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Opening Shot: Shots of Bangalore City, India. Then a shot of the Krishnarajapura Police Station, part of the Whitefield Division.
The Gist: In the first episode, a 52-year-old mother is found stabbed to death in her home, with her son seriously injured. Manoj Kumar, an assistant commissioner of police, questions the son in the hospital. Right away, he says his sister Amrutha, a 33-year-old computer engineer. He has no idea what prompted her to kill their mother and stab him, but knew that she had been depressed at one point in her adult life.
She has skipped town, and, given her level of education, Kumar and his colleagues think that she may be able to evade capture. Her phone records indicate she’s talked to a man named Sridhar Rao, and after perusing his social media, they match a motorcycle on his Facebook feed with one seen outside of Amrutha’s house the night of the murder. The two of them immediately got on a flight to the Andaman Islands.
When they track the two of them down and they’re returned to Banglaore, Kumar interrogates both of them. The idea is that Sridhar “brainwashed” Amrutha into doing his bidding, as she doesn’t seem capable of such an act on her own. But the questioning gets frustrating when Sridhar admits to nothing but having another girlfriend, one he intends to marry. When Amrutha is questioned, the truth seemingly comes out, but not to the satisfaction of the detectives.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Crime Stories: India Detectives feels like a real-life version of the scripted series Delhi Crime, except set in the tech-oriented, cosmopolitan city of Bangalore.
Our Take: We have a sneaking suspicion that not all the scenes in Crime Stories: India Detectives are actually taking place in real time. In the first episode, there seemed to be too many situations where someone is on a phone, or someone is shown staring at a scrolling computer screen to make us think that they’ve discovered these leads as the cameras are rolling.
Even the interrogations feel strange, mainly because they’re so casual looking. The suspects are led into Kumar’s office by the shoulder, almost in a friendly manner. They stand there like they’re a subordinate reporting on what they found. When Kumar doesn’t get the answers he wants, he does threaten to kick the cameras out and get the answers he wants one way or the other. But the fact that these murder suspects are so willing to have the filmmakers talk to them, show their interrogations, and admit what they did on camera feels so anathema to what we’re used to in this country.
But what fascinated us about the show was how India’s ever-evolving but still creaky cultural norms around gender and marriage creep into the detectives’ investigative process. Kumar asks Amrutha’s brother why she was never married, and all of the male detectives find the idea that she killed her mother on her own to be absurd.
Despite Sridhar’s surprise at hearing about Amrutha’s mother, and Amrutha’s insistence he knew nothing about it, the detectives were convinced that he brainwashed her into doing the deed, and he was charged with murder right along with her.
The other part of the investigative process that was fascinating was the fact that the cops didn’t seem to fully buy just how depressed Amrutha was, that she killed her mom and tried to kill her brother because she didn’t want them to suffer after she inevitably killed herself. Is it irrational? Sure.
But not unheard of. Still, it didn’t seem to be a plausible reason, at least not plausible enough to let Sridhar off the hook. This was a woman with some severe mental health issues, but they were dismissed for the most part.
It’ll be interesting to see if we get more almost accidental examinations of India’s cultural norms in the other three episodes. The crux of that is: Will it make audiences here cringe, or will they just realize that not everyone in every country thinks like they do?
Parting Shot: Scenes from the next episode, where a detective is called to a case where a young man’s body was found in a sack, his distraught mother already pointing fingers.
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