'Rudra: The Edge of Darkness' Review: Ajay Devgn and Raashi Khanna shine in the Indian remake of 'Luther'

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan 

Remakes of international films have been a common thing as far as India is concerned. But, with the rise of OTT platforms, the trend of remakes even in the long-form storytelling space is quickly becoming the norm. The most recent offering is the Disney+ Hotstar series Rudra - The Edge of Darkness, which is the official remake of the BBC Studios show Luther, starring Idris Elba in the titular role of a Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) working for the Serious Crime Unit. Rudra - The Edge of Darkness stars Ajay Devgn (marks the Bollywood superstar’s OTT debut) as DCP Rudraveer "Rudra" Singh who has a specialty for nabbing criminals and killers. The series also stars Raashii Khanna, Esha Deol, Atul Kulkarni, Ashwini Kalsekar, Tarun Gahlot, Ashish Vidyarthi, and Satyadeep Misra in pivotal roles.

Now, the thing with remakes is that they tend to open up new possibilities. In order to under this let’s take the case of the Israel series Kvodo, created by Ron Ninio and Shlomo Mashiach, which ran for two seasons from 2017 – 2019. The American television network Showtime remade it as Your Honor with Bryan Cranston starring in the role of a respected New Orleans judge whose teenage son gets involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a game of deceit and one-upmanship in the face of insurmountable odds. Interestingly, SonyLIV came out with an Indian adaptation of Kvodo, also titled Your Honor, with Jimmy Sheirgill in the lead and set in the city of Ludhiana, Punjab. Series remakes allow writers to take a lot of liberties which often end up with something entirely new as we saw with the American version of House of Cards as opposed to the original British show. The Showtime version of Your Honor, for example, offered a strong social commentary that exposed white privilege and the widespread prejudice against Black Africans. And, in doing so, it succeeded in establishing a strong dialogue with the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread conversations about racism in the US.

Rudra - The Edge of Darkness, however, is a far more faithful remake, both in terms of characters as well as story arcs. Just like John Luther in the original, Rudraveer Singh is a crime specialist. A dedicated police officer, he is obsessive, possessed, and sometimes capable of demonstrating violent capabilities. However, he repeatedly ends up paying a heavy price for his obsession for fulfilling his duty, often going out of his way in the process. He is slowly being consumed by the darkness of the crimes with which he deals. His relation with his wife is on the brink and yet instead of working towards mending it he continues to give the top priority to his job. For both Rudra and John, this dedication for work is both a curse and a blessing. Just like John begins to investigate the brilliant psychopath and murderer Alice Morgan in the very first episode of Luther, Rudra comes across Aliyah Choksi whom he interrogates for the murder of his parents. As the series progresses, Rudra and Aliyah would forge a complicated relationship, becoming both each other’s nemesis as well as unlikely companions in the process, much like John and Alice.

The constantly eerie and somber tone of the show works really well in setting up the narrative right from the word go. Ajay Devgn effortlessly steps into the shoes of Rudra as if he were born to play the character. Idris Elba was mesmerizing to watch as Luther; Devgn is just as good as Rudra. Rudra is a toughie but it’s easy to see his inner pain and turmoil. Raashi Khanna is also very good as Aliyah. Some of the scenes that she shares with Devgn in the series are absolutely wonderful to watch. Take, for example, the interrogation scene wherein Rudra tries to grill Aliyah. It’s a cat and mouse game wherein Rudra plays all the tricks in the book to break her but Aliyah is completely unfazed. Devgn is not just a superstar but he is also an actor with a commanding screen presence and the relatively inexperienced Raashi Khanna seems up to the challenge, right from the very first moment. Every time the two characters come together in the series one gets a feeling that the screen will explode any moment given the tension between them. Esha Deol, Atul Kulkarni, and Ashwini Kalsekar are also solid in their respective roles.  

Given the makers’ keenness to remain faithful to Luther’s source material all those who have already seen the BBC series certainly wouldn’t be too impressed with what Rudra - The Edge of Darkness has to offer. But those who have yet to watch Luther are likely to see a lot of merits in how the Disney+ Hotstar remake creates the work of Rudra and how the different characters inhabit it and interact with one another.

A version of this review was first published at The Daily Guardian.

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