Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors, starring Kriti Kulhari and Pankaj Tripathi, is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar and it is, by far, one of the best Indian legal dramas of the year. Revolving around the story of a wife who stabs her near-perfect husband in front of their twelve-year-old daughter, the show strings together themes of domestic violence, marital rape, intimate partner violence, workplace discrimination and benevolent sexism and presents them in a manner that is both provocative as well as hard-hitting. Instead of being a nail-biting whodunit, the show focuses on the ‘whys’ behind the murder and settles on being a slow-burn thriller that unravels beautifully by the end.
Can socially enlightened men who stand up for feminism forget to apply the same concepts in their own lives? Can a professional, outspoken woman be a victim of domestic violence in the confines of her home? Can a loving father to a daughter rape his wife behind the closed doors?
Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is directed by Rohan Sippy and Arjun Mukherjee – each helming four episodes. A spinoff of the 2019 crime thriller web series Criminal Justice, which starred Vikrant Massey, this show derives its inspiration from the award-winning British series-of-the-same-name scripted a decade ago by Peter Moffat. Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors also stars Anupriya Goenka, Mita Vashisht, Jisshu Sengupta, Shilpa Shukla, Ashish Vidyarthi and Deepti Naval.
In the opening sequence, we are introduced to the Chandras, an affluent, picture-perfect family. There is the superstar lawyer Bikram Chandra (Jisshu Sengupta) who fights for Dalit rights during the day, his wife Anu (Kirti Kulhari) who is a seemingly doting partner and a loving mother and their daughter who loves solving crossword puzzles. But by the end of the first episode, this entire picture breaks down as we find a dead Bikram lying on the floor as Anu roams around the streets in bloodied clothes.
The plot, as initially insinuated by the police and the lawyers, seem simple enough to be an open and shut case: the wife has herself confessed to the crime and the daughter is the witness. But in comes Madhav Mishra (Pankaj Tripathi), an outcast state lawyer, who teams up with his old partner Nikhat Hussain (Anupriya Goenka) to look more into the motive of the murder. And it is then that the hidden facets start emerging.
A Worthy Watch
The 8-episode story is spread over a time period of ten months throughout which we are made to ask uncomfortable questions: Can socially enlightened men who stand up for feminism forget to apply the same concepts in their own lives? Can a professional, outspoken woman be a victim of domestic violence in the confines of her home? Can a loving father to a daughter rape his wife behind the closed doors? Such are the issues that the show deals with. It talks about how the society doesn’t bat an eye to instantly hold the woman responsible, while a man can literally get away with murder. It also lays bare the criminal justice system by presenting a detailed view of the nightmare that awaits Anu behind bars, once she is taken in custody.
The show also focuses on three different families, apart from the Chandras, to break the popular spell of perfect marriages. There is the police couple investing the case, where the dutiful police officer Gauri (Kalyanee Mulay) is always being undermined by her husband-cop Harsh (Ajeet Singh Palawat). Then we have Nikhat Hussain who has to contend with her mother, while desperately holding on to a husband who no longer wants her. And lastly, we are presented with the newlywed Madhav Mishra, who for all his ‘wokeness’ is still guilty of being mildly misogynistic at times.
The narrative is complex and layered and all the actors do a splendid job in bringing their characters to life. Kirti Kulhari gets very few lines as Anu, but is flawless in conveying her trauma using silences. Pankaj Tripathi, from his entry with his henna-decorated hands, blends the perfect mix of fun and seriousness into the plot. While overall the show might feel a little predictable, it still makes up for a worthy watch. And much like the court’s final verdict, the show will leave you with hope, and that in itself should be a good enough reason to end 2020 with it.
Picture Credit: YouTube ScreenGrab
Views expressed are the author’s own.