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Murder in the Hills is a Bengali crime thriller web series streaming on the OTT platform hoichoi. The series was released on 23 July 2021. The series is directed by Anjan Dutt, who makes his directorial debut for a web series. This film is loosely based on the storyline of the famous detective novel of Agatha Christie, And then there were none and Murder on the Orient Express.
Set in Darjeeling, Murder in The Hills is an engrossing and extremely dark story filled with very complex layered characters who have their own share of secrets and unwanted truths. The story surrounds around the seemingly natural death of a yesteryear film star named Tony Roy. The death however threatens to expose a dark past of the serene hill station. Amitabha, an ambitious investigative journalist, decides to get to the end of this mystery.
Darjeeling is to Anjan Dutt what a muse is to an artist, a place that has been reiterated in his works so many times that it has become parody. It’s his mistress, childhood, and home all rolled into one and a continuing source of much of his creative output, mainly his songs, but also his movies. Some of Dutt’s best films may have been set in Kolkata, but it’s almost as if his sensibilities were shaped by the Anglo culture of Darjeeling, where he had his schooling both literally (in St Paul’s) and figuratively.
Dutt is in home turf, then, in Murder in the Hills, a new web series written and directed by him, which stars both Darjeeling and him (in a brief role). It opens promisingly, with the man himself, out on a walk in his boots and jacket, smoking a pipe, set to a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” sung by him, placing an order at Glenary’s in a tone that tells us about not only his familiarity with the place but also the character’s.
Dutt plays Tony Roy, a former movie star with deep ties to Darjeeling, and like all Dutt characters in his films, a riff on his own persona: eccentric, bohemian, but also a bit of a jerk, an ageing rockstar still indulged by his friends only because his charms are undeniable.
Murder in the Hills looks like any other Hoichoi show. Dutt and cinematographer Ramyadip Saha aren’t able to find a distinct style for the story (drone shots are not style). But forget style, it doesn’t even get some of the basics right. The episodes from the past don’t look too different from the present. But for an even more specific example, let’s look at Murder on the Orient Express (since the show keeps doffing its hat to the classic), adapted for the screen by Sidney Lumet in 1974.
In the “Summation Gathering” climax, when Hercules Poirot explains to the rest of the characters the solving of the crime, we revisit some scenes that we have already seen in the movie. Only now, they assume “greater melodramatic significance”, as Lumet writes in his book “Making Movies”.
Lumet then proceeds to explain how he and his cinematographer achieved that with a simple and faultless choice of lensing. They shot the same scene twice, first with a normal and then with a wide-angle lens.
The normal lens made the scene look like a normal part of the movie, whereas the wide-angle lens version made it look more dramatic, for the climax. Dutt and Saha use the same lens and the same camera position to show us the same scene twice, even though the context has dramatically changed. I don’t know what to call it. Lazy? Bad? Certainly Darjeeling deserves better. So do you.
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