The strongest feeling that I came away with after having watched the 7 episode- Hush Hush, streaming on Amazon Prime, is one of this-could-have-been-so-much-more. The doings of four well-heeled friends in Gurugram, embroiled in a crime, looking for a way out, may remind you of the foursome in ‘Big Little Lies’, the HBO smasher which gave us women with real heft, entangled in personal and professional loops, and felt complexities. ‘Hush Hush’ begins with a bang and stays on course for the first three episodes: from the fourth episode on, it starts to unravel.
As befits a thriller, ‘Hush Hush’ loses no time in the set-up, which gives us a juicy scandal blowing up on prime time, snappy chatter, and two bodies. After Ishi (Juhi Chawla), a powerful lobbyist is outed on national TV for corruption, her three besties are aghast. Zaira (Shahana Goswami) is a successful fashion designer with a label of her own, Dolly (Kritika Kamra) is a wife-and-daughter-in-law trying to manage an overbearing ma-in-law and an insecure husband, and Saiba (Soha Ali Khan) is a former journalist turned homemaker. They all live in one of those ultra-posh conclaves where everything is designer, cars, clothes, and staff, untouched by the world outside. But the two deaths that occur in quick succession threaten to derail everything. Where do they go from here?
‘Hush Hush’ is co-directed by Tanuja Chandra, Kopal Naithani and Ashish Pandey, the writing credits are divvied up between Chandra, Juhi Chaturvedi, Ashish Mehta and Shikhaa Sharma, and the dialogues are by Juhi Chaturvedi. The quick cuts initially paper over the choppiness of the lines, made choppier by the way they are delivered by the actors. The investigation, spurred by feisty female cop Geeta (Karishma Tanna) starts out believable, and then it becomes a stretch : it’s one thing to have a ‘gut feeling’ that the women are hiding something, and being given the go-ahead to keep delving by top cop (Vibha Chibber, making a meal of her tough, foul-mouthed, heavy-handed policewoman), but it’s quite another for it to become a lone wolf operation.
When Geeta uses ‘gut feeling’ a second time in exactly the same way to exactly the same person, that’s the exact moment you can see things heading south. A woman ( Ayesha Jhulka) from Ishi’s shadowy past shows up. A shelter home for girls, a trafficking racket, the involvement of the rich and powerful, and the kingpin that you spot much before the plot gives him up: this tonal switch takes away attention from the women, whose lives had held out so much promise in the beginning.
The cast is interesting, and the ladies all game triers, but except for Goswami and Kamra, and Tanna with her sliding Haryanvi accent, no one really stands out. We are left, instead, with questions. Why does a series which takes the trouble to include terrific little details in the scaffolding of its bit parts (a therapist telling someone off camera to lower the noise because her client is getting disturbed; a ‘guest artist’ singing tonelessly at police get-together) slide when it comes to the main characters?
How did Ishi get past her humble beginnings to become this powerful ? We are given nothing to go on. When and how did these four women become such good friends? Again, no details. The biggest let-down is in the scanty way Ishi is written: she is the pivot, but we never come to know what makes her tick. Even in her slight movies, Juhi Chawla was always watchable, and after the 2003 ‘Teen Deewarein’, I kept waiting for her to return with solid roles. Chawla deserves a better comeback, and us, the viewers, a proper payoff.
Hush Hush cast: Juhi Chawla, Shahana Goswami, Kritika Kamra, Soha Ali Khan, Karishma Tanna, Vibha Chibber
Hush Hush directors: Tanuja Chandra, Kopal Naithani and Ashish Pandey