For a suspense story to become a blockbuster, it should comprise certain elements that make it a potboiler. Right from conflict, pacing and atmosphere to red herrings and background music- all these elements play an important role in deciding whether or not the story has the calibre to pass the muster. When Criminal Justice was released in 2019, the hopes were set high with its stirring and dark trailer, impeccable acting skills being demonstrated by Vikrant Massey and others and an exemplary storyline that offered no resolution in sight. Now that the second season of the same show has been released, I cannot deny that the anticipation level was similar. Hopes were high and interest piqued.
Starring Kriti Kulhari in the lead role, the story traces what actually happens ‘behind closed doors’. Bikram Chandra, a successful lawyer, a caring father and a doting husband is murdered in cold blood. The accused, Anuradha Chandra, Bikram’s wife, a forgetful mother and a careless wife, is put behind the bars as the daughter, Rhea Chandra, is apparently the eye witness. While no other lawyer is willing to take up the case of Anu Chandra because there is no scope of saving her, it comes as a shock when her own father, the only hope that is present, reveals that he has not been on talking terms with his daughter. To add fuel to fire, Anu confesses the crime in front of Mr. Raghu Salien, the inspector in-charge. But something is amiss. Anu’s foreboding silence, her incessant chanting of ‘sorry’ and her disgust for the clothes she is wearing are some of the elements that foreshadow what’s to come.
As the story progresses, layers are peeled and several red herrings aid in confusing the audience further. Even though one might think that the eventual reason behind the murder is clear and predictable, it is not so. It is strange that Anu doesn’t even want a lawyer to advocate her cause. However, Pankaj Tripathi loops in and grabs the opportunity by its horns when Raghu smells something fishy in the arrest of Anu Chandra. Newly married, Madhav Misra (Pankaj Tripathi) is fabulous in his role. His discomfort before his young wife, Ratna, is funny. Unlike the other men, he prefers to leave for work on their first night. Then begins the quest for truth.
This show is quite different from the other mysteries because of the protagonist’s silence. Anu doesn’t reveal anything. No, not even a single detail. Her silence is piercing and that makes the story a slow burn. Inspite of being tormented mentally and sometimes, physically, she resists the urge to spill the beans and that bothers the viewers. She is strong, no doubt. But her struggle is stronger and harsher. Even though she finds an ally in another dis-illusioned prisoner, she battles with other women who tease and treat her badly because of her elite status. Kriti Kulhari beautifully depicts the miserable living conditions within the prison. Amidst political influence, payola, palm-greasing and unfiltered abuses, Anu somehow manages to accept where she doesn’t belong. But the people who roam freely are often the ones who like to chain the ones already chained. Bikram’s mother and her close friend, Mandira Mathur, who is also a top name in the law industry, enter the premise only to believe what is untrue. Upon knowing that Anu is pregnant with her therapist’s child, they leave no stone unturned in snatching Rhea’s custody and further ensuring that Anu is sentenced to life imprisonment. But a mother’s love knows no law nor pity! When Madhav explains the trauma that Rhea has to go through every night in her nightmares and when Anu sees Nikhat (Anupriya Goenka) question Rhea and tear apart her invisible wall of protection ruthlessly, she is prompted speak up- even if it means blemishing her own copybook.
Right from Pankaj Tripathi, Jisshu Sengupta and Deepti Naval to the ones who had smaller roles like Khushboo Atre, Shilpa Shukla and Kalyanee Mulay- all the characters are just perfect. No exaggerated emotions, clear motives and flawless execution aids in running of the script. I would especially like to mention about Adrija Sinha’s brilliant performance as Rhea. Her emotions are so real and dialogues so measured that they never fail to leave behind a pang of guilt in the heart whenever I thought about how an unfortunate marriage can mar the mental and emotional well-being of children.
The show touches upon several important issues like marital rape, domestic violence (in all forms), patriarchy, the influence of money and power, fragile relationships, mental health and the facade of perfection. Just like ‘Out of Love’, this show, too, hurts and makes you fearful of what all happens or can happen in the world. It also comes as a shock to know the extents to which one can go in an attempt to break free from misery. Overall, Criminal Case: Behind Closed Doors is a recommended watch. It will surely leave you flabbergasted.