It was tough for me to gather my thoughts and pen down the review of Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors. Right from the first episode itself, I knew that it won’t be easy. After all, the cards are laid down wide open in the first 45 minutes itself of this eight episode tale. There is an overtone of psychological turmoil faced by the key characters, there is an attempt to murder, there is an infidelity angle, there is a kid who is witness to something horrific and then worse of it all, there is also marital rape shown on screen, thankfully not graphically.
As is said a couple of times pretty much early in this show, this is an open and shut case.
After all, the husband [Jisshu Sengupta] is lying almost dead on the bed with a knife in his stomach, the wife [Kirti Kulhari] is wandering around on the streets of Mumbai in a white gown laced with blood, the teenage daughter [Mishti Sinha] is shocked but still agile enough to cope with the emotions while the cops wonder whether the case deserves to go beyond a hearing.
Except for one man, Pankaj Tripathi, who picks on the case as he is led to believe that there is a ‘maaldaar party’ involved, only to end up realizing that he could well be fighting this one pro bono. His partner this time around is Anupriya Goenka and even as they are up against Mita Vashisht and her even bigger acquaintance Ashish Vidyarthi along with a powerful lady [Deepti Naval] capable of calling some shots, there is a job to be done.
However, how can one indeed make that happen when the accused is either intentionally not opening her mouth or is just not capable of knowing right from wrong, courtesy the drugs she has been forced to consume right through her marital life.
It all boils down to the mental, emotional and physical abuse beginning to first reach a crescendo and then easing out as Kirti begins to find a hang of her true self while being lodged in jail. Yes, there is abuse involved but with fellow inmate Shilpa Shukla coming to rescue, albeit with perks involved, there is a sense of betterment coming in.
This is where one acknowledges the kind of understanding that Kirti demonstrates towards her character with every passing episode, there is a newer shade of her that comes to the fore. Considering the fact that she almost utters nothing at all for at least half the series and conveys everything through expressions, something that may have turned out to be overbearing if expected out of a lesser actress, Kirti makes it all count. So much so that you are wide eyed towards the last couple of episodes when the horrific truth is unveiled in greater details.
As for Pankaj Tripathi, he is just perfect all over again. As someone who keeps a cool head even in the most diverse of situations around him, he is quite relatable as a lower middle class lawyer who is trying to find his bearings. His understanding towards the fairer sex is paradoxical too as he is a different person when it comes to his client an colleagues whereas someone else when it comes to dealing with his newlywed wife [Khushboo Atre]. In fact one ends up wondering if he playing an asexual character, something which could well be his first on-screen.
The others who impress are the trio of cops Pankaj Saraswat, Kalyanee Mulay and Ajeet Singh Palawat. Pankaj reprises his part from the first season and is perfect as the senior cop who wants the case to reach a logical conclusion with all aspects taken into consideration. Ajeet, as the man in hurry, is a quintessential cop shown earlier in movies where Kalyanee, who also plays his on-screen wife in the series, is the perfect mix of a tough and understanding cop who is also willing to put her marital relationship at stake in quest for justice.
There are others too on the scene with different point of views around justice. Anupriya Goenka as a relative rookie on the scene is all things right and goes by the book while ensuring that her client doesn’t lose out on justice. On the other hand Ashish Vidyarthi as the ‘pooja paath’ has a patriarchal mindset who has no qualms in letting his public prejudice coming into play.
At the core of this adapted work by Apurva Asrani for Applause Entertainment, who have already made 2020 their own courtesy Scam 1992, Undekhi, Avridh and Hostages 2 amongst others, is a heart wrenching tale of abuse that is shocking, but not surprising, as you have come across many such tales making headlines in the newspapers. It also shows that crime that goes ‘behind closed doors’ isn’t something restricted to class or sex and is as humiliating, crass and embarrassing for one as it is to another.
This is where one also credits the director duo of Rohan Sippy and Arjun Mukerjee who make sure that this web series doesn’t end up being a cringe affair as the disturbing visuals are kept to the minimal. Had they taken the violent route, Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors could well have turned out to be something else, which thankfully it isn’t. Instead, it is a gripping drama that raises an uncomfortable debate around marital rape that ought to be seen.