'Criminal Justice': Vikrant Massey, Pankaj Tripathi salvage a feeble plot
If you're looking for an Indian crime-drama to binge, people might direct you to Hotstar's Criminal Justice. It is based on an eponymous 2008 British show. Written by Shridhar Raghavan, and directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Furia, Criminal Justice is a courtroom drama/police procedural that's equal parts good/bad. This makes it all the more confusing to answer this: Should you watch it?
Vikrant Massey plays Aditya Sharma, a naive people-pleaser, and that lands him in trouble. He helps out his father and brother-in-law with their app-based taxi business. While driving a passenger around the streets of Mumbai, things go bad, then a little good, and then real freaking bad again. Cutting right to the chase, *somehow* Aditya gets slapped with a rape/murder charge.
The second major character that the show outlines beautifully is of Madhav Mishra's, an unsuccessful lawyer with street-smarts. Played by the super-talented Pankaj Tripathi, Criminal Justice heavily relies on him, as it relies on Madhav, who also doubles as a comic-relief. If Aditya's purpose is to highlight suffering, Madhav's is to give direction. Both actors deliver unfailing performances, however, Tripathi's brilliance dwarfs the rest.
The other major characters on Criminal Justice are Jackie Shroff's Mustafa, an inmate who runs trade in prison; Aditya's sister Avni (Rucha Inamdar), who serves to highlight the effects of a legal battle on an Indian household. Then, there is Pankaj Saraswat's stereotypical honest cop Raghu Sallian; renowned lawyer Mandira Mathur (Mita Vashisht), and her protégé, Nikhat Hussain (Anupriya Goenka), who makes up for her superior's heartlessness.
Criminal Justice picks up quick but the momentum dies down as it details the events of a legal battle of over 22 weeks. As Madhav and Nikhat investigate the truth in this whodunnit tale, the sub-plots don't have enough grip, making the viewer crave for the main one. Although Criminal Justice has its paybacks, overall, it's a bit of a drag with little masala.
Although the plot of the show sounds A-okay, there's nothing new in its treatment. The dialogs are inconsistently unimpressive with moments where the show has a character say something obvious out loud to really drive the point home. Scenes that need emphasis are emphasized. A lot. Even visually, the show heavily relies on slow motions and close shots, to really highlight certain aspects.
The show's length allows its characters to be fleshed-out well, but Criminal Justice overlooks its minor characters in that regard. While the central characters operate in the greys, others are inescapably one-dimensional. That, and its pretty evident lazy casting for the side-roles, make watching the series a bit of a struggle every time Massey or Tripathi is not on the screen playing their parts.
The storytelling is a bit too verbose and the story just doesn't have as much to tell. However, the show isn't without its moments. It's not your Sacred Games, but it's a departure from the Crime Patrol episodes we're used to seeing. Criminal Justice might not be a groundbreaking web-series, but it spikes just enough interest to pull you in. And so we binge.