Set in present-day London and shot with a pain-lashed intensity, Prawaal Raman’s Sergeant is partly a police procedural, partly a father-son conflict drama. But largely it is the story of a man so inured in his own pain and suffering that he actually seems to enjoy them.
Quite often in this intriguing drama of the doomed, I wondered what Randeep Hooda’s alcoholic cop Nikhil Sharma would be without his trauma. He would have no excuse to get drunk and abuse his father(Arun Govil) and his colleague and friend at the precinct Haider Ali (Adil Hussain) whom Nikhil suspects of being in cohoots with those criminals who destroyed his life and fastened his fate to pain . And that includes an amputated leg which leaves Nikhil, not wrongly, embittered about the people close to him, including Haider who for some strange reason refers to Nikhil’s father as ‘Uncle’, although he looks closer to the father’s age than the son’s.
It is also not very clear why Nikhil is so bitter about the world. I wish the screenplay had taken a bit of a breather, allowed Nikhil to come out of his self-made dungeon of despair. Sadly, the conspiracy theories in his head are allowed to fructify in the plot. Nikhil was not imagining all the wrong around him.
Oh, well then.
So if Nikhil’s paranoia is verified where does that leave the core theme of a man so busy licking his wounds he doesn’t care about the grievous hurt caused to others?
Randeep Hooda has a ball, and sometimes a ‘bawl’ , playing this unlikeable irredeemable burnt-out cop with serious Daddy issues, Mommy issues, Friend issues, Existential issues… He grimaces, he howls in rage and pain. The character is almost a masterclass for Hooda, and he makes the best of the wounded beast’s role.
It is a very self-aware performance of the look-ma-no-hands variety where vulnerability and hurt are so aggressively manifested they get lost in translation.
The articulate cinematography(by James Alfred, Benjamin Edgar and Jim Edgar) looks at London with ruminative regret, amplifying, as it were, Nikhil’s wrecked soul.
The only time Nikhil softens is when he talks on video with his love Monica(Sapna Pabbi). She is an abused wife, as tortured as Nikhil. They bond, they sob together. It is the only concession to sentimentality that Nikhil is allowed. Maybe the script needed to give him more reason to feel alive than a presence on a video call. I am not sure he deserves anything more , or less, than he gets. As things stand, Nikhil is more a corpse than a cop. More injured than injuring.
Sergeant weaves through Nikhil’s labyrinth of pain without allowing us to get close to it, or him. We see him as a tantrum-throwing unlikeable man , a born loser.No harm in that. But hell, where is the light at the end of the tunnel?