Netflix Original 'Bard of Blood' Review: Emraan Hashmi shines in a topnotch spy thriller series

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Emraan Hashmi as Kabir Anand aka Adonis in Bard of Blood

"A spy is only true to his mission," a man tells a Pakistani intelligence agent towards the latter half of the Netflix series Bard of Blood, based on a novel of the same name by Bilal Siddiqi, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta. The series, however, succeeds in showing us the human side of spies. It exposes their follies, weaknesses, and impulses. While they are usually depicted as cold-blooded assassins, they are truly capable of loving someone and worthy of being loved just like any other human being. That I think is the greatest strength of Bard of Blood. At the same time it reminds us that the perils these spies face day in and day out are all real. 

The biggest achievements and sacrifices made by spies generally go unnoticed by the people of the country. For, any public acknowledgement of their exploits can be cited as an act of war by the enemy country. Hence they remain unsung heroes throughout their lives. Watching Bard of Blood one not only gets an idea about the extent of risks these spies take and sacrifices they make in order to protect their country from but one also gets a fair estimation of the diabolical nature of the network of terrorists that works like a clockwork day in and day out in order to unleash hell on innocent people. Even a slight weakness or delay in a country's intelligence can result in serious disasters. A world class series like Bard of Blood is a reflection of the kind of extensive research that director Ribhu and co-writers Bilal and Mayank Tewari put in at the pre-production. Of course, Bilal's novel is the source but adaptation is a completely different ball game. The trio worked relentlessly to get it right and it shows in the precise and effective manner the show has been shot. Of course, the credit should also go to the actors as well as the cinematographer, Chirantan Das, for making it so strong in pure cinematic terms. Every frame looks so good to the eyes and one gets a good sense of what it's like to be out there with the characters. 

Bard of Blood, Interrogation Scene
Emraan Hashmi as Kabir Anand in Bard of Blood

Now, it is well documented how Taliban has slowly but surely expanded themselves to parts of Pakistan, in particular Balochistan. Within the confines of fiction, Bard of Blood serves as an eye-opener of how deep-seated the extent of Taliban is even today in spite of the general perception that they have been all but wiped out. Even as the Taliban influence continues to grow, Pakistan continues to deny it in order to fulfill its ulterior motives. As a result the people of Balochistan, who are also fighting for their freedom, have to suffer the worst form of oppression. But it doesn't end there. A peace loving neighboring country like India too has to deal with the terrorism sponsored by the unholy nexus of Taliban and Pakistani intelligence hell-bent on disrupting peace in the Kashmir Valley as well as other parts of the country. That's precisely why the role of counter-espionage becomes so important. And Bard of Blood does great justice to it. 
Viineet Kumar as Veer and Sobhita Dhulipala as Isha in Bard of Blood
Viineet Kumar as Veer and Sobhita Dhulipala as Isha in Bard of Blood 

Acting is one of the strongest aspects of Bard of Blood. Emraan Hashmi leads from the front. He delivers an emphatic performance as the Shakespeare-loving Indian spy, Kabir Anand aka Adonis. Hashmi is going through an important transition in career and Bard of Blood couldn't have come at a better time for him. The part of Kabir Anand allows him to channelize his inner emotions as a performer in a most effective manner. Here is a complex character that can kill faster than a blink of an eyebrow and yet is so deeply humane that he considers protecting his best friend's family as the most important thing in his life. Also his guilt for having failed the love of his life is very real. All these facets make Kabir a very challenging character to essay but Hashmi is up to the challenge. He gets great support from the rest of the cast. Viineet Kumar is solid as ever in both dramatic as well as action scenes. Sobhita Dhulipala also impresses in a kick-ass avatar. 
A shootout scene from Bard of Blood, Emraan Hashmi, Viineet Kumar Singh, Sobhita Dhulipala
A Still from Bard of Blood

Kirti Kulhari as Jannat is easily one of the best examples of casting seen in recent times. She is a revelation in the role of a steadfast Baloch girl who knows what it takes to live in a world ruled by men. The chemistry between Hashmi and Kulhari is a major highlight of Bard of Blood. Another wonderful performance comes for Jaideep Ahalawat who is menacing to watch in the role of a Pakistani intelligence officer. The role is exact opposite of his turn in Raazi but Ahalawat yet again nails it. Sohum Shah too has a short but important role which serves as a worthy follow up to his remarkable turn in Tumbbad. 
Asheish Nijhawan as Aftab Khalid and Danish Husain as Taliban Chief Mullah Khalid in Bard of Blood
Asheish Nijhawan as Aftab Khalid (left) and Danish Husain as Mullah Khalid in Bard of Blood
Also, Rajit Kapur and Shishir Sharma are both solid in the roles of senior Indian bureaucrats. Here, noted dastango and actor Danish Husain deserves a special mention for his chilling portrayal of the Supreme leader of Taliban, Mullah Khalid. It adds great authenticity to the story. Equally brilliant is Asheish Nijhawan in the role of Mullah's son and second in command, Aftab KhalidIt's commendable how Pashto is extensively used in the dialogues every time the Talibanis converse with one another. The actors, including Viineet Kumar, took Pashto lessons from a language coach named Shabir Arsh in order to master the language and the accent.
Kirti Kulhari as Jannat in Bard of Blood
Kirti Kulhari as Jannat in Bard of Blood

Overall, Bard of Blood is a topnotch espionage thriller series based on extensively researched subject matter that bears immediate relevance to the times we live in. In terms of production quality it is right up there with the best in the world. When it comes to handing stories with multiple storylines, Ribhu Dasgupta has been a pioneer of sorts. Ribhu's 2014 series Yudh starring Amitabh Bachchan brilliantly tackled multiple storylines in the pre-web age. The series is now widely considered to be well ahead of its time. Had it come out today it would certainly have got a far better response that it managed half a decade back. We get a demonstration of Ribhu’s directorial mastery in Bard of Blood. He never lets us lose the story at any point. It is well paced and neatly packaged. The credit of course also goes to the editing team. Also, the flashback scenes have a nostalgic quality which makes them even more convincing. The first season of Bard of Blood completely exhausts the storyline of the Bilal’s book but since it ends with a cliffhanger the second season is more or less a certainty. If you like spy thrillers then Bard of Blood is something that you can’t afford to miss.

The Netflix Indian series original series Bard of Blood, produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, is set to premiere on 27 September, 2019.

Rating: 8/10

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