The digital landscape is no stranger to tales of gangsters and their murky endeavors. The latest entry in this genre is “Sultan Of Delhi,” a web series that attempts to weave a thrilling narrative against the backdrop of the nation’s capital. While the grandiose title may evoke images of royalty, it is, in fact, another tale of thugs and gangsters, following the Bollywood trend of giving such stories larger-than-life titles.
Based on Arnab Ray’s gripping book, “Sultan Of Delhi” ventures into the territory of crime, power, and ambition in Delhi. As a contrast to the often-seen settings in seedy Mumbai ghettos or North Indian hinterlands, this series takes a fresh approach, offering a glimpse of Delhi’s wide roads and stately mansions where power and betrayal reign.
The visuals within the series may occasionally border on the tacky side, but it more than makes up for it with vintage cars and retro phones that add a touch of nostalgia.
Delhi: The Setting
“Season One” – and the anticipation of a “Season Two” – takes viewers on a journey from the time of Partition through to the mid-1960s. The story revolves around Arjun Bhatia, played by Ricky Patel in his early years and later by Tahir Raj Bhasin, who survives the harrowing massacre of his family in Lahore and eventually makes his way to Delhi with his father, portrayed by Bijay Anand.
The narrative swiftly navigates through the refugee camp phase, with Arjun emerging as a leader by confronting a grain hoarder. The story introduces the female protagonist who later becomes his wife, portrayed by Harleen Sethi. As the plot thickens, Arjun gains a male sidekick who joins his adventurous journey.
A World of Deviousness and Glamour
While Arjun learns the law of the jungle, a character named Rajinder Pratap Singh, also known as RP, embodies the worst aspects of aristocracy. He indulges in an affair with his father’s live-in mistress, Shankari Devi, played by Anupriya Goenka. Shankari Devi’s character is worth a show of its own, depicting the strength and cunning of women in a more male-dominated era. Her character adds elements of deviousness, sex appeal, and flamboyant glamour with her bold and flamboyant attire.
The backdrop of the 1950s and 1960s provides a different flavor to this gangster drama compared to typical Bollywood potboilers of the period. The series attempts to maintain authenticity, even if it occasionally ventures into the realm of cinematic liberty.
Mysteries and Adventures
The story follows the journey of RP, who received an education in London, and Arjun, who honed his mechanical skills. Together with the entry of Nilendu, aka Bangali, portrayed by Anjum Sharma, the plot thickens. Arjun and Bangali form an inseparable bond, embarking on daring adventures.
The pair’s escapades lead them to Jagan Seth, portrayed by Vinay Pathak, an individual involved in various illicit activities. In post-independence Delhi, the city is under the influence of fixers, black marketers, and well-connected criminals. The series attempts to portray the intricate web of Delhi’s mafia, where the line between friend and foe is ever-blurred.
From Delhi to Bombay and Calcutta
The storyline takes unexpected turns, from Arjun wooing the affluent Sanjana, played by Mehreen Pirzada, to embarking on a journey to Bombay in pursuit of stolen diamonds. The narrative even takes a detour to Calcutta, introducing a Communist film director with a penchant for bank robberies. These twists and turns offer a mix of drama and humor that keeps the audience engaged.
The ambition of Jagan, who aspires to become a politician, highlights the intersection of crime and politics in post-independence India.
A Mixed Bag of Characters
“Sultan Of Delhi” introduces a host of characters, including a mysterious white man named Daniel. The series unfolds bizarre scenes, like Arjun’s unconventional method of impressing a rival gangster. These elements add layers to the narrative, ensuring that the audience remains intrigued.
However, the series occasionally leaves characters unexplained, as they seem to appear out of thin air. The show balances between gritty gangster drama and cinematic liberty, sometimes pushing the boundaries of realism.
Rising Tensions and Loose Ends
The series features its fair share of shootouts and moments of passion, yet it refrains from resorting to profanity in its dialogues. Nevertheless, it struggles to build a substantial level of tension, leaving the viewer ambivalent about the protagonist’s character – is Arjun’s gumption admirable or shocking?
While Arjun’s character seems to maintain a stoic demeanor even in the most intense scenes, the character of RP is eerily charismatic and stylish, effortlessly capturing the audience’s attention.
As “Sultan Of Delhi” streams on Disney+Hotstar, viewers are left wondering about the unfolding of the story in subsequent seasons. The series does show potential, and it will be interesting to see how it ties up the loose threads left hanging.
“Sultan Of Delhi” delivers a concoction of crime, glamour, and adventure in a vintage setting, ensuring that the audience remains engaged through the ups and downs of its narrative.