Criminal Justice Behind Closed Doors Review: The second season of the Hotstar Specials Criminal Justice brings back the disparate duo of Madhav Mishra (Pankaj Tripathi) and Nikhat Hussain (Anupriya Goenka) as they bring justice to a new needful. This time, the one who needs that is Anuradha Chandra (Kirti Kulhari), accused of stabbing her husband, famed lawyer Bikram Chandra (Jisshu Sengupta). The act is witnessed by their teenage daughter Rhea (Adrija Sinha), who is left traumatised by the incident. Bikram’s mother Viji (Deepti Naval) is determined to get her son justice by any means possible. Criminal Justice Chapter 2: Kirti Kulhari Calls the Second Season of Pankaj Tripathi’s Legal Drama More Convoluted, Gripping.
Madhav, who is just recently married, is assigned to defend the accused, and he later brings in his former compadre, Nikhat. They soon realise that it isn’t an open-and-shut case as it is perceived to be. For one, there is no clear motive as to why Anuradha would stab her husband. Secondly, she is in a daze after the crime and isn’t willing to speak much on it. The daughter hates her mother for harming her father, but is holding something back. What was to be simple case of murder soon becomes a debate on domestic abuse and marital rape.
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The first season of Criminal Justice was inspired by BBC’s British series by the same name (later adapted by HBO as The Night Of). It wasn’t merely a legal drama, but also was a bitter prison drama and a murder mystery as well. While it may not have done complete justice to all aspects of the three-fold narrative, there are moments that stay with you in the season and performances by Vikrant Massey, Jackie Shroff and Tripathi bowl you over.
The new season, directed by Rohan Sippy and Arjun Mukerjee and scripted by Apurva Asrani, takes a more original route. At the same time, it retains some of the narrative styles from the first season. In the process, Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors gets befuddled in what it wants to focus.
Have to say, I loved the theme of the new season, as it delves on domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, in a marriage. The series points out that, through a mix of guilt-trips and gaslighting, how easy it is to convince a victim that she isn’t being abused. The season works best when it explores the psychology of the victim in such scenarios.
All well and good. The only trouble is we already get a whiff of that in the first couple of episodes, and then have to wait for the final episode for the series and the rest of the characters to get to that predictable conclusion.
Still, the makers do a decent job of keeping up the intrigue factor, mostly by letting us trying to figure out why Anuradha is behaving the way she is so. Even the portions of her daughter coping up with what happened to her family and hatred towards her mother have some depth. Unfortunately, the sense of mystery is diluted by some very ordinary (and often needless) subplots. OTT Releases Of The Week: George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky, Sara Ali Khan, Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No 1, Pankaj Tripathi’s Criminal Justice Season 2 and More.
There is one track about a cop couple (Ajeet Singh Palawat and Kalyanee Mulay) who have their own domestic problems which, while watchable for both the actors, don’t make much of an impact. The need to make the husband cop so stubborn-minded about pinning the crime on the accused is never explored.
We also get to see Madhav having his own domestic strife with his new bride Ratna (Khusboo Atre). While that track is more light-hearted, we are oblivious as to why he behaves so coldly with her, so much that he never tells anyone that he is married. Or for the fact that this track also doesn’t add much value to the narrative either. Similar is the case with Nikhat’s family problems. We also get to hear her complain how her legal career will be ruined if she takes up the case, only for that discussion to never happen later.
It’s like the show wanted to give some depth to these characters, and the only way it can think of doing that is adding some needless strife.
The most irksome track is the one involving Anuradha’s jailtime. Like with the first season, there is a subplot involving the protagonist’s miserable experience in prison, trying to adjust with the harsh conditions there, while being pregnant. In the first season, this track offered plenty of gritty moments, and also a chance to further develop the character of the protagonist. Not to mention, seeing Shroff in one of his best roles in recent times.
No such luck here, though. Apart from the pregnancy matter, Anuradha’s character doesn’t see much growth in these sequences, and the track is soon made redundant by the time we reach the last couple of episodes. Even the addition of Ishani’s character (Shilpa Shukla), a hotshot murder convict and a manipulative bully, don’t bring much to the tale.
Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors gets better in the final couple of episodes, after some very middling errr… middle portions. The courtroom sequences see the actors (who I can’t find any fault with) give their best. Goenka and Tripathi play comfortably with each other. Kulhari is excellent in the final episode, when she reveals what exactly she has been going through. Vidhyarthi, saddled in a caricaturish role of the prosecution lawyer, breathes fire in his scenes. Deepti Naval is fantastic in the scene, where she reluctantly begins to accept that her son was upto no good.
But again, the writing in the scenes goes for a more Bollywood treatment, taking convenience tropes to reach its conclusion, rather than meticulously deconstruct the path to justice. Even Anuradha dropping her silence to talk about her trauma felt strangely vacuous, because it was rushed by then.
What disappointed me the most, however, is that the subject of marital rape is only discussed on a superficial level, and is finally contained in a snarky quote of how justice is mostly about protecting men’s rights. Deserves better!
– Works When the Focus is On Discussing Domestic Abuse and Trauma
– The Performances
– The Dull Middle Portions
– Weak Subplots
Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors works best when the focus is on domestic trauma and abuse, but is needlessly muddled by its many subplots. Sadly, it is a few steps down from what was a much stronger first season. Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar VIP.
(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Dec 24, 2020 09:31 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).