Paurushpur had left an unpleasant taste and drifted me away from Alt Balaji and after the disappointment of Aashram Season 2, I had stopped watching shows MX Player. However, when they announced Ekta Kapoor’s Cartel for simultaneous release on MX Player Gold and Alt Balaji, it made me sit up and take notice.
New and interestingly told plots have always intrigued me. I have written about Mirzapur Season 2, Churails and Ludo. When I saw Cartel, I couldn’t help but wonder if it will break the records of Mirzapur Season 2.
With a cast like Supriya Pathak, Jitendra Joshi, Girija Oak, Amey Wagh, Rithvik Dhanjani & Mayur More among others, it was difficult not to notice Cartel’s release.
Gripping narrative, powerful performances, an immersive background score and superlative cinematography make Cartel a binge-worthy watch that make you thirst for Season 2.DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter
Quick information about Cartel Season One:
Streaming on: Alt Balaji and MX Player Gold
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Action, Webseries
Average episode length: 40 minute
Rating: A – Violence, language, drug-use, sexual content
Caste: Over 138 amazing actors including Supriya Pathak, Rithvik Dhanjani, Tanuj Virwani, Jitendra Joshi, Gaurav Sharma, Divya Agarwal, Monica Dogra, Sushrii Mishraa, Pranati Rai Prakash, Aditi Vasudev, Girija Oak Godbole, Keval Dasani, Amey Wagh, Samir Soni, Anil George, Ashwath Bhatt, Shubhrajyoti Barat, Kannan Arunachalam, Vikram Kochhar, Vibhav Roy, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mayur More, Mrinal Dutt and Krishna Kaul
Storyline: Cartel Season One
Ekta Kapoor has conceptualised Cartel and is easily one of her best works so far. Rani Maai Angre, the chief of the Cartel gets attacked in the first episode leading to unrest among the 5 gang-lords and her family. As the story unfolds, one travels with the rivetting stories of all the 5 gang-lords, Rani Maai’s son, daughter, nieces and nephews.
The action-drama series, Cartel revolves around 5 gang-lords of Mumbai. Khan, Anna, Angre, Gajraj and a mysterious movie producer form 5 gangs who rule the low-profile underworld in the city of dreams. While all 5 gangs operate in different parts of the city, order and harmony maintained due to one Iron lady, Rani Maai who sits on a throne and looks over the smooth functioning of events.
But, what would happen if Rani Maai were removed from the situation? Will the gangs continue to coexist in peace and harmony? With the police, politicians, bureaucracy and the business community all involved, how will the functioning of the mafia groups change with just a small tweak?
Cartel revolves around a power-struggle for Aarey the only green patch left in Mumbai. With 3000 acres of lush-green land and only 18,000 families living within, they have positioned Aarey as the must-have on every builder’s list. The writer effectively weave in this subtle political-gangster-builder-bollywood nexus through the story.
Five gang-lords of Mumbai: Khan, Anna, Gajraj, Chairman and Angre rule Mumbai city. They have divided the maximum city into zones and ensure that harmony and order prevails. Things change when Rani Maai the matriarchal figure of Angre gang is ruthlessly attacked. The mystery deepens as they find one attacker murdered in a lodge.
A mysterious woman is on a killing spree even as the Angre gang is struggling to stay afloat as the question of legacy arises between Rani Maai’s son and nephews. While this is happening several parallel storylines portraying power-packed performances keep the audience entertained.
Just when the audience is about to predict the outcome, another mysterious third-party is introduced mid way and sending them in a tizzy.
Cartel Season One: Episode breakdown
S1 Episode 1: The First Family of Business
The leader of one of the top gangs in Mumbai has been attacked. The representatives of the other gangs pay a visit to show their respect. But do they really care as much they show?
S1 Episode 2: Maine Rani Maai Ko Maara
Everyone is doing their part to find Rani Maai’s assailant. Dhaval is staging a protest against a construction in Aarey Forest. Madhu bhau pays him a visit on behalf of builder Waghani.
S1 Episode 3: Eid Toh Ek Bahana hai
Maya proposes Abhay for a date. The family has transferred the unconscious Rani Maai to the Angre House. Khan brings an important piece of information for the Angre brothers.
S1 Episode 4: Shani Dosham
Rubal cheats death in multiple guises. Sumi gets an offer for a movie. Aiyappa accidentally gets himself killed in a scuffle at the brothel.
The cops have found Mangesh’s half eaten corpse. Anna visits Madhu’s brothel to investigate Aiyappa’s whereabouts. Sumi gets a call from the director of the movie she auditioned for.
S1 Episode 6: Once Upon A Time
Vaidehi finds Sumi attempting suicide and calls Arjun for help. Chairman waves off Arjun and Madhu’s reasoning. Madhu talks some sense into Abhay. Arjun gets a tip about Anna making a move to eliminate Madhu.
