of screen time available.
As for Rajat Kapoor, he is quite good yet again. In good form and boasting of a pivotal part in the series, he brings certain weight to the proceedings whenever he appears on screen. The other two actors, Aalekh and Keshav, seem like a part of the crowd to begin with. However, as their character starts taking shape over a period of time, you do begin to connect with them more as an audience.
From the technical standpoint, it is apparent that effort has been put into making the army base look authentic. The results are there to be seen as Samar Khan, who has to his credit the feature film Shaurya (which again had army as the background) is involved in the production. Though the editing team could have gone easy with the transition interspersions between scenes, the background score (especially at the thrilling moments) does keep the narrative engaging. Outdoor shoot is limited but the encounter sequence has been shot well.
To sum it up all, as a viewer it is always good to pat your back when you get a thought ‘I have figured it all out’. However, the writers of the show can well take a compliment that they save the best for the end by creating something that a viewer couldn’t really ‘figure it all out’ till the beans are spilled. Watch it, and have your popcorn handy!