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The first thing I did after watching the first episode of ‘Rangbaaz’, the new show on Zee5, was google ‘Tumhe Chhede Hawa Chanchal’. Though I am a 90s kid and a huge fan of the music from that era, this is a song I had missed out on listening to. I figured out this was a song from the 1993 film ‘Salaami’, composed by Nadeem-Shravan. I played the song on a loop for a while. That one thing (out of the several others) I liked about ‘Rangbaaz’ is the fact that it evoked a sense of nostalgia in me. For me, one of the big reasons why the show, based on the life of Shiv Prasad Shukla, a notorious gangster from Uttar Pradesh, gets its setting just right. Unlike a lot of shows and films one has seen in the recent past, you actually feel that you have been transported to the 90s. The milieu, the décor, the sets, the audio cassettes…everything looks and feels authentic.

Shiv Prasad Shukla (Saqib Saleem) lives in Gorakhpur, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, with his father, a retired school teacher, mother who is a housewife and a college going sister. Shiv Prasad is in love with a young woman in his college and dreams of a life with her. He does not have any other serious ambition in life and spends most of his time roaming around aimlessly with his friends. He is going through the regular beats of a mundane life until that one day when he picks up a gun to avenge wrongdoing done to his sister and life changes for him forever.

Another show based on crime and lawlessness in North India, why? If that is the first thought which came to your mind when you heard about the show, you must know that it has enough factors to differentiate it from the several other shows and films like the ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’ series and ‘Mirzapur’ which have been set in a similar space. The show is based on the life and times of Shukla, a much dreaded gangster from Uttar Pradesh who wreaked havoc in the state in the 90s. If you do some research on him, you will realise that writer Siddharth Mishra has borrowed only some key incidents from the man’s life and have created a fairly original character here. The show, sprawled across nine episodes, should be lauded for an authentic portrayal of the decade it is set in. Director Bhav Dhulia has an eye for detail and along with his team, he takes a lot of paint to recreate the 90s as we remember it. For a show of this nature, it was important and the team leaves no stone unturned to make sure that the nuances come across well.

The transition of Shiv from a young college-going boy to being a dreaded gangster at the age of twenty-five come across as seamless. The events leading to his entry in the crime world have been depicted quite nicely. There are a few things one finds difficult to comprehend; maybe because of the way they have been shot. For instance, in the third episode, the ease with which Shiv kills everybody in broad daylight is not very convincing. One gets to see similar sequences in a couple of other episodes as well. One gets to see some interesting moments between Shiv and Babita (Aahana Kumra), both when they are talking to each other on the phone and when the flashback portions show them meeting each other at a hotel. But, there is so much that could have been explored in their relationship. There was potential for the track to be developed further.

Saqib Saleem, who has delivered good performances consistently  ever since he made his debut with ‘Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge’ leaves a strong mark with this role as well. If you take films like ‘Race 3’ and ‘Dobaara’ out of his filmography, you will realise he has mostly played the boy-next-door in films. He might be an uncovetional choice to play this role but that works wonders for the show. He brings a certain freshness to the character while doing complete justice to it. Aahana Kumra does not have a very elaborate character arc and her screen time, too, is not very high. Yet, she does a very good job as Babita. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Babuji will remind you of the character he played in ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur 2’ and one does not mind that at all. He is brilliant. Ravi Kishan is dependable as always. Ranveer Shorey leaves a solid impression as Inspector Siddharth Pandey.

‘Rangbaaz’, which is sprawled across nine episodes, makes for a highly engaging watch. What is interesting that apart from delivering the thrills, it also makes you nostalgic about the 90s. The show is distinctively different from anything that has made in this genre or space so far. So, go ahead and get yourself a good dose of thrill and nostalgia.