The second Netflix Original from India (after the ambitious and thrilling Sacred Games), Ghoul is an effective short story given the perfect amount of runtime via a three-part installment. The series is set in a dystopian near future, where army loyalist Nida Rahim (Radhika Apt) is about to complete her special training. Nida is in a perpetual loving but passionate disagreement with her academic father Shahnawaz (S. M. Zaheer), who rebukes her for siding with the terrorist-besieged, fascist state. Despite her love for him, she eventually turns him as a political dissident where he is remanded to a “sanitation” center, and authorities promise he will return unharmed.
A month later Nida is deployed to a secret detention center as managed by Colonel Dacunha (Manav Kaul) and his tough-as-nails Major Das (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee). The site is in a state of anticipatory tension as they receive custody of public enemy number one, terrorist Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj). While being tortured during interrogation, Saeed whispers family secrets to Nida that he would have no way of knowing. Soon, violence erupts and Nida begins to suspect that Saeed is not wholly human. As the alcoholic Dacunha fumbles in his leadership and more soldiers and detainees are killed, the group eventually understands that the alien presence can hide in the form of any of them. Nida also begins to understand the sinister methods of the regime, and fears her father may be dead.
Ghoul reads far more like a sci-fi than a supernatural thriller, and its relatively simple story of infiltrating fascism from within is a nice allegory that suits the short, simple format well. There were only a handful of surprises along the way, although the ending is more hopeful than I’d expected. The three-part series was perfectly adequate as a stand-alone; viewers hope for a sequel (which to date has been neither confirmed or denied).