‘Breathe: Into the Shadows’ Review - Too many convenient twists and turns and bizarre coincidences end up undermining a promising premise

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Breathe: Into the Shadows, created by Mayank Sharma, is a follow-up to the 2018 series ‘Breathe’, which was Amazon Prime Video’s second Indian original series after ‘Inside Edge’. The psychological thriller series marks Abhishek Bachchan’s digital debut (now credited as Abhishek A. Bachchan). In the series, Bachchan plays a psychiatrist named Dr. Avinash Sabharwal whose 6-year old girl named Siya (Ivana Kaur) gets kidnapped by a mysterious masked man. In order to save his daughter, Dr. Sabharwal must agree to kill innocent people in cold blood.

Over the years, films and series have been known to glorify murders as well as the brutal designs that the killers employ. Breathe: Into the Shadows too depicts some horrific ways to kill people. The cruelty involved in these designs can transcend imagination. It’s heinous. It’s insane. And, yet, it achieves the desired result—to unsettle the viewer beyond measure. While one of the designs results in a quick death, another one makes death look like slow torture, something that Alfred Hitchcock specialized in. Perhaps, the latter is best demonstrated in Hitchcock’s penultimate film titled Frenzy which features a serial murderer who strangles women to death with a necktie.
Coming back to the Amazon Prime Video series, each murder follows one of the ten negative emotions associated with Ravana’s ten heads viz. anger, lust, fear, betrayal, delusion, attachment, ego, insensitivity, selfishness, and pride. The closest connection to this is of course the seven deadly sins in the Christian teachings. Interestingly, David Fincher made a blockbuster movie titled Seven on the theme back in 1995. Now, a major criticism that Breathe: Into the Shadows is facing has to do with its length. The series has 12 episodes of about 45 minutes each. But, frankly, a series mustn’t be judged for being lengthy or too long. For, the episodic structure is designed in such a manner that it can be watched in multiple sittings. While there are people who like to binge-watch, it is really not the best way to watch any show. Also, let’s not forget the numerous health hazards associated with binge-watching.
Therefore, any so-called lengthy series isn’t essentially a bad series. But, it isn’t necessarily a good one either. Speaking of Breathe: Into the Shadows, its real problem is not its long duration but its confused narrative. It could have been a superb series, even with say 16 episodes or more instead of 12, had Mayank Sharma and the team not allowed the story to slip away out of their hands halfway through the narrative. Too many convenient twists and turns and bizarre coincidences end up undermining a promising premise and setting. Also, Abhishek Bachchan’s mixed-bag performance doesn’t help much. The series, however, does benefit from the strong performances of Amit Sadh, Shruti Bapna, Hrishikesh Joshi, Kuljeet Singh, Nithya Menen, Shradha Kaul, Plabita Borthakur, and young Ivana Kaur. The series can be an engaging experience if the viewer is willing to constantly suspend his/her disbelief.
Rating: 5.5/10
A version of this review first appeared in The Sunday Guardian.

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