regular-article-logo Monday, 25 September 2023

Some of Tooth Pari works, some of it doesn't

But this film is a wholly original idea which gives the vampire genre a fun, desi spin

Priyanka Roy  Published 21.04.23, 09:11 AM
Tanya Maniktala in Tooth Pari, now streaming on Netflix

Tanya Maniktala in Tooth Pari, now streaming on Netflix Sourced by the correspondent

Quirk, fantasy, romance, goth, oddball humour and a whole lot of an otherworldly Calcutta come together in Tooth Pari, Netflix's latest offering. The homegrown series, created and directed by Pratim Dasgupta, takes a genre which isn't new but gives it a fantastical, fun desi spin. Some of it works, some of it doesn't... but there is no denying the fact that the world of Tooth Pari — both 'upar', peopled with humans, and 'neeche', where former humans live — is wholly original.

Armed with a premise that must have sprung from a one-line idea and provides enough fodder to sink one's teeth into (pun wholly intended), Tooth Pari marries concepts and worlds that few in the desi storytelling space have attempted before. A vampire unknowingly bites into a man with a prosthetic neck and loses her canine in the process, prompting her to pay a visit to a human dentist — a gawky virgin who has a phobia for blood — with an awkward but sweet romance growing between the two.


Calcutta's netherworld has been the chosen abode for 30-odd vampires for centuries who travel between upar and neeche through the pillar of a Metro station in the heart of the city. Forced to subsist on stale blood from plastic pouches because their human overlord has strict rules laid down on their movements, the vampires spend their days and nights (they greet each other with "Goodnight" instead of the customary "Good morning") in their lair which is equipped with sleep pods, blood bars, gothic-styled libraries, et al. But then, of course, there is the beautiful, young rebellious vampire (Rumi, played with both passive-aggressive charm and charisma by Tanya Maniktala) who will follow no rules.

This makes her prime prey for a clan of vampire hunters known as 'Cutmundus' (groovy choice of name), led by a Wiccan leader with an enviable head of hair, who have been waiting for years to hunt down an unsuspecting creature or two from the netherworld. A former cop, who encountered these creatures decades ago has to live with the stigma and frustration of being labelled a madman, even as his son, also a cop, does little to redeem himself or the family name. And then, over the course of eight episodes, all these worlds deliciously — and often deliriously — collide, leaving us with one pertinent question: Human or vampire — who, ultimately, is the real monster?

Packed as it is with many strands and subplots, there is a lot that takes place in the eight-odd hours, give or take a few, of Tooth Pari. To be honest, some of it comes perilously close to being overcooked in parts. But what holds the series together, its refreshingly individualistic story apart, is the fact that it pushes you to go in for more than a willing suspension of disbelief and more often than not, rewards you for it.

Dasgupta, aided by Subhankar Bhar's poetic work behind the camera which gives us a surreal-looking Calcutta by night, leans heavily on fantasy and fable, but also on chemistry and humour to stitch together a story which will take some time to get you in. But once you do, there is quite a bit to enjoy and savour in Tooth Pari. The heavy-handedness in parts is balanced nicely by the organic humour that flows between the young Bengali dentist (Shantanu Maheshwari, whose nervous, unassuming demeanour perfectly suits the part) and his overeager parents (Rajatava Dutta and Swaroopa Ghosh are top-notch) who are constantly trying to marry him off (now that's real horror, if not anything else). Together, the three conjure up some serious comic gold, as do the scenes involving Saswata Chatterjee and Tillotama Shome, both playing vampires with the kind of tongue-in-cheek humour that only actors of their calibre can bring to the screen. Sikandar Kher, in a part that requires him to dial up the drama but also put his under-utilised funny bone to good use, is one of the best-written characters of the series.

There is also the breezy love story between the two leads, their sweet-sour chemistry giving Tooth Pari some of its lighter moments. Shantanu and Tanya carry Tooth Pari on their young shoulders, with rarely a misstep in their performances. Lending them able support are Adil Hussain and Revathy, both biting into their over-the-top, negative characters with relish. This is a strong ensemble, mostly built with senior actors, each of which gets the memo and is happy to play along.

Eight episodes may feel a tad too stretched for the series, especially towards the end when Tooth Pari veers more towards VFX-heavy action. That, somehow, reduces the later part of the series to a derivative from being an original. But the seven hours before that isn't too shabby a recourse to spend a sultry summer afternoon.

Follow us on: