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Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is more than a murder mystery; a social commentary on how men sometimes use ‘marriage’ as a license for inflicting atrocities upon their wives.
It is no secret that I had absolutely loved Criminal Justice Season 1 to the extent that I had written an extensive piece on it here. So, when the trailer of Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors was released, I knew it would be as much of a thrilling ride as its first season. And boy, was I right? I was hooked to the series from the get-go!
The story revolves around Bikram Chandra (Jishu Sengupta), an illustrious lawyer, well-respected by friends and family alike. Hero-worshiped by his daughter and adored by his beautiful wife Anu (Kirti Kulhari), the viewer gets the sense that Bikram’s world is nothing short of perfect. Almost too perfect!
Because if you pay close attention, you can’t help but notice how Anu wears a look of perpetual discontent, discontent that borders on agitation. What transpires at the end of the first episode forms the basic premise of the series. We see Bikram murdered with Anu looking every bit the culprit.
While it is primarily a murder mystery, Criminal Justice 2 is also a social commentary on how men sometimes use ‘marriage’ as a license for inflicting atrocities upon their wives. The title as well as the trailer are revelatory in the sense that the viewer gets a hint of what to expect. But, the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg, because the storyline unfurls in a delightfully fascinating manner.
Criminal Justice 2 plunges headlong into a delicate subject, dissects it ruthlessly, bringing forth open but uncomfortable truths about our judicial system while doing so.
It brilliantly captures the plight of the victim(Anu), aptly depicting the extent of her trauma that manifests as shame and self-hatred. Serious issues like ‘gaslighting’ and its impact on victims – issues which are seldom talked about – are also highlighted in the series. But, not in loud, overt gestures, rather in subtle undertones like Anu questioning her own sanity and understanding of the truth until the very last minute.
For instance, Anu seems convinced that Bikram ‘loved her’ and ‘took care of her every need’. And hence, her inability to live up to his unrealistic (read: absurd) expectations warranted her punishment. But, why does a grown woman need to be taken care of in such a manner that she no longer has any agency? And why doesn’t see she any problem in that?
That is the degree of damage Anu had suffered. She had been gaslit to the point that she herself failed to see that Bikram was, in fact, controlling her every move and systemically cutting her off from close ones in the guise of ‘taking care of her’. He didn’t leave even his daughter out of this dirty game and used her as a pawn to monitor his wife’s every move.
Certain scenes are so well-crafted that even without expressly stating it, it becomes amply clear how Bikram played with Anu’s head to gain control over her life.
One scene is especially bone-chilling. We see Anu recollecting an incident while serving jail-time. We see her prettily decked up and beautifully decorating their home. Soon, Bikram arrives and with a questioning look asks her what the whole celebration is all about. Anu perkily replies that they are celebrating Bikram’s win in court that day. What happens next requires careful attention of the viewer. For, it is in this very scene that the surprising alacrity with which Bikram lies becomes crystal clear.
Bikram coolly says he had won the case last week and not that day. Understandably, Anu is confused and alarmed. But, like a doting husband we see him take her in a warm, comforting embrace while smiling slyly without her noticing.
That is the beauty of this season – it doesn’t scream about how wrong gaslighting or mercilessly playing with someone’s mind is, it subtly illustrates it through its scenes.
The cast especially needs special mention. Be it Pankaj Tripathi as Madhav Mishra, the penniless lawyer, who in his inimitable style helps to uncover the truth. Or the remarkable Kirti Kulhari as Anu, the troubled wife, who in her somber silences, conveys far more than her words ever could.
The most hard-hitting message that has come across from the show is that even the most revered person in society could be a predator behind closed doors. So, before making assumptions, or passing quick judgments and jumping to conclusions, maybe ask yourself if you know the whole truth.
HR by profession, but a writer by choice, I find creative respite through writing.
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