Aakhri Sach Review (Episode 1-3): Tamannaah Bhatia’s Cop Act is Dull

The Disney+ Hotstar show fictionalises the case of the Burari deaths, in which a family of 11 were found dead in their home.
Aakhri Sach Review (Episode 1-3): Tamannah Bhatia’s Cop Act is Dull
Aakhri Sach Review (Episode 1-3): Tamannah Bhatia’s Cop Act is Dull

Director: Robbie Grewal

Writers: Saurav Dey, Ritu Shri

Cast: Tamannaah Bhatia, Shivin Narang, Abhishek Banerjee

Halfway into Aakhri Sach, the show has established a pattern: Every episode must have one entirely ridiculous scene, possibly to stir us out of the ennui of seeing Tamannaah Bhatia furrow her brow and speak in gruff tones to denote she’s a serious lady cop. 

In the first episode, Crime Branch officer Anya (Bhatia) is introduced to the audience through a scene in which she’s working undercover — which, apparently, is an excuse to put Bhatia in a nightclub, wearing a skintight dress, so that she can honeytrap a man who is so bedazzled by the sight of her that he doesn’t notice she’s nicked his smart watch off his person. It’s almost as though Aakhri Sach doesn’t trust its audience to recognise Bhatia when she’s in regular clothes. The scene also serves to establish that despite being based on real incidents, the show is not interested in realism.  

In the second episode, a flashback takes us to a deserted desert landscape. (Like the Prime Video series Dahaad, Aakhri Sach imagines rural Rajasthan as vast emptiness, without any humans in sight.) Two men and a horse are walking the unpeopled road. One of the men is Bhuvan (Abhishek Banerjee), the other is his father. After some chit-chat, Bhuvan asks his father to ride the horse. When his father gets on the horse, Bhuvan — who has previously professed to know a thing or two about horses — positions himself behind the animal and gives the horse a mighty kick on its bum. It’s a moment that feels like an ode to golden acts of British physical comedy, like Monty Python or Blackadder. Only the father falls to his death, which is when you realise this was supposed to be a tragic moment.

Fortunately, there’s no such ambiguity about the absurd moment in the third episode, which is without doubt intended to be comedic. While chasing down an elusive self-styled godman, Anya and Delhi’s Crime Branch burst into a secret room in the godman’s mansion. Festooned with curtains and resplendent in red light as though it’s a brothel, the room has a royal-looking couch with gilt detailing. The camera, channelling the police officers’ perspective, enters the room, looking for the godman. Looking past the couch, the camera turns to find the room’s occupant: A goat. The “Meh” it bleats could well be the TLDR version of this review.

Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar
Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar

From Fiction to Fact

Despite having one of the most riveting, real-life mysteries we’ve known in recent times as its source material, Aakhri Sach falls back upon tired tropes and strategies to add drama to its premise. Ironically, they only serve to weaken the story. 

Based on the case of the Burari deaths, Aakhri Sach is about Delhi Police’s investigation into the deaths of 11 members of a family, who are all found dead in their home. The scene of their deaths matches the Burari deaths, right down to details of which family member was found clutching the noose around their neck. Intent upon discovering the truth are Anya and the fiancé of one of the victims, Aman (Shivin Narang). By the third episode, the Crime Branch is finally on the same page as anyone in the audience who remembers the Burari deaths: The culprit is within the family.  

Part of Aakhri Sach’s problem is that the reality of this case is so bizarre and heartbreaking that fictional elements wilt in comparison. Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra’s excellent three-part documentary House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths (available on Netflix) casts a long shadow over Aakhri Sach. Both shows make use of drone shots of Delhi to establish the scene and mood, though House of Secrets did this with a better sense of intention and aesthetics. There are fragments of background score — like the music that plays when Anya first sees the bodies — that sound similar in the two series. However, while Yadav and Chopra’s work remains an excellent example of non-fiction storytelling, Aakhri Sach feels markedly less clever. House of Secrets is proof that you don’t need elements like a woman in a skintight dress or a heroin junkie to make this story interesting. When Aakhri Sach takes recourse in such fictional diversions, it just feels like the show is wasting time and doesn’t trust either its writers or its audience with the story. 

Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar
Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar

A Listless Cast

Possibly to achieve an air of realism, the first three episodes show Anya and her team following red herrings and wandering into dead ends. If the writers had used these sections to build distinctive characters and relationship dynamics, the digressions may have felt worthwhile. However, so far, Anya is the cardboard cutout of an on-screen career woman whose personal life flounders while she excels in the professional sphere. Tough and no-nonsense, Anya is a cliché and Bhatia’s performance does little to make us curious about this police officer.

Banerjee as the troubled second son (who is likely to play a key role in the coming episodes if Aakhri Sach sticks to the actualities of the Burari deaths) feels equally flat in these early chapters. Narang’s performance as the fiancé, who seesaws between seeming dubious and well-intentioned, is so overdone, it verges on comic at times. (Say a prayer that the show doesn’t end up pairing Aman and Anya in a misguided attempt at finding a happy ending.) 

To Aakhri Sach’s credit, most of the supporting cast all look credible, barring the two police officers who are established early on as the bad cops. However, few of the performances stand out. The interviews in House of Secrets showed how quickly a person can make an impression — who can forget Delhi Police’s Manoj Kumar, who laughs gregariously while talking about details that have left his colleagues horrified? — but no one in Aakhri Sach is able to make a similar impression. 

Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar
Aakhri Sach on Disney+Hotstar

Losing an Edge

As House of Secrets showed, the reality of what happened in that family from Burari was rooted in what is considered normal for vast sections of the Indian middle class. The Burari deaths are haunting because everyone seemed typical and it was only in hindsight that their behaviour offered clues to the traumas that pushed the family to its tragic end. Instead of reminding us of what made this case haunting, the first three episodes of Aakhri Sach feel like a regular police procedural.    

This is a shame because fiction had the potential of shining a light on the more obscure parts of reality. Despite some larger issues being resolved, the case remains riddled with questions for which there are no definitive answers. (What, for instance, was the “punishment” that was meted out to recalcitrant family members?) It falls upon the imagination to imagine and speculate — to arrive at an understanding, which is perhaps as valuable as the truth. Frustratingly, Aakhri Sach’s fictional turns speak to a lack of imagination instead. 

In House of Secrets, psychiatrist Dr. Alok Sareen had emphasised that there was a need for meaningful conversation about the Burari deaths. In 2018, when the case came to light, the media coverage by news channels bordered on grotesque and the desperation for breaking news did not facilitate any sensitive dialogue. Speaking in House of Secrets, Dr. Sareen says, “Talking about this in thoughtful, reflective fashion, not shutting ourselves off, can then help foster future conversations.” Aakhri Sach could have been one of those conversation starters, but three episodes in, it only feels like a dull dead end. 

Related Stories

No stories found.