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Murder In Mahim review: This Ashutosh Rana and Vijay Raaz Film Compels You to Face the Stench of Bigotry and Homophobia.

Murder In Mahim review

Murder In Mahim review: The eight-part series focuses on regular people (and their families) to be found in modest dwellings and crowded police thanas, through a sharp look at the LGBTQi community.

For a jaded viewer who has almost always been invited to look at a split-level Mumbai, residing in either fancy high-rise towers, or its slummy, scummy underbelly, Murder In Mahim comes as a relatively fresh look at working-class stiffs, and their connection with killings that arise out of unhappy circumstance, rather than by chance.

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Based on terrific Bombay chronicler Jerry Pinto’s novel of the same name, the eight-part series strays somewhat from the original by some additions and subtractions and deviations, but stays largely faithful to the heart of the story which focuses on regular people (and their families) to be found in modest dwellings, crowded police thanas, general wards in hospitals, beach shacks, through a sharp look at the LGBTQi community.

A young sex worker is found brutally murdered, his innards pulled inside out, in a public toilet at Mahim station. Police inspector Shivajirao Jende (Vijay Raaz) takes along newbie cop Firdaus Rabbani (Shivani Raghuvanshi) to learn on the job while they go sleuthing. As the two muddle along on the trail of bodies which pile up, a couple more cops (Bharat Ganeshpure, Satya Vijay) keep cropping up for reasons best known to themselves.

There are red herrings aplenty. Could the killer be Sunil, the son of former journalist Peter Fernandes (Ashutosh Rana) who has had a fall-out with Jende? And also, could Sunil be gay? What are those two other policemen doing: are they trying to help or hinder the investigation? What connection does a dead man’s sister (Sonia Balani) have with the murders?

There are times when you zone out, and those are places when the writing borders on the explanatory and/or banal. The series is set in the period prior to the Supreme Court decision to decriminalise same sex relationships, so we find a group of protestors outside the cop station going through the motions. There are stretched out portions, along with some eye-roll sections (especially one between a secretive woman who wants publicity and Fernandes): also, the antagonism between Raaz, who settles himself into Jende’s role, and Rana’s retired journalist feels contrived, even if it is nice to see these two solid actors face off, before joining forces.

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The most impactful part of the series, written by Mustafa Neemuchwala and Udai Singh Pawar, and directed by Rajesh Acharya, is the portrayal of men who like other men, and who have to resort to drastic measures to manage crucial intimacy. Rajesh Khattar, playing an ageing roué, comes off exaggerated but alive to the challenges of finding lasting love. As his character says, with feeling, sometimes it is not about the sex alone, it is about touch and warmth, and even for that, if you have to resort to smelly restrooms, how alienating and cruel can it be.

That’s when you are confronted by the stink that no deodorant can quite take away: that of prejudice, dislike and homophobia. When the show wafts those over your way, you wrinkle your nose, but before you can completely stop inhaling, you’ve taken them in. Can you shift your stance against men, and women, who choose their own sex to love, and to hold? Yes, says the series, but before that, there will be blood.

Murder In Mahim cast: Ashutosh Rana, Vijay Raaz, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shivaji Satam, Divya Jagdale, Bharat Ganeshpure, Sanjeev Satya Vijay, Rajesh Khattar, Nishant Kkhanduja, Ashutosh Gaikwad, Smita Tambe, Sonal Jha, Sonia Balani
Murder In Mahim director: Rajesh Acharya
Murder In Mahim rating: 2.5 stars

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