From the opening scene itself, we understand what kind of show Taaza Khabar is going to be. The camera observes a car from the top and then follows a character in an unbroken shot as he enters a public toilet to relieve himself. Someone says, "Is this your father's latrine?" and the camera cuts to the eyes of this character, which, by the way, are bathed in soft, yellow lights. The character turns around, walks in slow motion, and we watch him from a low angle as he replies, "It's mine." The background score rises as if giving us the cue to whistle at this dialogue-baazi, this character.
He is none other than Vasya (Bhuvan Bam). As soon as he throws the money on the table, the scenario changes. Someone wakes Vasya up, and we think the scene we just saw was a dream sequence. Vasya is a sanitation worker. His job requires him to sit outside a public toilet. His mother (Atisha Naik) is a maid who now and then gets beaten by his alcoholic father. Madhu (Shriya Pilgaonkar), his girlfriend, is a prostitute who unwillingly sleeps with a politician named Shetty (J. D. Chakravarthy). In other words, Vasya's personal life is also full of...shit.
One day, when Vasya helps an old woman in the lavatory, he is given a boon (or vardaan). On his smartphone, he begins to receive news in advance, i.e., he gets to read the future. The notification tone rings and Vasya finds out if it will rain or if a bridge will collapse. This man has seen enough shit. Now he will flush it all.
Taaza Khabar is a series that revels in excess. Apart from the extravagance of the opening scene, there are other moments that call attention to themselves. When the old woman gives vardaan to Vasya, we get a closeup of her face, underlining the other-worldly nature of her line (she soon disappears into thin air). A scene set at a hospital is colored blue, making Vasya stick out from the rest of the people as he is wearing a red-colored shirt (the show visually accentuates that he is "different" from the crowd). These visual strategies are admirable, but they also scream at a high pitch, as if forcing you to notice and appreciate them.
The background score gives cues, telling us things like which character to hate and when to cry. That's fine. Because Taaza Khabar does not intend to be "subtle" or "quiet." Bhuvan Bam's followers might be aware of the fact that this Youtuber always wanted to act in Bollywood films. With Taaza Khabar, Bhuvan Bam has sort of fulfilled his wish by working in a series that is equivalent to the Bollywood "masala movies." The hero is mythologized (or shall we say he mythologizes himself by developing a god complex) and given an influential villain as a nemesis (both love the same woman). There is also mother sentiment, which is another essential ingredient of a masala narrative. Other boxes that are checked are having a fight in a washroom and drenching the hero in the rain.
Taaza Khabar's attempt at colorful dialogue-baazi finds Vasya saying this line at one point, "I am Vasant Gowde. The king of Mumbai! Wadala's wolf. Thane's tiger. Chembur's cheetah." It sounds amusing. But at the same time, it feels too calculated and designed like those aforementioned visual approaches. Lines like these should seem to be naturally coming out of the hero. We should feel the words belong to him. But here, the lines seem to be rehearsed. They lack spontaneity.
The series often runs on autopilot. It seems to forget about minor details. For instance, why did Vasya's friend take time (and was hesitant) to believe in the vardaan? He was there with Vasya when the bridge collapsed, and Vasya told him about the incident. Or take the scene where Vasya buys a car. How does he know how to drive it? Given his financial condition, he might have never set foot on a four-wheeler. Yet, he effortlessly handles his car in the Mumbai traffic. Since each episode of Taaza Khabar runs for 20–30 minutes, it uses broad strokes for detailing. Hence, out of nowhere, two guys are thrown in the vicinity of Vasya so that he can get into gambling.
Vasya's arrogance, too, is made to stem from his success. With wealth comes a lot of alcohol because how else can you show that a character is growing an amoral attitude? Yes, this is the kind of series where the "innocent" Vasya comes clean-shaven. And the line, "Mereko ek vardaan mila hai," becomes so repetitive that it could have very well been the subtitle of this series. Taaza Khabar: Mereko Ek Vardaan Mila Hai.
Despite many, many hiccups, Taaza Khabar never becomes truly unwatchable. Its main strength lies in the wonderful performances that communicate the text with fervor. Bhuvan Bam brings out the sincerity and madness present in his character. I liked watching him during the portions where his character became supercilious. Bam does not exaggerate his gestures to attract your attention. Chakravarthy is supremely menacing as Shetty, and Pilgaonkar steals the spotlight from everyone. She says so much through simple actions, like the way she looks at Vasya when he remarks that not everyone is blessed.
Vasya's mother tells him that the difference between magic and a miracle is that the latter needs belief and the former requires deception. Talking of deception, when we return to that opening scene later, we find that it was not a "high moment" but a "low moment." We were deceived at the beginning. On top of that, if that opening worked for you, if you whistled and were roused by Bhuvan's presence, if the moment felt magical, Taaza Khabar would surely appeal to your senses. Meanwhile, others will dismiss it as unoriginal. They won't find anything taaza here.
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