Much like the popular horror streaming series Pett Kata Shaw, 'Ashare Golpo' by Nurul Alam Atique on Bioscope is another horror anthology which explores myths and fables of Bangladeshi culture.
But is it any good? The series has a solid story line but is not without its flaws.
The stories are very akin to the ones we have heard as children. Tales about jinns, haunted ponds or lakes in rural places, ghosts' fondness for fish, etc. But when these tales are given a visual translation, reproduced with real people acting it out, it becomes a much more engaging experience.
The pilot episode 'Mayadighi' garnered high expectations from the audiences. The actors - Ahmed Rubel, Orchita Sporshia, and Sushama Sarkar have done a stellar job in playing their designated roles, with sharp dialogues and a great plot.
The episode follows the story of a man who is called by a mysterious woman to join her in a nearby lake. The episode ends on an ambiguous note, but it does not leave you unhappy, rather leaves it open ended and ripe for interpretation, leading you to keep watching the series.
As each episode has a unique storyline, you find yourself expecting an upping of the ante with each new instalment.
The second episode 'Tabiz', featuring Nazifa Tushi and Khairul Basar, however, felt quite predictable, and the acting came off as rote. The story was about a boy who tries to charm the woman he loves with the help of a drink he gets from a conjurer, but ends up attracting a jinn.
The episode had the potential to be great if the acting and sound effects were executed properly. But this mistake keeps recurring throughout the other episodes. Stories are stymied by flawed acting and asynchronous audio cues kept breaking immersion and suspension of disbelief.
The third episode 'Machhe Bhaate Bangali' deftly leads you to making assumptions about the vector of the plot, only to be subverted during the reveal. It is about an elderly man looking for a full-time young female caretaker. Initially, it seems like a case of pedophilia, which would have been scary regardless. However, when the male protagonist – played by Asaduzzaman Noor – states one rule to be maintained at all cost, it gives a hint of where the story might be heading. Sabila Nur played the role of the female caretaker.
The fourth episode, 'Kakkhamitra' was about witchcraft. It starred Nadia Afrin Mim, Semonti Soimi, and Nishat Priyam. This episode felt almost as if a bunch of amateurs made this, giving it a feel of a horror short you'd find on YouTube. It was plagued by poor acting and the low-budget production really showed.
The last episode 'Kathure' played by actors Imtiaz Barshan and Dilruba Doyel was a missed opportunity. Even with a good start, the episode eventually became hard to understand because of how random the actions of the cast were. The story was about greed as far as I could discern, but even that remained unclear. The ghost costumes looked more funny than scary. There must have been massive reshuffles in the production due to budgetary limitations.
The script was written by Sadia Khalid Reeti, who is also a film critic, and her brother Nafis Khalid, back in 2017. According to Nafis, many elements in the scripts were left out in the series. Most of these details were important for the progression of the plot.
"Some details were there to add meaning to the stories, and some others were present to make the experience more enjoyable. Some of them were also tied to things that were shown on screen, so without those connections things wind up coming across as disjointed ideas. It seems that without them the episodes seemed greatly lacking. A lot of scenes on paper had called for suspense and mystery but they didn't quite materialise on screen," said Nafis.
With all that being said, it is quite evident that the flaw in the series was mostly in the presentation. The script had strong and evocative foundations, which could have made it way more interesting, had it been handled with a bit more nuance. The OTT app shows a gradual decrease in the ratings as episodes go on, the first being 4.4 out of 5 while the last was rated 2.6.