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Criminal Injustice To Miss Criminal Justice 2



Criminal Justice Season 2: Behind  Closed Doors(DisneyHotstar)

Starring  Kirti Kulhari, Pankaj Tripathy, Jisshu Sengupta, Mita Vashisht, Deepti Naval, Ashish Vidyarthi

Directed by Rohan Sippy, Arjun Mukherjee

Rating: ****

A  jar of  Vaseline and  an abusive  shout-out from the bedroom(Kutti bann,become  a  bitch) are  the key to this season’s  Criminal  Justice. Grim  and  taut, and utterly engrossing(I never once fast-forwarded  the narration) Season 2  of  Criminal Justice is  every bit  as  riveting as  Season 1 where Vikrant Massey tasted  the nightmare of  the Indian prison system in all its stomach-churning glory.

 This  time  it is  Anuradha Chandra(Kirti  Kulhari) ,devoted   dutiful  beautiful  wife to  hotshot lawyer Vikram Chandra(Jisshu Sengupta) who is  accused of stabbing  her  seemingly  perfect  husband to death . Our most favourite on-screen lawyer  Madhav Mishra is  pulled  out of  his wedding  to handle the  case . Leaving  behind in Patna his  aggrieved  wife(who complains  that  they haven’t been able to do their ‘First Night’)  Madhavcatches the  first flight to Mumbai to defend  the seemingly indefensible woman, a  classic  Hitchcockianmurderess  so beautiful and  haunted  that  only KirtiKulhari could play her.

What  I loved  about CJ2 is  that it pulls none  of  the stereotypical stunts of a suspense thriller.No annoyingredherrings,  no  false leads and no  attempt to mislead us. From the start we know  Anu is  guilty. The question is not a straightforward one  of  guilty/not-guilty.This time justice is  not  a court concern alone. Writer ApurvaAsrani    skillfully digs  deep into the crevices that  deshape Indian marriages .

 If Anuradha  was  being systematically  driven beyond the brink by her bedroom brute of a husband, there is  the  other couple, two cops Harsh and Gauri(played  with disarming  naturalness by Ajeet Singh Palawat and  Kalyani Mulay) who seem to be aligned on opposite sides in both their professional and  domestic dynamics.

 On a  lighter  note there’s  the  show’s  eminently likable hero, the  low-level lawyer Madhav Mishra with a  neglected newly-married  wife(played by a refreshingly unspoilt  new actress Khusboo Atre). Of course Madhavrespects women . But unknowingly he has fallen into the trap of playing the  traditional role  of  the  domineering husband who dictates every move his wife makes by pretending to give  her the  freedom to do what she wants, until she breaks out with a flourish that hits Madhav and  us in the solar plexus.

Madhav’s marital  metamorphosis   has its roots in SatyajitRay’s Apur Sansar  although I’m pretty sure  this couple has never heard  of Ray or his masterpieces. Madhav’s very healthy professional relationship with his lawyer colleague Nikhat(Anupriya Goenka, charming) is also  explored with something that most Indian films lack: an instinctive understanding of an asexual relationship between  two colleagues of differing genders.

 The  ground rules and the background material of Criminal Justice 2 is solidly constructed .The scenes  in the prison are  suitably stark, with Shilpa Shukla putting in a persuasive performance as a headstrong inmate.  The repeated shots of puke could have been avoided,  though. Also the background score seems partly inspired by Francis Lai’s score in  Romeo & Juliet.

At the  forefront is  the  case… ah, the  stabber  wife Anuradha whose teenaged daughter Rhea(Adrija Sinha) is the only eyewitness to the crime.  The  young  actress has a very tough role and she negotiates her trek through the tough turf with the  expertise  of  a veteran.  The show is  in fact suffused with memorable  performances—Deepti Naval and Mandira Bedi are a  delight to  watch together and apart , and I wish there was more of them—none  more so than Pankaj Tripathi and  Kirti Kulhari who are  the backbone,  the soul of the plot.I can’t imagine  what this  season of Criminal Justice would have been without them. 

Ms Kulhari’s final lingering closeup of  relief and happiness after  8 episodes  of trauma will stay with  viewers  for a while. She plays the murderess as a  victim  without a trace of self-pity. The series is  stunningly assembled,  often surpassing the original British series by adapting the British  legal  system  to a homegrown reality. The cynicism, the corruption,the  power  of the privileged  to  subvert the law….   It all comes together in  ways that are  both  exciting and disturbing. What a wonderful  way  to end this  confounding year!

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