There’s a moment in the first episode of The Raikar Case when a teenage brat scorns at her mother who is driving her to the funeral of her cousin, Tarun, who leapt out of a cliff in a delirium of depression (we will find out shortly, that, gasp, it’s murder, and the rest of the episodes roll out exchanging blame and alibis). She doesn’t want to be at the funeral, for she feels her parents are treated as second fiddle. The mother doesn’t relent, so out of the moving car, the girl opens the door and pours her torso out … and starts an Instagram live video. The mother gets the message. But the brat ends up at the funeral anyways. The whole leaping out of the car was not necessary at all, but it gave some relief (unintended comedy, intended drama). The whole show is essentially that.
Set in Goa, it is about the powerful Naik Raikar family, the patriarch (Atul Kulkarni) vying for a seat in the Rajya Sabha, wedded to a shrewd but homely wife (Ashvini Bhave). Itasha (Parul Gulati) is their industrious daughter. They also have a son. Tarun is their nephew. (Stick with me, this gets convoluted) Tarun’s father and sister were both killed in a car crash (or was it, gasp, murder?) years ago, and so Tarun and his mother live with the Raikars. The two murders- that of Tarun’s sister and father, and that of him, are connected, somehow. There is also the brat, whose mother is Raikar’s sister, and father is in some shady in-between land between the Raikar patriarch and the politician under whose thumb he is.
Now, this is probably because there are so many characters (a bimbo daughter-in-law, the abusive son of the politician, and even Neil Bhoopalam as the tough-cop with a handlebar mustache who in attempting to solve the case, slips, and falls in love), each character is given only one trait. So when Itasha walks into a scene you are thinking ‘Saviour complex’, when Bhoopalam walks into the scene you think ‘Masculine ego with tight police costume’. There really isn’t space for building character, because there is no time. (Seven episodes, half an hour each- a good run time, but not nearly enough to tie the strings neatly, or tie it at all.)
And as the episodes move along you can sense this overpopulation- characters just confess, or shoot, or poison, or have sex, or film each other, or blackmail. It’s hard to keep tabs on what is happening. As a result, all the alibis melt under the weight of so many stories and so many intentions. The show raises an issue, say adultery, and then within two episodes they bring up nonconsensual videography during private moments, and then within the next two episodes, its murder again. So by the time you hit the murder phase, the adultery and the pornographic intent all seem vanilla, and almost forgotten. I had to remind myself to not sympathize with X character because of what they did which is not brought up again. The story loses sight of itself quite fast, and the last two episodes feel like the writers were shuffling violently trying to remember who did what, and who said what, and why. It’s chaos that loses its sheen quite quickly, as you might imagine. Moreover, there is no resolution, only a promise of a second season. I am not sure if I will be able to carry all these unfinished threads to the next season.
But here’s the thing. In the midst of the messy writing, and cardboard characterization, you sort of have fun. Like the Abbas Mustan film, you know that the murderer is not just someone who is obvious, but someone you won’t even guess. (I really liked 36 China Town) So you stop trying. You just see how the blame game pans out, and are entirely sucked into the world of OTT drama, and flat scenes that don’t land. Unlike Asur (also on Voot Select) which became unwatchable after a while, here, you breeze through the episodes, not entirely committed, but not entirely dissociated as well. That’s not an entirely bad place to be. The threshold afterall, is really low.
(I must add that the version I watched was a rough cut -and not the final one on the platform- with green screens, harnesses, dubbing notes, and un-finished CGI, so it is possible that this experience was not nearly as immersive as it could have been)