Truth is stranger than fiction. It is also gorier, grislier and grimmer, as proved by the gruesome case of the kidnapping, rape, murder and cannibalism of children in Nithari, Noida. The case, when it came to light back in 2006, had stunned the country with its horrifying reality.
Businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help, Surinder Kohli, were arrested for the shocking crimes they had committed, purportedly in connivance with the local police. The monsters had kidnapped 19 kids and women, raped and murdered them, and then proceeded to cook and eat their body parts. The level of depravity displayed by the two, as evident from the gory details that came tumbling out after their arrest, would put even Hannibal Lecter to shame. Truth definitely is stranger than fiction.
New digital show, Abhay, a hard-hitting crime thriller from the stables of ZEE5, plans to bring the truth of this and many more such astounding cases before audiences, in a startlingly realistic, no-holds-barred style. The series is produced by ZEE5, in association with the renowned B.P. Singh and son Akshay Singh. B.P. Singh he who has achieved cult status in the world of crime shows, courtesy his smash show, CID. Ken Ghosh and Kookie Gulati have directed the show, while B P Singh, Vaspar Dandiwala and Nikita Kanwar are credited with writing the story and dialogues.
The 8-episode web series is named for the protagonist, SSP Abhay Pratap Singh (Kunal Kemmu), a Special Task Force police officer, tasked with the responsibility of unravelling the most mystifying and befuddling of crimes committed in his jurisdiction. Only one episode of the show is out for watching; the channel plans to release one episode every two weeks, in a bid to keep audiences on tenterhooks and their interest alive.
Our advice to viewers would be to brace yourself for a grim, uncompromising and perilous ride into the realm of unbelievable, incredible crimes and their solving. Fans of crime fiction are in for a treat. Only, Abhay deals with real crimes, not fictional ones. And if the first episode is anything to go by, the series is bound to get creepier and more fantastical as it progresses.
What sets Abhay apart from the rest of the crime-driven shows on TV and the net is that Abhay is more about the ‘how’ of capturing the criminal than the ‘who’. In the first episode, the murderers are revealed in the first five minutes of the start of the episode. So, you know it’s not your regular whodunit by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, the show exposes the actual solving of the crime and the intricacies involved. The makers have described it as the first police procedural show in the digital realm.
The show focuses on SSP Abhay’s adeptness at picking up tiny clues that otherwise go unnoticed by lesser investigators. It showcases how Abhay deciphers the clues and how he puts two and two together. Nothing escapes his prying eyes, and no evidence worth following up is left unexplored.
The first episode of the show is set in a small village called Chinthari (a fictional version of the actual village of Nithari) in Noida. The past two years have been hellish for the villagers. In these two years, scores of children have disappeared from the village. Complaints to the local police have proved ineffective. Finally, the case is transferred to the Special Task Force, and its head (Rituraj Singh). SSP Abhay is brought in to solve the case.
The scene shifts to a bungalow in Chinthari and viewers are introduced to the two masterminds of the crime, Chander Singh (Deepak Tijori) and his domestic servant, Jaggu (Gopal Singh). Two children, a brother and sister pair, have gone missing from the village recently. The next few scenes are so gruesome and disturbing that your hair stands on end and your skin breaks out in goosebumps. The girl is raped by the duo, and then murdered and chopped into pieces by Jaggu.
Throughout, we only see Jaggu wielding the sharp, glittering chopper. However, the schunk-shluck-shqwelp sounds when the chopper makes contact with the still warm flesh of the corpse, and the splash and squirt of blood on the walls and his face, are enough to make one’s blood curdle. It is a spine-chilling, hair-raising sequence and we are suitably moved.
As the story digs deeper into the murky manoeuvres of the duo, Abhay slowly but surely unravels the crime and its complexities. He is ably assisted by SP Komal (Sandeepa Dhar) in cracking the convoluted case. But crime-solving is not the only thing that takes up the running time of the episode.
Abhay is fighting inner demons that we, the viewers, know nothing about. He’s gripped by an unknown fear with regards to the safety of his son. He keeps his son under the relentless watch of CCTV cameras installed in his bedroom, constantly checks the camera feeds on his phone as well as on a monitor in his bedroom, and wakes up in the middle of the night in the throes of nightmares, where he sees a hooded figure throttling his sleeping son to death or a woman holding his drenched-in-blood son.
His unfounded panic mars his relationship with his son as well. However, his fears are not as unfounded as they seem to be, or as his wife Radhika (Maninee Mishra) makes them out to be. For, the end shows the actual appearance of the unknown woman – with his son in her grip. Elnaaz Norouzi, the beauteous Iranian actress who impressed in Sacred Games, plays the mystery woman.
As the episode ends on this nerve-wracking moment, we are left wondering at the enigma of it all. The first episode is gripping enough to hold our undivided attention. Hawk-eyed Abhay zeroes in on minute information, deftly plucks the proverbial needle from the haystack and succeeds in unravelling a mystery that has everyone confounded. Kunal Kemmu is superb in the titular role. His sharply furrowed forehead, eyebrows perpetually angled into piercing slants, no-nonsense demeanour and intensely scrutinizing eyes give ample credence to his role of a tough-as-nails STF officer. Kunal owns the role like none other, imprinting the character in the minds of his viewers. We must say we’re surprised and impressed.
Sandeepa Dhar is pretty and poised, and plays her character to perfection. Deepak Tijori looks suitably dysfunctional and unhinged as the monstrous Chander Singh. Maninee Mishra had a very minuscule role in the first episode, which is a pity really. She’s too good an actress to be wasted on such a tiny, insignificant role. Let’s hope that her character has something more substantial to do in the coming episodes. And we’re really looking forward to the unravelling of the cipher that is Elnaaz Norouzi’s character.
That said, Abhay isn’t your typical edge-of-the-seat crime thriller. It’s more the kind that pulls you in slowly, lures you into its depths and lulls you into its narrative, until you’re well and truly ensnared in its grip. Yet, to be very honest, the horrors, twists and turns of the first episode weren’t a patch on the actual shock, horror and magnitude of the crime that it covered. Because truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.
IWMBuzz goes with a rating of 3/5 for Abhay.
(Written By Rashmi Paharia)