S1 Episode 8: Happy Anniversary Rama!
The Chairman decides to recast Sumi as the lead for his upcoming movie. There is a gruesome attack on a main character. Madhu makes a pact to leave drinking following Muthu’s presentation in court.
S1 Episode 9: Kacchi Roti, Patli Daal
The cops torture Abhay in jail. Maya promises Abhay that her uncle will get him out of prison in no time. Arjun doubts the intentions of his brothers.
S1 Episode 10: Meeting Maine Bulaya Hai
Dhaval is attacked by an unknown assailant. Romila tries to comfort Madhu in her own ways. Dorabjee advises Abhay to announce his right on the Angre throne. Arjun wants to know more about Maya.
S1 Episode 11: Rani Maai
Rani Maai is out of coma and back to her senses. She is ready to set things straight. She calls for a gang-leader’s conference. Abhay is excited to be dubbed as the new leader of the Angre gang, but will he really be the new leader?
S1 Episode 12: Angre Rotey Nahi, Rulate Hai
Abhay feels betrayed as he is not announced as the new leader of the Angre gang. Arjun rescue’s Vaidehi from Jatin’s monstrosity. Angre family accepts Yograj as the newest member of the family. Dorabjee and Maya are excited to see their plan coming together.
S1 Episode 13: Humare Dhandhe Mein Kahaniya Sirf Shuru Hoti hai
Arjun and Madhu talk to the Chairman and set Yograj free. Irfan has found the whereabouts of Rubal. Arjun arrives just in time to save Irfan from Khan’s judgment. Abhay realises his mistake and apologises to everyone but does he have some hidden motive behind suddenly getting back into the family?
S1 Episode 14: Phool And Phinal Hisaab
Dorabjee proposes Dhaval with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Gajraj disguises himself as a double agent working for Angre gang but which side is he really working for? Arjun comes to know about the truth later than he should have. Will he be able to save his family?
Honest Review: Cartel on Alt Balaji and MX Player
From time immemorial, Indian audiences have been fed with a steady diet of films involving gang-wars and high-strung family drama. However, Cartel is like nothing you have seen before.
The hallmark of plot is the unpredictability, power-packed performances and edge-of-the-seat narrative. Each episode leaves the audience thirsting for more and thus leading to a binge-watching spree.
Angre family members are the bad boys of Mumbai and despite being notorious and merciless killers, the audience falls in love with each character. You will see yourself laugh, cry and get infuriated along with the Angre family. Deep within you know that the Angre family is wrong is so many ways but you will root for their victory at all times. Such is the power of the narrative and performances.
Prashant Bhagia’s direction is a refreshing, I have fallen in love with his amazing narrative style. Prashant has sculpted each scene carefully and background score lends an immersive experience. Murder, sex, violence, drugs and abusive language Cartel has it all, but it seamlessly fits in to the narrative.
The climax is gripping and leaves the audience hungry for a second season where hope & order will be restored.
My favourite characters in Cartel:
Madhu Bhau (Jitendra Joshi):
I am a huge fan of Jitendra Joshi’s work in Marathi cinema. He is one of the most versatile actors on the silver screen today. If you are a fan of Marathi films like me, you will remember Jitendra for his performance in Duniyadari, Ventilator, Poster Boys and Mauli. However, my favourite role was Kisu in Kaakan where he plays a lover who waits for decades, holding on to a pair of bangles for his lady love.
Rani Maai’s nephew, Madhu Bhau’s character has so many shades: passionate lover, committed husband, doting father, maniac killer and loving brother & devoted nephew. There is a tinge of humour splashed with a self-awareness of one’s strength and weaknesses. I simply loved the way Jitendra has imbibed Madhu Bhau and plays it in the most believable manner. One misses him when his story goes to the back burner in a few episodes. Madhu Bhau is the life of Angre family and the soul of the web series.
Arjun Mhatre aka Major (Tanuj Virwani):
Many of you will remember Tanuj Virwani for his unforgettable role as Vayu Raghavan in Amazon Original television series Inside Edge. I wasn’t aware that his talented actor is the veteran actress, Rati Agnihotri’s son. He plays the role of Arjun Mhatre, Rani Maai’s nephew and able heir. He was a Major in the Indian army who quits everything to take care of his family.
There’s a dialogue early in the web series, where Jitendra Joshi says, “Tu kyon soch rahi hai? Sochne ka kaam Arjun ka hai.” This dialogue truly sets the tone of Arjun’s role as the master strategist and Captain Cool in the web series. Even though he isn’t the legal heir of the empire, the way he handles the business and sticks to his commitment, makes the other gang-lords bow down before him. I loved the way he stands up for the family in all situations and puts their interests before his own.
