Human series review: A series as dark and ambitious as its protagonist which has more on its plate than it can chew
Series - Human
Platform - Disney+ Hotstar
Genre - Medical thriller
Language - Hindi
Director - Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Mozez Singh
Cast - Shefali Shah, Kirti Kulhari, Ram Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Aditya Srivastav, Indraneil Sengupta, Vishal Jethwa
Plot Summary - Human sheds light on the dark side of the medical world where unethical medical trials on the underprivileged are making big companies richer.
The middle of the pandemic is not a great time to be even perceivably losing faith in doctors, yet Disney+ Hotstar arrives with a medical thriller at what is hopefully the peak of the third Covid-19 wave in India that could make you question everything about the medical profession as you know it. If you have seen the trailer of Human you would know that it is no hope giving Grey’s A natomy or The Good Doctor.
Starring Shefali Shah and Kirti Kulhari , Human makes you ponder heavily on the title when you are through with it. Inherently dark, the series is based on the unethical human drug trials that are conducted by pharma companies without care or concern for the consequences. The medical thriller helmed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah has a doomed and hopeless vibe that only festers as you get deeper into the story. It is made clear very early on that the show isn’t about doctors saving lives but about how they are the ones putting it at risk.
On many levels, the series could be viewed as a big people and small people tale in the medical profession. Big pharma companies and ambitious doctors who need to conduct drug trials to make big bucks by selling miracle drugs and the underprivileged who buy into the sham of these medical trials to make a couple of thousands without the full knowledge of what they are getting into.
After earning acclaim for her portrayal of an upstanding police officer in the International Emmy nominated Delhi Crime , Shefali Shah takes on a rather bleak role playing Dr. Gauri Nath. The actress is introduced as this influential, idealistic neurosurgeon living Bhopal who the city is proud of and who wants nothing more than to help people. In the absence of an audience, Gauri is someone else entirely.
A survivor of multiple traumas in her past, Gauri is cold, manipulative, distant and someone who demands complete devotion and loyalty. She takes under her wing an idealistic doctor, like one she pretends to be, Saira Sabarwal under her wing. Things go off the rails as Saira played by Kirti, from the start proves to be someone who isn’t afraid of asking questions and standing up for what’s right (in the medical profession at least) and that poses a threat to Gauri’s many secrets who is her idol.
While this is the story on one side of the spectrum, on the other side is Vishal Jethwa playing Mangu a morgue assistant who wants to make big bucks and fast and enrolls himself to play an agent in a camp conducting drug trials and even offering up his parents as human guinea pigs. He arranges for many people to be tested on for a drug targeted at treating heart disease which is known to be faulty from the beginning. When he comes to realize what he has done, it is too late to make amends and landing his family into deeper trouble than ever.
How these two worlds tie together what takes the narrative of Human forward.
Human has been presented mostly as a show highlighting the socio-economic divide through the lens of medical trials. However, the show tends to put much more on its plate than it can chew. From touching on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy from an angle that adds nothing to the story to having an LGBTQ story devoid of depth running in the parallel, there’s much more going on here than you signed up for. Even Covid-19 references have been spilled here and there to make it look like a story set post pandemic but devoid of all context.
These sub-tracks draw away attention from the focal point and often drag the show. Though the performances are promising, the narrative is so bleak till the very end that it hardly makes you feel hopeful when you arrive at a finale titled ‘Justice For All’. And for the times we are all living in, desperate for a way out of the pandemic, it really doesn’t feel like a good time to question the misplaced ethics of the medical community.
The show is engaging but not devoid of its plot holes. Human shows Gauri often feeling sorry for herself and how she was neglected while being raised in an influential family because she was a once poor orphan. It is, however, never understood why she feels no compassion or responsibility for the underprivileged that fall prey to unethical trials conducted by her company or why she needs the faulty drug Saviour to get passed so desperately in the first place when her ambition lies elsewhere entirely.
While Human leaves a trail of such questions to push the plot, it never really believes in ever coughing up explanations.
As far as performances go, Shefali Shah effortlessly turns sinister with her voice just above a whisper and her unaffected and distant attitude. She distinctly switches between two personas and aces them both. Kirti Kulhari does a commendable job of seconding Shefali when her character is not pushed to the extreme ends of being dramatic.
Ram Kapoor playing Gauri’s ambitious husband is given little to do but he certainly doesn’t let his precious minutes go to waste. Aditya Srivastav is believably desperate and calculative as a pharma company owner. Vishal Jethwa perhaps deserves special applause for his transformative ability as he plays a dreamy-eyed Mangu from the slums whose life is turned around by the drug trials but just not how he expected it. Seema -biswas/"> Seema Biswas and Indraneil Sengupta also do an effective job in whatever little they are handed but the performances are not the issue and you’d know that even if going through the list of cast members.
Like the protagonist of the series, Human is over ambitious and too bleak in its own unique space. It is a task pushing yourself through it and by the end it hardly balances out for the story it aims to be.