May requires you to watch intently, control the eyebrow that threatens to periodically rise, and suppress the “what the…” feeling that dances across your lips so often.
The Netflix detective series is a catch-all thriller served up with elegant dishes. The transformation from a wise family pillar to a scepter of vengeance has crackling tension, excellent production values, and strong performances. Before the show crumbles and then crumbles under the weight of his efforts, he drags himself on the fumes of severe maternal grief.
Sheel (Sakshi Tanwar) is a volunteer nurse at a nursing home in Lucknow, wife of Yash (Vivek Mushran) and mother of Supriya (Wamiqa Gabbi). Supriya is brave and talented but also mute – just one of many characters with vulnerabilities waiting to be exploited by a group of heartless wretches.
Sheel’s investigation into Supriya’s mysterious death brings her into contact with businessman Jawahar (Prashant Narayanan), Jawahar’s lover Neelam (Raima Sen), and Jawahar’s group of enforcers. Two of the enforcers, Prashant (Anant Vidhaat) and Shankar (Vaibhav Raj Gupta), find out what it means to encounter an injured tigress trying to protect her cubs. Police officer Farooque (Ankur Ratan), who takes a special interest in Supriya’s case, also wanders the urban jungle.
Sheel’s quest leads her to a scam involving staggering sums of money and a human messaging network. Her greatest discoveries are closer to home: she learns previously unknown facts about Supriya and begins to reevaluate her relationship with Yash’s overbearing older brother (Ikhlaque Khan).
The most significant relationship is between Sheel and Prashant – both a script device for piecing together disparate narrative strands as well as the best example of the series’ focus on the bottomless depths of maternal instinct.
May was created by Atul Mongia and co-directed by him and Anshai Lal. Mongia also wrote the first season, consisting of six episodes, starring Amita Vyas and Tamal Sen.
Sheel’s mission is initially as much in the realm of the possible as possible in a crime drama of this type. The newly created Avenging Angel soon begins to push the boundaries of credibility, inevitably appearing at the right time and wandering oddly depopulated Lucknow at odd hours.
Sakshi Tanwar, cast against type, admirably portrays his character to the best of his abilities. Although Sheel’s seemingly catatonic response to Supriya’s disappearance makes his actions of the last few days difficult to digest, Tanwar brings gentleness and empathy to an increasingly violent and crude saga of vigilante justice.
A host of actors parade their wares, some of them clinging to the stereotype – Raima Sen’s tobacco moll, Prashant Narayanan’s murderous villain, Akash Khurana’s shadowy politician. The most notable characters are those who evolve with Sheel. Anant Vidhaat is excellent as Prashant, who grows to respect Sheel’s bravado. Vaibhav Raj Gupta is also impressive as Prashant’s loyal friend.
Sheel’s quest is virtuous but also mostly solitary. She is sometimes aided by her coworker at the retirement home (Seema Pahwa), who, like others in the series, has a fragile past that lends itself to illegal behavior.
The sordid enterprise is bathed in warm tones and inky shadows by cinematographer Ravi Kiran Ayyagari. Still beautiful, with deftly paced scenes and effective use of creepy close-ups, May goes from event to event in search of the emotional breakthrough needed to make the whole job work.
No matter how often you rub the lamp, the genie never appears, complains Prashant. While May works hard to justify Sheel’s actions, the show is far too much about acts of conjuring. One of the many twists is so far-fetched that it backfires as intended.
The eyebrow rises directly into the hairline. Unfortunately, this is not the only such occasion.
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