Creators and Directors: Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Mozez Singh
Writers: Ishani Banerjee, Mozez Singh
Cast: Shefali Shah, Kirti Kulhari, Seema Biswas, Vishal Jethwa, Aditya Srivastava, Ram Kapoor, Indraneil Sengupta, Riddhi Kumar
Cinematography: Sirsha Ray
Production Design: Sriram Iyengar, Sujeet Sawant
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
Human is a medical crime thriller revolving around human drug trials. The series is set in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh post Covid times. The 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy still haunts the civilians with skin and other diseases. One of the lucky survivors of that tragedy is Gauri Nath (Shefali Shah) who was a child at that time and had gone for a school picnic outside the city. Gauri is a renowned neurosurgeon and head honcho of Manthan, a multi-specialty hospital in Bhopal. She has chosen Saira Sabharwal (Kirti Kulhari), a brilliant surgeon, as the new recruit in the Cardiology department. Saira’s husband Neil (Indraneil Sengupta) is a photographer covering war-torn Afghanistan.
Gauri and her husband Pratap (Ram Kapoor) are well connected with the politicians and pharmaceutical companies. Of course, they run the biggest hospital. Ashok Vaidya (Aditya Shrivastava) is in the process of taking over the reins of Vayu Pharmaceuticals from his father (played by Mohan Agashe). His company is modifying the molecules of a banned drug intended for cardiac health. The trials are turning out to be unsuccessful and fatalities increase. There’s a catch. The trials are conducted at Aspire, a trial camp run by Gauri. Handling the proceedings of the camp is Roma Ma (Seema Biswas), Gauri’s close associate whose main job is to scout for needy, traumatized girls and train them to be nurses at these trial camps. These girls are drugged and raped but are in complete euphoric state because of the drugs injected them on daily basis. It’s human trafficking of another kind.
One of the victims of this whole scam is Mangu (Vishal Jethwa) and his family. They are the lowermost strata of the society, residing in slums. Mangu works at a morgue. In order to earn quick bucks and pay off the gambling debt, he enrolls his parents into drug trials. There are many characters such as doctors, social workers, family members and politicians. There are backstories of past trauma and the journey of Gauri and Saira. I won’t give away spoilers. All of this chaos is neatly structured by the writers and creators/directors. However, the series seems to drag a bit in episodes seven and eight.
The series is aptly named Human and shows many sides to human behavior which are rarely dealt in the Hindi cinema/series space. The characters are flawed, chasing ambitions, and to be honest achieving nothing, like all of us do, if we introspect. At the center of it all is Gauri. It’s a difficult role to pull off. There’s a thing about Shefali Shah that it’s really difficult to imagine any other actor in the roles she has played (Dil Dhadakne Do, Delhi Crime). It’s one thing giving a good performance, and another owning a character. Shah falls in the latter category as she plays Gauri Nath who stoops to new levels of going mental.
Then there’s Vishal Jethwa who played a psychopath in Mardaani 2. He plays Mangu, the boy from slums with total sincerity. Although, at a few instances, it looks like a rehearsed theatrical performance. Seema Biswas is deadly as Roma Ma. It’s sad that we don’t see this incredible actor in many meaty roles. The supporting cast is earnest in their respective roles. Such is the case with most casting done by Mukesh Chhabra.
But the performance that I loved the most was of Kirti Kulhari, an actor who does so much with subtlety. The way she portrays vulnerabilities of a character is incredible. If you haven’t watched her in Criminal Justice: Beyond Closed Doors, which is also streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, I recommend that you watch it soon. Here, Kirti plays a lesbian who is a brilliant cardiac surgeon but is not ready to come out in front of her loving husband or her lesbian lover. She shares a turbulent relationship with her parents because of her sexuality. The range of emotions Kirti has shown, from being a junior wagging her tail around Gauri to her complete meltdown towards the end of the series is remarkable.
The series is directed by two directors but it never loses its uniformity. It immensely benefits from Mozez Singh who serves as the co-creator, co-director and co-writer of the series. The spotless production design, swift cinematography, edgy background score, and sharp editing makes Human a rewarding experience. But there are also some graphic elements, mostly medical, which are not easy for the eyes. The world of Human is scary. It’s baffling how unaware we are about the people and systems we put our faith in. The last episode of this 10-episode series titled ‘Justice for all’ is a solid finale. But I wonder whether in a diseased system such as this, true justice will ever be done. Whether dead or alive, all of us become the victims of ambitions of somebody powerful and sometimes of ambitions of our own. If humans don’t have humanity, who will?