A thriller with a message is a rare combination. The second season of Criminal Justice, however, is one such series whose riveting drama finds a match in the strong pro-woman statement it makes. On the surface it begins with a murder of a respected lawyer. This is no whodunit; only thing that hangs heavy is why has the incredibly diffident wife Anu Chandra (Kirti Kulhari), who doesn’t utter a single word in her defence, killed a seemingly loving husband Bikram Chandra (Jisshu Sengupta.)
Much doesn’t meet the eye and the hint of an extramarital affair makes things appear murkier. Like its previous Vikrant Massey-starrer first season, much time is devoted to the sorry state of affairs inside our jails too. Simultaneously, it shows how women are abused by men who are responsible for them turning criminals. But before you think this is just another sob story, in walks Pankaj Tripathi with a chuckle. Reprising his part as Madhav Mishra, the lawyer who is saddled with a case no other lawyer would take, he once again proves how he alone can carry a series on his shoulder. If his comic timing is spot on, as he delivers his wisecracks with panache, so is he as a wise man when his intellectual acuity surfaces.
Of course, the series has more than Pankaj to carry it through. Apart from the lead heroine Kirti Kulhari, we have Mita Vashisht, Deepti Naval and Anupriya Goenka. Why, even Khushboo Atre playing Triptahi’s perky wife has a solid presence. If you think words like ‘woke’ don’t sit well with this rural lass who follows her husband into Mumbai, well that is the whole idea; to knock down stereotypes that we nurse about people based on appearances.
Women certainly are at the centre of this story where a husband-wife team of inspectors is as much significant to the storyline as the relationship between the high profile husband and his meek wife, the murder accused. Even Pankaj as Madhav tells his female associate Nikhat—you take the lead in the case. If that is a thought out ploy by a lawyer defending an open and shut hopeless case of a woman who has confessed, deliberate might be the attempt of the directors to portray woman as the judge listening to the case. After all, a woman can only be more empathetic s towards one of her ilk. Yet, nothing seems manipulated here. Even Ashish Vidyarthi’s (as prosecuting lawyer Prabhu) toxic arguments are in sync with how society views women.
In fact, the director points out the injustices meted out to women at three levels. Behind the closed doors, the tag line might be the central theme. But how insidious the unfair treatment of the fair sex is, runs as an underlying thread. Of course, the series is not just batting for women, it is equally binge worthy. With top notch performances and firm grip on the storyline, though tackling a rather bold theme of rape on the marital bed, it refrains from any graphic representation of the same. Yet, it evokes revulsion and empathy of high degree. Though the series comes to a poetic justice kind of climax and all is well that ends well, it still manages to unsettle you. And Kulhari’s perfect rendition of her part of a broken and vulnerable wife and caring mother, who just can’t put a name to her predicament, will stay with you for a long time. Streaming on Disney+Hotstar, it is worth a watch and packed with more than a thought.