SonyLIV’s JL 50 Review: When Dark Goes Desi… Sorta

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JL 50 is a science-fiction TV series on SonyLIV which is directed by Shailender Vyas and stars Abhay Deol, Pankaj Kapur, Piyush Mishra and Ritika Anand.

Ashoka is confused

JL 50 is a story about time travel, and how a CBI officer uncovers the truth with the help of a quantum physicist professor and a pilot, and stops a disaster from happening.

First of all, I’ll start by saying that I appreciate that Indian web series are getting into the sci-fi domain. There is, however, is a long way to go. So, when a flight crashes in West Bengal, CBI sleuth Shantanu is baffled when he finds out that this is a plane that went missing 35 years ago. Obviously, like any rational person, he doesn’t believe so, and expects it to be a case of hijacking. However, as he digs deeper, he is forced to believe what is right infront of him.

JL 50
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JL 50 is a reminder of Dark. The series (thankfully) does not show silly time machines, and at one point, Pankaj Kapur’s Subrata Das says that Indians believe in religious mumbo-jumbo too fast and too easily. However, it is quick to also point out that the concept of time machine came from Ashokan times. There are more such odd things scattered here and there, until the series, too smart for its own good, crashes and burns with the inconsistencies and loopholes in its storyline. Sure, the professor does mention wormholes but then talks about going back and forth in time. We don’t talk about the Bootstrap Paradox or split timelines, because… that’s probably too hard?

Another very disappointing aspect of JL 50 is the very inauthentic portrayal of Bengalis. Subrata Das, a very Bengali person, speaks in absolutely clear Hindi and throws in a few Bengali words to remind us that he is, in fact, Bengali, if you forgot.

JL 50

If that is not enough, every person in West Bengal/Kolkata speaks in Hindi, even during interpersonal communication. Let me tell you, as a born-and-brought-up-in-Kolkata Bengali, that is not what happens. Sure, we’ll go above and beyond to talk to someone in Hindi if they don’t know Bengali, but we don’t converse in another language interpersonally. If you’re going to base your story somewhere which has their own language, atleast be authentic in portraying it. Also, there’s a liberation movement of Bengal afoot, and that just absolutely baffled me.

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On a different note, acting by the leads are fine. The series survives on the very able shoulders of Abhay Deol and Pankaj Kapur. Deol, whom we don’t see enough of on-screen, delivers a fine performance, and is very pleasing on the eyes. However, with paper-thin character backgrounds, we don’t really care much about these people. There isn’t enough motivation behind them, and some characters are given the tried-and-tested genius-but-evil characters which does nothing to make the plot interesting. The villains, in general, are just caricatures that we honestly didn’t need. However, there’s a small plot twist at the end that, even though we can see from a mile away, adds something fun to the mix.

Summing up: JL 50

JL 50

JL 50 tries very hard to take itself seriously. I feel that, 4 30-minute episodes are far too less to tackle so many different (and very heavy) themes. As a result, the series feels half-done and is more fiction than science. Also, what is up with the horrible CGI? So disappointing.

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I won’t say it is absolutely horrible or unwatchable, because it’s not. However, if you’re expecting something akin to Dark, you’d be highly disappointed. Take JL 50 with a grain of salt.

JL 50 is streaming on SonyLIV.

Read our other reviews here.

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JL 50 tries very hard to take itself seriously. With some very heavy themes and too little time, the series feels half-done, with more fiction than science.

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