After Roar of the Lion, Hotstar Specials launches its next series Criminal Justice today. Adapted from the British drama by the same name, it stars Vikrant Massey, Pankaj Tripathi, Jackie Shroff and Mita Vasisht in the lead roles. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Furia, the 10-episode series has been bankrolled by BBC Studios India and Applause Entertainment.
The first episode of the show is very similar to the original but has been duly infused with Indian flavours. Aditya (Vikrant) is a happy-go-lucky middle-class boy. He is a football champion (even nicknamed Messi by his sister), all set to get into an MBA college. There is a girl showering all her attention on him and a family that loves him dearly. Wanting to support his aged father, Aditya drives a cab in his free time. While on his way to a party with friends, he accidentally accepts the ride of a girl (Madhurima Roy). And his life takes a turn for the worse.
Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the girl takes him all over the city. She is constantly fighting over the phone and takes her anger out on the poor driver. Realising that they both have been to the same college, she finally warms up to him. Wanting to return the girl’s phone, which she forgets in the backseat, Aditya goes back to her house. What really worries you most in the episode is how in a time where women’s safety is a concern, a single girl not only invites her cab driver home but also treats him to vodka and ecstasy, before going on to have sex with him. It’s not only unconvincing but looks rather foolish.
After a wild session, Aditya wakes up only to find her in a pool of blood having being stabbed multiple times. He tries to escape but as luck would have it ends up at the police station after getting involved in a car accident. There, he is identified by the girl’s neighbour, who happened to see him enter her flat. At this point, Pankaj Tripathi’s Madhav Mishra is introduced. He is a greedy lawyer, looking to make a quick buck from petty cases at the police station. He takes up Aditya’s case hoping to earn big money but is left disappointed when a ferocious corporate lawyer (Mita Vasisht) is assigned the case. Having shown faith in Aditya, Madhav might turn out to be his saviour in the future episodes.
What’s rather bothersome is how few facts have been made too evident. Be it Aditya’s friend sending him pictures of girls on his phone, the camera zooming on the CCTV as he buys condoms in a store or the girl’s phone switching off before she changes her trip destination. Having watched enough episodes of Crime Patrol and Savdhan India, you know these incidents will soon turn up as evidence against Aditya. The detective cells in your brain also say that the entire incident is part of a bigger conspiracy and not a simple happenstance.
Coming to performances, Vikrant Massey stands out playing a young boy who suddenly finds himself in a grave situation. The jail scenes where he is threatened by a jail bully will leave you shaken. Vikrant showcases the transformation from a chocolate boy getting some easy action to a helpless prisoner with conviction. He makes you feel for his character.
Pankaj Tripathi once again aces a character with dry humour, making you smirk at his witty lines. Making his digital debut with Criminal Justice, Jackie Shroff impresses as Mustafa, the goon in the jail. Jackie also makes use of his popular tapori language to the fullest in the show.
The British series, when released in 2008, received quite a lot of backlash from lawyers over the way they were projected. And in quite a similar fashion, you have Mita’s character say that she doesn’t care about the truth, as the judge would make his decision on whichever party’s story he likes. Wonder if Indian solicitors will also take offence to that!
While the first episode clearly presents Aditya as innocent, the story won’t be so predictable. With nine more episodes to go, it is going to be a nail-biting experience ahead.
Verdict: Binge watch Criminal Justice only if you like crime-based dramas.