The Great Indian Murder review: A botched up effort which fails to recreate the magic of Vikas Swarup's novel

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s overwritten, densely plotted nine-episode series spanning over six hours strays every which way possible from Six Suspects

Shantanu Ray ChaudhuriUpdated: Saturday, February 05, 2022, 11:23 PM IST
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In its review of Six Suspects, the New York Times described it as ‘a fizzy romp… a Bollywood version of the board game Clue with a strain of screwball comedy thrown in… delivering a rambling critique of Indian culture, taking shots at everything from racism to reality TV’. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s sprawling (there’s no other word to describe this overwritten, densely plotted nine-episode series spanning over six hours that strays every which way possible, often as if with a will of its own) adaptation keeps to the spirit of the ‘romp’ and the ‘screwball’ and the ‘rambling’ bits.

A regular police check of a car leads to the discovery of the bodies of two minor girls in its trunk. The car belongs to Vicky Rai (Jatin Goswami), a businessman and the son of an ambitious politician, Jagannath Rai (Ashutosh Rana). We have already been introduced to Vicky as ‘evil’ incarnate in the way he body-shames and then physically assaults an actress, Shabnam Saxena (Paoli Dam). The fallout impacts Jagganath’s political career, and the case drags on for three years before Vicky is exonerated. The depraved young man has the cheek to celebrate his release by throwing a lavish party at the family farmhouse. But he has rubbed too many people the wrong way, and it is no surprise when he is shot dead at the party.

CBI officer Suraj Yadav (Pratik Gandhi) is called in to solve the case with the help of Delhi cop Sudha Bharadwaj (Richa Chadha). Their investigations lead them to the suspects and their stories. There’s the petty thief Munna (Shashank Arora), straining to break free of his circumstances. There’s the Andamanese tribal boy Eketi (Mani PR), who is looking for the statue of his native god Ingeteyi which has gone missing from his hamlet. We have the ex-bureaucrat Mohan Kumar (Raghubir Yadav), suffering from a split personality (he keeps toggling between his own self and Mahatma Gandhi). There’s Vicky’s stepsister Ritu (Rucha Inamdar), who had been raped by Vicky.

There’s the aggrieved actress (though this strand is not explored) and even Vicky’s father, desperate to wrest the political ground he has lost. One of the telling things about the series is its total absence of an ethical core – almost all the characters here are morally compromised. The CBI officer is doing the bidding of a political strongman and manipulating the investigations while the police officer has had a dubious hand in Vicky’s acquittal.

The investigations span the length and breadth of the country and introduce the viewer to a baffling trail of events. We have the Bhopal gas tragedy, the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid, the creation of Chhattisgarh, illegal deer hunts, the Naxal menace, phone tapping… and a bewildering array of peripheral characters from a godman in the mould of Ramdev, a couple of investigative bloggers, a social activist working in the slums (the secondary characters themselves deserve a write-up of their own). No wonder that not all the strands are explored; not all characters come across as more than mere sketches.

The result: an exhausting rollercoaster of a potpourri that almost revels in its chaos and confusion, which is as much a comment on the country (in the end, the operative word in the title is not so much ‘murder’ as it is ‘Indian’) as of the makers having painted themselves into a corner and having to resort to an earthquake too to find a way out.

It is heavy-going, it taxes the mind just to keep track of the convoluted goings-on, and beyond a point, you cease to care, though it’s easy to be seduced by the profanity of the proceedings. But a string of competent performances and some snappy writing (despite the tiresome cliches introducing Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, the Andamans) just about manage to steer the bloated series past the finish line.

Title: The Great Indian Murder

Cast: Pratik Gandhi, Richa Chadha, Shashank Arora, Jatin Goswami, Ashutosh Rana, Raghubir Yadav

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Rating: 2 and ½ stars

(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)

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