Storytellers are blessed with the ability to translate their most complex, obscure thoughts into words. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, we know the abyss inside our mind that helps us churn out fantasies like no other. In one such welcome change by Pratilipi (digital storytelling platform), Midnight Lily — an adaptation of their mega-hit story On the Hedge of Midnight Lily — was released as four-part web series. The story crossed a combined one lakh views in multiple formats after its release on Pratilipi.
Written by Nitin Mishra and directed by Kush Singh and Sachin Malvi, the story is a thriller that delves into the life of Ved Tomar, a novelist who gets caught up in a murder mystery on one fateful night.
The four-episode (each 15-18 minute long) series unwraps the enigma behind the crime.
The story begins when our protagonist Ved Kumar Tomar (Sandeep Jain) — spots his wife Neena (Harita Shah) — with another man in a hotel room after following her there out of suspicion. Neena, who returns home, notices her husband drinking in distress, awaiting her in the middle of the night. However, during a heated argument, Ved manages to push her, causing her head to hit a chair in the room. After finding her dead, Ved panics and rushes to dig a grave for her — that's right — in the Lily garden!
However, before he could bury his wife's body, a doorbell rings and in walks a girl in her mid-twenties who is (seemingly) hurt after an accident. Latika, unaware of Ved's misadventures, invites herself inside. Of course, that terrifies our lead, who has his wife's dead body lying on the floor in his house. But to his utmost horror, he walks in with Latika and finds the body missing. Come morning — with an investigation underway — the police begin to realise that there's more to Ved's story than just his side of the affair.
On questioning him and back-tracking into his life, the head cop (Sachin Malvi, also the director) finds out about Ved's extra-marital affair. The course of investigation continues through the four-episode long series, and each minute into the show reveals something sinister about the story.
Although short, the series does manage to engage you by the first episode itself. In fact, Midnight Lily keeps introducing side characters throughout the series to make sure you're left guessing the entire time. The storyline has no plot holes per se, but by the time we reached the end of the third episode, we could tell what the plot twist would be.
And as drawn as we were to the mystery, we were somewhat put off by the odd casting of the show. Sandeep Jain, who plays the role of Ved, does an average job of playing a man who just killed his wife. Harita, who looks stunning on screen, fails to make an impact with her dialogues. Perhaps the only convincing character on screen was that of Sachin, the head-cop, but his forced comic element into a dark, twisted drama seemed redundant.
The spooky background music stood out, and so did the makers' attempt at creating mystery. However, there will be moments where you will find the plot lacking soul -- or not living up to the seriousness of its subject. Whether it is the half-hearted police investigation of the house or the attitude of the side characters, something will seem amiss throughout the series.
Considering the budget constraints, Midnight Lily does an exceptional job at portraying the crime scene (read: the impressive shot of someone dissecting a human body, we won't lie — we were a tad bit grossed!). From the looks of it, there may not be a season two, but if there is one, we'd love to see how the story continues.
Midnight Lily makes a decent, one-time watch for the days you don't have a Netflix subscription. If you're someone into murder mysteries, and you don't mind a lacklustre cast, you can binge the series in one sitting -- and you may not even regret it. We can definitely foresee Pratilipi's web series going a long way; after all, it was the story that kept the audience glued to their seats.
TBC Rating: 3/5
Where to watch: MXPlayer.in