‘Paashbalish’ Review: Ishaa Saha, Suhotra Mukhopadhyay Led Zee5-Global Show Bites Off More Than It Can Chew


Whenever the general populace talks about the Bengali entertainment industry, they predictably gravitate towards the films of Satyajit Ray. Some of them talk about Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen. Then the discourse probably veers towards actors like Uttam Kumar, Aparna Sen, Madhavi Mukherjee, Mamata Shankar, Sandhya Roy, and Sharmila Tagore. And while the earlier works of Prasenjit Chatterjee, Mithun Chakraborty, and Ranjit Mallick certainly kept the theaters running, we don’t really like to talk about that. But it’ll be unfair of me to not admit that, in addition to all of the quality stuff, I’ve grown up watching a bunch of Bengali TV shows. Some of the examples are Ekhane Akash Neel, Ogo Bodhu Sundari, Bou Kotha Kao, Gaaner Opare, and Ishti Kutum. So, it was a bit weird to dip my toes back into this world with Paashbalish, and maybe a little eye-opening as well.

Korok Murmu’s Paashbalish, which has been written by Abhijit Mallick and Arkadeep Mallika Nath, tells the story of Chandu, who was found on the outskirts of a village in West Bengal called Patharkuchi all the way back in the mid-2000s while fleeing from Bangladesh. The officers at the local police station adopted him and kept him there as their errand boy. He didn’t have any qualms about it, and he was aloof in his own world, worrying about the relationship between his pet dog (Chumki) and rooster (Rakhal). He did fancy Anchol, a journalist and the daughter of the most powerful political leader in the village, Mahadev. She spends her time shadowing SDPO Adhiraj Sen and shedding light on the drug-related activities happening in her backyard. Meanwhile, her father spends every waking minute of his life oppressing the indigenous people of the place known as the Paharbonshi. This causes the rise of a rebel leader known as Swadesh, who aims to finish off Mahadev once and for all. And all these lives come to a head, thereby turning the otherwise quiet Patharkuchi into a warzone.

In case it’s not clear already, the writers of Paashbalish bite off more than they can chew. Abhijit and Arkadeep try to talk about the illicit activities that happen around the border between Bangladesh and India. They highlight the role of the police in all of this, with some of it being righteous and the rest of it being centered around extrajudicial punishment. The invasion of indigenous lands by upper-caste villains is the most interesting aspect of the show. They touch on domestic abuse. And, of course, on top of all that, there’s the toxic and tragic romantic angle. But, despite having seven episodes at their disposal, they fail to flesh out any of these topics in a memorable manner. A disproportionate amount of time is dedicated to the romance, and since its foundations are quite weak, it doesn’t feel all that interesting. The politics around the upper-caste goons and the indigenous folk are far more engaging because it’s a conflict that continues to be relevant not just in West Bengal but all over the world. However, Arkadeep and Abhijit pack it with cliches and end up saying nothing substantial through that subplot.

Paashbalish is competently made. All the frames are properly lit. The editing is fine, and if you have seen a lot of Bengali films and shows recently, you’ll know that that’s a rare occurrence. Well, things do get a little frenetic, jarring, and “massy” during the last two episodes. But until then, Korok Murmu’s work is watchable. To be honest, I think Murmu fails to swing hard enough for the fences to truly sell the absurdity of its last-minute twist. If he leaned into the Dhoom 3-ness of it all, at the very least, it would’ve been enjoyable (in a hilarious way). It’s totally possible that he wanted to but couldn’t because of budgetary reasons. In case you are wondering where the entire budget went, I suppose I have an answer: Anchol’s costume design. I swear to God, Anchol changes her clothes every other second for no good reason. Don’t get me wrong, Ishaa Saha looks good in all of those dresses. However, some of those costume changes feel unnecessary. I mean, why does she have to change clothes before deciding to elope and while eloping? She doesn’t have to, and yet for some absurd reason, she does, and that’s why it’s kind of funny.

When it comes to the cast of Paashbalish, they do their best to inject some life into these underbaked characters. You can clearly see Saurav Das struggling to portray the complexities of Swadesh and save him from coming off as a maniacal villain. Suhotra Mukhopadhyay takes on the difficult task of not making Chandu come off as a caricature, and he succeeds to a great degree. I found myself empathizing with his plight while getting angry at some of the immature decisions he makes during the tail end of the series. So, that’s a job well done. Ishaa Saha has proven several times through her previous appearances on the big and small screens that she is a superstar. But that doesn’t stop her from flaunting her amazing screen presence again. It felt nice to reunite with Rishi Kaushik after watching him in Ishti Kutum. I was willing to ignore the one-note nature of his character, but I couldn’t. Sankar Debnath is occasionally menacing as Mahadev. Most of the time, he is too bland to be taken seriously. The rest of the supporting cast is fine. The actors who have played Rakhal and Chumki deserve a special shoutout.

While watching Paashbalish, I kept thinking that this would’ve been better off as a movie because so much of the plot is dragged out to justify the act of telling this shallow story via seven episodes. But I feel that if this same story was handled by better writers, the power of the themes of casteism, classism, crime, etc., would’ve been more effective. Does that mean people should completely avoid watching the show? No, in my opinion, it’s worth a watch. I am sure fans of Ishaa Saha and Suhotra Mukhopadhay will tune in anyway, and the rest should give it a try so that they can become fans of these talented actors and listen to “Rangila” on a loop. However, I hope that, in the future, they (as well as the rest of the cast and crew) get to work on projects that don’t have to turn into a forgettable “tragic romance” to hide their lack of substance and spine.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This