Crime Stories review: Netflix's Kannada debut raises pertinent questions

Last Updated 23 September 2021, 17:56 IST

Crime Stories: India Detectives!

Docu-series (Kannada/English)

Direction: N Amit and Jack Rampling

Rating: 4/5

When it comes to Indian crime shows, the bar of professionalism is set very low, because the criminal investigation in India is a process that does not follow the books. And Indian laws feel inadequate in handling the complications involved.

Netflix docu-series 'Crime Stories: India Detectives', Netflix's maiden Kannada original, looks at the Indian criminal investigation as a process. It doubles up as a social commentary on how criminals are born and how people from lower echelons of society are treated by the system.

The series is filled with amazing aerial and street shots of Bengaluru with all its colour and coldness, edited perfectly to fill in the intended feeling in the viewer.

Bengaluru is a city of aspirations. But when cut-throat competition kills their dreams, people could break down, fight psychological issues and end up being criminals. This reality is well-narrated in the first episode ‘A Murdered Mother’. It is about how the city cops solve the 2018 murder case in K R Puram that made a national headline when Amrutha, a techie, killed her own mother.

Was she given psychological counselling, even when her suicidal tendency is on record? The episode leaves this question unasked, leading to more questions about how our system treats criminals when it is aware of their backgrounds.

The second episode, ‘Body In A Bag’, is about solving the murder of a man killed and thrown on the street side. He is wrapped in a jute bag in Nandini Layout police station limits. With this episode, the series starts humanising the cops by showing the investigating cop’s autistic child and how he balances family and the high-pressure job.

The third episode ‘Dying For Protection’ stands out. It is about a chilling murder of a sex worker. Prostitution is illegal in Karnataka, with cops raiding them as per their wish, making it the insecure of all professions. The woman cop, who detests sex workers, ends up being empathetic to them. This one is a sure-shot commentary on the dark underbelly of Indian culture and vultures hidden in it. Make no mistake, megacities and governments disrespect women who end up in this profession for various reasons. These women are given neither legitimacy nor security.

The last episode, ‘The Stolen Baby’ gets even deeper and darker, by following a seeming case of the kidnap of a little over one-year-old of a couple living under Hebbal flyover. The father of the child supposedly conspires to sell the child to another criminal who he met in jail before while serving term.

The highlight here is the convicts, who are out of jail and living on the streets. They either beg or do illegal things to keep life going. There is no rehabilitation system for the convicts who come out, which pushes them into the black hole of criminality.

'Crime Stories' leaves one questioning the methods cops use. The amount of digital information available to cops at their fingertips, and how easily they access information related to anyone, even of the suspects who are later acquitted is unsettling, in a country where there is no strong data protection law in force yet.

The show has been rightly sensible towards prostitutes by not showing their faces, but the same approach was required for others as well. Will the accused shown in the show be able to live normally when they come out? Are we mature enough to treat them with dignity?

Netflix's blunders with subtitling continue. Numbers are written wrongly and out of sync with the video in many places. In the enthusiasm to show the way cops work, the show has gone overboard at times explaining the things we already know. For example, does the cop need a seller to tell what is obvious - that the jute bag is of cattle feed? It is printed on it already.

It holds a mirror up to the policing system. Take the example of the accused who is kept in the custody for interrogation, and comes out limping, indicating brutality which goes unsaid, or the last episode where the cops actually give some beatings to the hands of the accused. Whither human rights? Could this be the tip of the iceberg?

Oddly, the cases covered come from people involving poorer sections with no social capital. This is yet another matter to mull about. Aren’t there any criminals among the rich?

Overall, the series raises pertinent questions as Kannada makes a grand debut on Netflix. We are usually fed with sensational television and YouTube programs on crime. This docu-series is more detailed and takes an intimate look at the criminal justice system as a whole, and policemen's careers marked with risk and uncertainty.

(Published 23 September 2021, 08:36 IST)

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