Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Punjabi Crime

Since finishing Season 2 of Dehli Crime on Netflix, I've been looking for another crime show to watch that's set in India. I recently found one in Kohrra, released a few months ago, though this series is set in the Indian state of Punjab, the heart of Sikh culture.

The series starts in basic mystery fashion. A couple having sex in a field see a dead body near their car. The body turns out to be a young man who in a couple of days was supposed to wed in an arranged marriage. His best friend, a British guy who the victim studied with in England and who was with him the previous night, is missing. Onto the case comes veteran SI Balbir Singh and his assistant Garundi, both of whom, especially Singh, have complicated personal lives. The investigation begins, and over the series' six episodes, becomes at once a slow-burn procedural as well as a look at various aspects of Punjabi society: familial traditions, business practices, sexual mores, class issues, institutional corruption, and on and on. It's a dense and very interesting six hours or so of viewing, and it's a show that makes no effort to flatten or heroize its characters. There are a lot of characters in Kohrra, and nearly every single one of them is fallible in the most human and recognizable of ways. Conflicts abound between the people in the story and within the people. Of particular note is the lead, SI Singh, played by Suvinder Ricky, a police officer who is devoted to his job but who has loads of baggage. He's basically honest as a police officer, but he's been around long enough in a tainted system to have some blemishes on himself. The years of stress and wear show on his face, and he tells his younger assistant, Garundi, that the one thing Garundi doesn't want to do is end up like him, middle-aged and full of anger and sort of dead-ended in his position. Garundi is about to get married to a woman he loves, and one non-job-related thing Singh is implying to Garundi is that he hopes Garundi makes a better domestic life for himself than Singh has done. Singh, we see in flashbacks, was a poor husband. He was abusive even and finally drove his wife to suicide. He dotes on his young grandson but has all sorts of difficulties with his adult daughter, who, understandably, despises him. She acts out in ways that are utterly believable and that lead to him having a home life almost as fraught as his professional life. These are characters with messy lives, and not every problem has a neat or just solution. The mystery plot, too, gets quite involved and gnarly, but the crime does get solved by the end, and the resolution is clear and satisfying. There is lingering sadness and pain for some, hope and a degree of optimism for others. Maybe, just maybe, some people will even change a little bit for the better, and become more tolerant of others and their flaws. With its numerous characters and plot strands, Kohrra demands full attention throughout, but the payoffs are worth it.

Next Indian crime drama please!

1 comment:

BSS said...

Nice review, Scott. I watched it a couple of months ago. You captured its essence. Punjabi Noir I think I proclaimed on social networks after watching it.