Canny lawyer Madhav Mishra, as played by Pankaj Tripathi, is back again. It’s fitting that he headlines Criminal Justice, now in its third season, because he lifts it. From the occasional clunkiness and staginess, and from the inevitable stretches a series can fall into when it is trying to fill in 40-odd minutes running time of an episode.
Still, the series, directed by Rohan Sippy and produced by Applause Entertainment in association with BBC Studios, remained engaging. The horrific murder of a young girl, a teenaged lad in the dock for the crime, complex modern-day iterations of nuclear families, the inter-cutting between legal proceedings and cop procedures, overlaid with Mishra Ji’s implacable good cheer, was enough to keep me with it.
Drugs can kill. So can green-eyed jealousy, and apathy. Over eight episodes, the web series touches upon the rampant use of party drugs among, well, youngsters who party hard; the overarching impact of social media on our lives; and the difficulties of parenting teenagers in today’s hyper-connected, Instagram-saturated times.
Swastika Mukherjee and Purab Kohli are the upwardly mobile Ahujas, co-parenting and managing teen social media star Zara and her step-brother Mukul, who is increasingly insecure by all the attention his sister is showered upon, both at home and outside. Mukherjee’s former husband (Gaurav Gera) puts in a solid turn as a father who stands by his besieged son. A drug-fuelled party clandestinely attended by both youngsters ends in tragedy: she is dead, and he is accused for her murder.
Enter Madhav Mishra, armed with his desi home-grown wisdom and dogged determination to back the cause of justice, and a keen-eyed dogsbody. His light-hearted interactions with his wife, who is busy gaining big strides in her ambition to open a beauty parlour, leave you smiling. And his jousting with the smooth English-speaking, ‘foreign-educated’ adversary (Shweta Prasad Basu) reminds us how language can be divisive, and how privilege can be countered.
Being ‘Hindi medium’ doesn’t make our Mishraji any less of a ‘vakeel’: to be a good human being, says he, is as important as to be on the winning side. Some of these dialogues are on the nose, but Tripathi is self-aware and disarming, and we move right along on the path of discovery. Yes, the killer is found, and yes, the series manages to keep it a surprise till almost near the end.
When is season 4 coming?
Criminal Justice Season 3 cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Swastika Mukherjee, Purab Kohli, Gaurav Gera
Criminal Justice Season 3 director: Rohan Sippy