Romilla (Tannishtha Chatterjee):
Internationally, Tannishtha Chatterjee is known for her performance in Sarah Gavron’s Brick Lane (2007), the film adaptation of Monica Ali’s best-selling novel of the same name. She was nominated for the British Independent Film Awards as the best actress for Brick Lane along with actresses like Judi Dench and Anne Hathaway.
Closer home, she has made a mark through her soulful performances in Gulaab Gang, Jhalki and Jal among others.
Tannishtha plays Romila, Madhu Bhau’s mistress who hopelessly falls in love with him. I loved the way Romila charms Madhu in the initial episodes and later helps him to nail perpetrators. She supports him in his lowest times, turns on him when he scorns her only to feel guilt and regret later.
Supriya Pathak (Rani Maai):
Masoom was the first-ever film that I watched in my life. I was just five years old but I remember Supriya Pathak making way into the audience’s heart. Her mysterious character and subtle performance stole hearts. Later, I fell in love once again when she played the iconic Hansaben in JD Majethia’s Khichadi. Supriya has a knack for playing the most complicated characters with panache.
She plays Rani Maai, the Queen Bee of the Cartel and dominates the web series with her presence even when she is in a coma. When she miraculously wakes up, we are introduced to her myriad shades: fearless & fearful, cunning & innocent, trusting & mistrusting and loving & revengeful. However, my favourite shade is her fearlessness in the wake of the most extreme circumstances and the vivek buddhi to do what is right, at all times.
Chiru (Mayur More)
Mayur More is a familiar face for fans of Crime Patrol that airs Sony Entertainment Television. He is also known for his role as Vaibhav Pandey in TVF’s Kota Factory. Mayur More’s name doesn’t feature in the main cast list and it may make you wonder why he features in my list of favourite characters in Cartel.
Mayur plays gang-lord Anna’s son, Chiru in Cartel. His character hides under the shadows of his father, gang-lord Anna (Kannan Arunachalam) & elder brother, Aiyappa (Vikram Kochhar). A sharp audience member will notice Chiru’s rebellious streak in the early episodes when he non-verbally throws attitude while being frisked just before a Cartel meeting. But then later, we see him helplessly watch his father getting killed, one almost writes him off.
Absolutely no one can predict the meteoric rise of Chiru’s character towards the climax. It’s a role with hardly any dialogues but Mayur’s screen presence is a clear winner. Towards the end, one actually feels a chill running down the spine, just by looking into his eyes. I simply loved the way Chiru rises like a phoenix from the ashes.
Maya (Monica Dogra)
You may remember Monica Dogra for her performance in Teraa Suroor and Dhobi Ghat. Did you know she is a musician, and she has released five studio albums with the band Shaa’ir and func? She has hosted the four seasons of the music-Docu series The Dewarists that was nominated for a Cannes Lion. If you are like me and remember her for being one of the many pretty faces of Bollywood, your perception is about to change.
Monica plays the seductress, Maya who is a honey trap strategically placed in the life of Rani Maai’s unruly son, Abhay Angre (Rithvik Dhanjani) by the main villain, Dorabjee (Samir Soni). She enters his life and then shows her true colours like Medusa exposing a million fangs at once and turning everything into stone. I loved how Maya uses her sexuality in a non-conventional manner to plot and destroy the Angre empire. Monica’s performance in Cartel is an unforgettable and memorable one simply because of the way she has delivered her performance.
Special mention for Deepak Kumar who plays Pintya in Cartel. He has broken the traditional cliche of a sidekick and established a brilliant screen presence. One will watch out for his performances in the future. He surely leaves a mark.
For the sake of nit-picking:
Few things that stick out like sore thumbs in Cartel:
- Portrayal of the Angre family is that of a sharp and immortal family and yet the Queen Bee doesn’t see her death coming
- How does Rani Maai miraculously emerge from a coma and ready for immediate action?
- Why does Shweta (Aditi Vasudev) continue to see Dhaval even though he behaves so badly?
- What was the need to show the otherwise strong Dr. Vaidehi (Sushrii Shreya Mishra) as a damsel in distress and victim of domestic violence?
- Why is the performance of one of the most important characters, Rithvik Dhanjani so cliche? He is like a poor rip off of Anil Kapoor’s characters from Tezaab, Mashaal and Meri Jung with an overdose of Benaam Baadshah? If that was toned down, then his character portrayal would have been far more convincing. Fingers crossed for Season Two.
Rating: 5/5 stars – a must-watch this weekend for guaranteed entertainment.
Grab a glass of your favourite beverage and a tub of popcorn and ride along with the Cartel team for a thrilling binge-watch over the weekend.
Let me know your comments in the box below.
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Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. Mayura Amarkant has written this post only after being completely convinced about the web series, Cartel. However, DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter takes no responsibility for the content quality, endorsements or information put out by the makers of the webseries or their associates. DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter urges audiences to take their viewing decisions independently after doing their own due diligence.