Watching crime fiction is a form of interrogation. You listen to a story, engage with it, ask questions, and hope for answers that reveal its true identity. The good ones challenge you and give you information you didn’t bargain for. The bad ones indulge in cheap trickery and empty twists. But there’s a third and most worrisome category: the crazy ones. The crazy ones speak so much that they get lost in a web of their own conceit. They get so distracted by their own voice that they become unreliable thinkers, forget unreliable narrators. They ask the questions themselves, answer them in broken fragments and end up interrogating you, the disoriented viewer, for daring to trust them. Then they escape. No prizes for guessing which category The Great Indian Murder belongs to.
The overwritten, overplotted nine-episode series drove me up the wall with its exhausting non-linearity, shapeless intrigue and narrative density. It’s based on an equally frustrating Vikas Swarup novel (Six Suspects), but aspires to be a massy Paatal Lok without the crutch of a single protagonist. By the final episode, I was both impressed and defeated: impressed by its stamina to go far and wide despite divulging nothing new, and defeated by its anthology-like incoherence and cultural caricatures. One of the characters even lives in a spaceship whose accident causes a quake in Delhi. Actually, that’s untrue. I don’t know why I wrote that. But it’s not implausible, given that the show bides time by darting in the most random directions. The quake-in-Delhi part is true though – the shaky-camera natural calamity scene serves zero purpose but it’s there, because by then the writing has painted itself into yet another corner.