'City of Dreams' review: A predictable, political crime thriller

The show isn’t very engaging because of the familiar tropes

city-of-dreams via IMDb

The soul of Mumbai is made of dreams. Everyone, from slum dwellers, auto-rickshaw drivers, the numerous immigrants, the city’s old residents to the ones living in the ivory towers, nurture dreams. City of Dreams, a 10-episode series on Hotstar, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, is an attempt to capture these dreams.

The show, set in the current times, doesn’t land into the lanes and by-lanes of the city immediately. Rather, it gradually takes the audience to the many stories that exist through the unfolding of an attempted assassination of a polarising politician, Ameya Rao Gaekwad (Atul Kulkarni).

City of Dreams gets into action when Gaekwad is shot while in his car by two men on a bike. The shooting is done in the 90s style, without the modern paraphernalia, leaving the who’s and who and Gaekwad’s kids – Poornima (Priya Bapat) and Ashish (Siddharth Chandekar) – trying to uncover the crime. But the simplistically committed crime isn’t easy to solve and would need the help of an expert, who is well aware of the workings of the city’s underbelly.

‘Encounter Wasim’ (Eijaz Khan in a superlative performance) is the answer. But the victim is a renowned politician and the investigation can’t be devoid of politics. Hence, Wasim Khan is on a discreet mission. Even as a lot unfolds in the high-rises and in the life of Gaekwad’s kids, it is through Wasim that the audience sees the city’s underbelly – the stories of the not-so-important, the gangs that operate unrecognised to make their dreams a reality. There’s the story of a sex-worker, Katrina (Amrita Bagchi in a promising role), who has got embroiled in the crime because of one of her clients. There is an immigrant, Gautam (Vishwas Kini), who has come to Mumbai in search of a better life, and in inexplicable ways gets involved with Katrina. There is also the story of Purshottam (Sandeep Kulkarni), a support staff of Gaekwad, who works for a measly salary of Rs 26,000.

On the other spectrum, Poornima, a dutiful daughter now comfortable in her role as a wife, is fighting to prove herself worthy of her father’s empire. She doesn’t qualify – even when her brother is drug-addict and vile – because she is a woman. It is Bapat who holds the show for the most part, even if her crisp-cotton saris are, at times, amusingly distracting.

In fact, the distractions are multi-fold and the writing (by Kukunoor and Rohit Banawalikar) is to be blamed for that. The show switches gears too fast without letting the audience build an emotional connect with the characters and seems to be inspired by many modern-day crime sagas. After episode six, when the criminal is identified, the storyline takes a drastic dip, and from then the show is un-salvageable. City of Dreams, even with an interesting political premise, isn’t very engaging because of the familiar tropes of a whodunnit that makes it all predictable.

Series: City of Dreams

Streaming on: Hotstar