Death come easy: Hindi TV gets into the Shaitan's mind

by Rajyasree Sen  Dec 13, 2012 16:00 IST

#Gumrah   #Shaitan - The Criminal Mind   #TheIdiotBox  

Now that BBC Entertainment has left our world and Star World has run through the nth spin-off of Masterchef – from Masterchef Kids to Masterchef Cats Who Can Cook to Masterchef Australia goes Desi, there seems to be nothing to watch on the telly. Well, at least on the English channels, unless you fancy reruns.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing promos of a show called Shaitan – The Criminal Mind on Colors. There’s a burly white collar-esque host who stares seriously into the camera, never a smile passing his lips, and then images of blood and knives and dead people lying around flash on the screen. I of course thought it must be a rip-off of Dexter.The programme descriptor on the channel’s website states that it’s “A show that delves into the minds of the worst criminals the society has seen. The show will recreate the gruesome crimes in an attempt to decode what goes on in the minds of criminals when they commit shocking acts of violence and crime.” So this is no Dexter. Of course I didn’t know this when I happened to watch the show.

A Screengrab of Shaitan.

Not that I was disappointed. Sharad Kelkar who reminded me of a desi version of Mr Darcy, stared gravely into the camera and told me about crimes and why they happen. The episode I watched was about a relationship between a student and her tutor, which resulted in them killing off her entire family because they did not approve of the relationship. Despite the slightly poor production values — especially the very artificial police station set- the episode was extremely well put together. No sensationalism or hyperbole or over-dramatisation. It was very well-cast and no one looked out of sorts in their roles. The attention to detail was impressive – from the way the young middle class girl dressed, to her meek behaviour in class because she wasn’t a great student and was always reprimanded and mocked by her family and teachers, and her budding relationship with the tutor who was the only person who was nice to her.  The graph of the relationship and ultimately the murders all followed a logical pattern — if you’re a killer that is. The episode ended with Darcy/Kelkar giving a little talk to the audience on the pitfalls of such relationships and the crimes that they can result in. There was no preaching, exaggeration or intense condemnation.  I’ve gotten so used to seeing the characters in Hindi serials burst into tears or scream like banshees, that the composure of the host was a little disconcerting, but most welcome.

The programme reminded me of another show on another channel — which has been telecast for a while. It’s called Gumrah – End of Innocence on Channel V, which is no longer a music channel but a Hindi entertainment one. The show pretty much follows the same format as Shaitan. There’s a dour looking but far hipper host, Karan Kundra. Young, togged out in jeans and a tee shirt, even he frowns into the camera and talks to us about crimes committed by youngsters.  These are re-enactments of real crimes committed by teenagers as a result of various factors — from crimes of passion by youngsters to drinking and driving to molesting the help to being a victim of bullying. The difference in treatment is that because it’s Channel V, it’s a little slicker and more youthful and the host enters and exits scenes like a ghost. Very cool as they say in Channel V-parlance. Each episode ends with vox pops of teenagers relating their own experiences which might be similar to those shown in the episode and an analysis by a psychologist/ psychiatrist. The host does condemn the crimes at the end – as he should — and asks teenagers to be slightly more aware of the fallout of their behaviour.

I’d highly recommend both shows. It’s a welcome change from the garbage we see on Hindi television — from crying women who look like geishas and cruel mothers-in-law to gyrating precocious children. No more vamps in velvet sarees flashing their large eyes at us.  Maybe this is the new dawn of Hindi entertainment TV.

Gumrah – on Channel V every Sunday at 7pm.

Shaitan – on Colors every Saturday and Sunday at 10pm. 

Disclaimer: Colors is part of the Network 18 group which also owns Firstpost. Channel V is owned by Star TV and competes with Network 18.