Murder Mubarak Has Ruined Anuja Chauhan’s Book Club You To Death On Which It Is Based

Why they could not hire Anuja Chauhan to work on a script based on her own novel instead of the mess they have served up.

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As someone who needs an excuse to complain about how terrible the cinematic adaptations of Anuja Chauhan’s brilliant novels have been so far, I expected very little from Murder Mubarak (2024) which is based on Club You To Death (2021). Set in Delhi Turf Club in Lutyens Delhi — which bears resemblance to Delhi Gymkhana Club — the novel is a whodunnit in which a desi Hercule Poirot, ACP Bhavani Singh solves the murder mystery after the club’s zumba trainer is killed.

As can be understood, the primary focus of the novel is not the murder in itself, but rather, the absurdities of the high society it is set in. Even though I would any day reread an Anuja Chauhan novel including this one, Murder Mubarak did not create a lasting impression on me.

*Spoilers Alert*

Here are a few reasons why:

Leo Matthew’s ridiculous personality

‘Mahadev.’ Old Mrs Dogra smiles dreamily. Then she folds her hands and bows reverentially in the direction of the man on stage. ‘Om Namah Shiva.’

Club You To Death, page 28

Leo Matthew, in the book, is someone with a mysterious personality who is not just adored by the middle-aged married women he teaches zumba to at Delhi Turf Club (Royal Delhi Club in the film), but also elderly Mrs Dogra who compares him to “Mahadev” due to his attractive persona. Murder Mubarak, on the other hand, turns Leo (Aashim Gulati) into a caricaturish, comical casanova who appears to be both sadistic and sinistrous in most flashback scenes. If the person who has been murdered is so deplorable, why would the audience sympathise with him?

The Kashi-Bambi angle

Keeping Sara Ali Khan’s unconvincing acting skills aside, the makers of Murder Mubarak completely ruined a decent murder mystery by unnecessarily focusing too much on Akash ‘Kashi’ Dogra (Vijay Varma) and Bambi Todi’s (played by Khan) love angle. To begin with, Kashi never really cheats on his partner, Kuhu Banerjee with his ex-lover, Bambi. However, since Homi Adajania has been constantly criticised by feminists and misogynists alike for attempting to normalise infidelity through his projects, what better can be expected from a male director with a primitive and chauvinistic mindset?

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One takeaway that I have had after watching Murder Mubarak is that a problematic director can seriously ruin the cinematic adaptation of a novel written by a sensible, progressive author. Why I am saying this is because Kashi’s feelings towards Bambi are so beautifully explained in the novel that not once did I find myself questioning his morals or his dedication to his current partner. The film, nevertheless, completely spoiled the impression I had of Kashi Dogra.

The suspense behind Leo Matthew’s murder

Having read Club You To Death quite recently, I feel the need to admit that the climax scene (or rather, chapters dedicated to the major reveal) had me turning pages with anxious anticipation, hoping neither of the characters I had empathy for were responsible for the murders. While ACP Bhavani Singh’s provisional theories could have surfaced earlier in order to build better suspense throughout the novel, I had not been able to guess who the murderer was till the very end. In the film, however, there are numerous scenes with dramatic background scores where the camera randomly focuses on the facial expressions of the actual murderer which, in a way, gives away the suspense. The murderer is further given a psychotic personality which is so unlike what they had in the book, thus, making their murder motive rather obvious to the viewers. Additionally, the filmmakers went on to casually change the culprit’s background story whilst focusing on irrelevant aspects of their past which makes the ending quite predictable.

Loose ends that are beither tied nor addressed satisfactorily

If Leo had been blackmailing Shehnaz (Karisma Kapoor), why were the two canoodling in the opening scene of the film? If Ganga (Tara Alisha Berry) was having an affair with Bambi’s husband, why does the latter help her get a job at the Royal Delhi Club? Why is Bambi written to be a kleptomaniac and why is her past affair with Leo highlighted when neither of these contribute to the storyline in any way? Why is Cookie Katoch (Dimple Kapadia) even there in Murder Mubarak?

The filmmakers might have borrowed numerous plot points from the novel, but they fail to make their relevance known to the audience. The issue here is not just poor direction, but even abysmal screenplay. Towards the end, I was left confused as to why they could not hire Anuja Chauhan to work on a script based on her own novel.

An underwhelming ending

Since most characters had received the closure they were seeking throughout the book, I had finished Club You To Death with a happy heart. For instance, Kashi Dogra, whose benevolence had caused me to question his practicality in the entirety of the novel, finally seemed to be at peace with the life he had chosen for himself. Keeping that in mind, him not being able to disengage from the convoluted, classist world of Royal Delhi Club and the lives of its self-centred members in Murder Mubarak was disappointing, to say the least.

A bigger letdown was that Homi Adajania and his team felt it was appropriate for them to turn a subplot centred around sexual violence into one about an extramarital affair which clearly led to the antagonisation of a woman character who deserved a much better ending; something she was given in the book.

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Upasana Dandona

A dysgraphic writer who spends most of her time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...

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