criminal justice

Pankaj Tripathi in ‘Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors Season 2.’ (Universal Communications photo)

This show is so engrossing that I am now impatient to watch its predecessor, “Criminal Justice” (Season One) whenever I have time to spare: I had missed it. This is a wonderful amalgam of drama, social message, humor and courtroom thrills and twists. The 8-episode show also gets into the grimy truth of under-trials in jails and also hints at excesses committed by seemingly normal husbands—so what is the point that makes their actions questionable, illegal, punishable by law, or otherwise?

The dicey question starts at home for counsel Madhav Mishra (Pankaj Tripathi), summoned from his wedding night to defend Anuradha Chandra (Kirti Kulhari), who has stabbed her husband with daughter Rhea (Adrija Sinha) as a seeming eyewitness. He leaves his devoted wife in the small town and leaves for Mumbai, without bothering about her feelings and later not even communicating with her.

Anuradha’s husband is successful counsel Bikram Chandra (Jisshu Sengupta), seemingly the model husband to a woman who is clinically depressed and is on medication.

The case seems open and shut, but the top cop Raghu Salian (Pankaj Saraswat) feels that a few things do not fit. His subordinate in charge of the investigation, Harsh Pradhan (Ajeet Singh Palawat) is, however, convinced of Anuradha’s guilt and resorts to unscrupulous means to trick her into admitting her guilt in court. Because of this, she is sent to judicial custody, which is in itself a nightmare. More so, when it is known that Anuradha is pregnant!

Meanwhile, Salian suspects that Harsh’s wife Gauri (Kalyanee Mulay) is more straight, committed to the case and the law more than Harsh, and takes her into confidence.

Bikram succumbs to his injuries and his mother Viji (Deepti Naval) now wants Anuradha hanged, as the case has now changed to murder. Supporting her aim is prosecuting attorney Mandir (Mita Vashist), a family friend and admirer of the late Bikram, and the man she appoints, Dhipen Prabhoo (Ashish Vidyarthi) to nail Anuradha.

Madhav Mishra is ostracized by the lawyer community for trying to save the killer of one of their own tribe, and since Anuradha is completely silent, he seeks the help of relative newbie Nikhat (Anupriya Goenka), who is thus blacklisted too. But doughtily, courageously and with intense dedication, the two unravel the layers and come to realize that everything is not what it seems.

Helping them unwittingly in the case is Harsh, who finds out a shocking truth about Anuradha’s pregnancy, and Salian and Gauri, who share a tell-all CCTV footage with the duo in a humdinger revelation.

But for the logical end to the main case, two other issues are resolved rather in a “filmi” way—Gauri teaches chauvinistic husband Harsh a lesson, and Nikhat’s mother (unknown name), after her daughter’s triumph, decides to divorce her errant and callous husband (not shown). But the emotional voltage is so high that the audience will feel gratified and will not mind these side-benefits at all.

Moreover, Madhav’s cute wife Ratna (Khushboo Atre)’s arrival in Mumbai and her stubborn loyalty to him despite his rather ungrateful behavior with her also touches a chord and yet subtly highlights how even decent people can take wives for granted. It also provides the general dose of comedy that dilutes the seriousness of the proceedings, and there is a “filmi” happy ending to their love story as well!

Apurva Asrani’s adaptation of Peter Moffat’s original script is dexterous and woks big time in the Indian context. The direction is uniform, though Sippy and Mukherjee have done the first and second halves respectively. Technically, the score is high too, and the performances are of high order, as are the twists.

The women in the jail (Shilpa Shukla as the turncoat Ishaani, Indu Prasad as Rajjo and the woman with the son) are grittily competent, and Pankaj Saraswat as Salian is superb, as is Ajeet Singh Palawat as the totally unscrupulous Harsh. Ashish Vidyarthi, Deepti Naval and Mita Vashisht are routine, and so is Jisshu Sengupta as Bikram. Ayaz Khan is just okay as Dr. Moksh.

Leave aside the need to be always sad and worse, Kirti Kulhari as Anuradha, the mentally disturbed protagonist, gives one of the finest female lead performances in web series last year—this was a December 24 release. High marks also to Adrija as Rhea and Anupriya Goenka as Nikhat.

But FULL marks to Pankaj Tripathi, Khushboo Atre as his wife and and Kalyanee Mulay as Gauri—these three are no less than phenomenal.

Rating: ****

Produced by: Sameer Gogate, Deepak Segal & Sameer Nair

Directed by: Arjun Mukherjee & Rohan Sippy

Written by: Apoorva Asrani, Peter Moffat & Anurag Pandey

Music: Sameer Phatarphekar

Starring: Pankaj Tripathi, Kirti Kulhari, Anupriya Goenka, Deepti Naval, Mita Vashisht, Kalyanee Mulay, Khushboo Atre, Ayaz Khan, Ajeet Singh Palawat, Pankaj Saraswat, Adrija Sinha,  Jisshu Sengupta, Shilpa Shukla, Ashish Vidyarthi,

Rajiv Kachroo, Raj Gopal Iyer, Indu Prasad & others

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