‘Criminal Justice’ Review: Another Example How Desi OTT Platforms Are Missing The Point While Remaking Firangi Shows
When I first found out that Hotstar’s 'Criminal Justice' is a remake of BBC's ‘Criminal Justice’, my first reaction was that of fear. We’ve seen how showrunners and filmmakers butcher the source material to meet the ‘sensibilities’ of Indian audiences.
What happens when a taxi-driver spends a night with a typical ‘manic pixie dream girl’ only to wake up next to her dead body? ‘Criminal Justice’ doesn’t just answer this riveting mystery, but it also comments on the slow justice system that plagues the country.
Hotstar’s ‘Criminal Justice’ is an officially licensed Indian adaptation of BBC-produced series ‘Criminal Justice’. The Indian version has been adapted by Sridhar Raghavan and directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Furia.
Vikrant Massey has become an actor who can reassure viewers of the quality of the project which he’s a part of. We’ve seen him soar in ‘A Death in the Gunj’ and his sheer presence in ‘Criminal Justice’ was enough to get me excited. Although he delivers a decent performance, the overall setting and the lack of story overshadow Massey.
There’s a distinct Tigmanshu Dhulia touch to the dialogue. He has made his mark by weaving stories revolving around gangsters in rural and the semi-urban parts of the country. The usage of ‘bhaari’ Hindi words add a certain gravitas to the characters. This especially helps Jackie Shroff, who doesn’t turn into a caricature every time he utters the word ‘Bhidu’.
Dhulia has made it his habit to try and stretch a seemingly thin plot over 7 and a half hours, only to add conflict to an otherwise interesting story.
Linear stories, even those ripe with intrigue, can be told in a longer format if the milieu and the cinematography complements the plot. ‘Criminal Justice’ has flamboyant characters and there’s little room for these technicalities to take center stage.
‘Broadchurch’ and ‘True Detective’ (Season 1) have become prime examples of how to produce a taut and engaging mystery thriller in contemporary pop culture. With a slow-boil approach to storytelling, the showrunners have made it a point to stress on atmosphere and the philosophical undertones. Be it the background score, or the poignant acting, these two shows have set the perfect template for future shows.
This is where Tigmanshu Dhulia could have learnt from the western counterparts on how to adapt already great source material. With a little more composure and a much slower pace, ‘Criminal Justice’ would have added the much needed depth it was lacking.
Picking a non-Hindu name for a protagonist who allegedly rapes and kills a woman has a different conotation in India during the post-Kathua incident. What should have been an act of defiance against the establishment gets reduced to tokenism because of the showrunners' reluctance to dive deeper into the identity politics at play here.
Hotstar has started calling its range of desi-fied shows ‘Hotstar Specials’. The OTT platform has gained the rights to recreate some of the best overseas shows for an Indian audience. The trick here would be to take the best elements from the source material and contextualise them.
All in all, 'Criminal Justice' blows hot and cold throughout its ten episode run. The initial intrigue is enough to help you power through the binge but this is not a show that stays with you long after you've shut down the app or the browser.
We’ll be doing a special show every Friday where we’ll recommend TV Shows and movies which you can watch on streaming platforms! Make sure you follow us on all social media platforms to get notified.
Watch the trailer for 'Criminal Justice' here: