Unlike season 1, the second season of Pankaj Tripathi-starrer Criminal Justice fares better due to the ingenuity.
Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is no Orange is the New Black, Netflix’s breakout series, though one can see hints of the Australian series Wentworth.
Director: Arjun Mukherjee and Rohan Sippy
Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Kirti Kulhari, Jisshu Sengupta
I had read somewhere that originality is a byproduct of sincerity and that is probably the beauty of Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors. Unlike Season 1 that was adapted from the original BBC show by the same name, the second one fares better due to its ingenuity.
Like most fans of the franchise, I went in wanting to marvel at Pankaj Tripathi playing his best performance as advocate Madhav Mishra. But nothing had prepared me for the robust storytelling of directors Rohan Sippy and Arjun Mukherjee. The credit here goes largely to the fine writing. Apurva Asrani, best known for Shahid and Aligarh, has penned the screenplay for the eight-part series and has done a nifty job at that. There’s a great deal of detailing in the way he constructs the character of protagonist Anuradha Chandra (Kirti Kulhari) who is under trial for the murder of her husband, top lawyer Bikram Chandra (Jisshu Sengupta). On the surface, they are a happy couple with a beautiful young daughter – Rhea (Mishti Sinha). He is handsome. He is successful. He appears to be a caring husband, cancelling work to spend time with family. He is righteous, fighting to be on the right side of history by fighting for the rights of those rendered powerless by the system. And yet, one night, he unsuspectingly finds himself stabbed by his wife. A survivor of clinical depression and acute anxiety, Anuradha is far too fidgety to be reliable. With details missing in her narrative as to what really happened on that fateful night, she finds herself at odds with the entire world, especially her daughter who is the only eye-witness to the incident.
Sippy and Mukherjee take Asrani’s vision a notch above as they walk the viewers through Anu’s life. Burying the truth within herself, Anu pleads guilty. And there’s only one man who can bail her out – Advocate Mishra.
Check out the trailer of Criminal Justice here:
Shouldered strongly by Kulhari, who is pitch-perfect in her portrayal of Anu, the series benefits from fine performances by Tripathi (of course), Deepti Naval, Ajeet Singh Palawat and Kalyanee Mulay. The surprise package here is Anupriya Goenka, who takes centre stage as defence counsel. Tripathi plays ‘woke-man’ as tutored by his wife, content to field for his female colleague who he believes is better suited to lead the case.
There’s an empathetic gaze in the portrayal of Anu, who is evidently combatting severe mental health issues. As the subject demands, through the episodes, we find ourselves delving deeper into discussions about the fallacies of the legal system and the ground level loopholes and biases which does disservice to criminal cases. Problematic patriarchy remains the overarching theme. It’s commendably the first time a mainstream show really explains the concepts of abuse, gaslighting and marital rape. There are parallel subplots about a young couple whose ethical differences seep into their relationship to reflect how problematic behaviour has been normalised by society. Madhav’s own marriage plays a significant part in holding a mirror to his behaviour, elucidating how an endearing man can be equally faulty. In many ways, I believe, the show takes forward what Anubhav Sinha started with Thappad. It could be prematurely optimistic of me but I view this vein of storytelling as a systematic rebellion against toxic misogyny and it’s never too late to celebrate that.
There are two primary thoughts for our readers though. A team of men have created this show. So ladies, remember that men can often be our allies. Secondly and more importantly, as of 2020, marital rape remains legal in this country.