The Indian Detective review: Russell Peters' Netflix dramedy peddles tired cliches, misses the mark entirely

Deven Kanal

Jan,03 2018 12:49:57 IST

By all accounts, Netflix has had a fantastic year. With shows such as Strangers Things 2, Narcos, Dark, Glow, House of Cards and Black Mirror, the streaming service has had both mainstream success and critical acclaim.

A still from The Indian Detective. Netflix

A still from The Indian Detective. Netflix

While it may not top the charts when it comes to the number of subscribers in India — that honour belongs to Hotstar and its 'freemium' model, where you have to pay to view select shows and the rest of the catalogue is free — as someone who subscribes to Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and Netflix, I can emphatically state that the quality of Netflix's catalogue remains unmatched and worth every rupee.

Netflix has stated, repeatedly, that to grow its base in Asia, it is looking to partner with home grown talent and look to increase "local content". To that end, Netflix signed a deal with Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment and commissioned a series based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel Sacred Games, starring Saif Ali Khan.

Perhaps that was the thinking behind the streaming behemoth commissioning a show called The Indian Detective, a dramedy series starring Russell Peters, a Canadian comedian of Indian-origin who plies his trade mocking stereotypes of Asian people (others would say reinforcing them). One can only guess that the motive was to capture a greater slice of the Indian market by bringing in somewhat familiar and mostly friendly face.

Peters was not a bad choice. He is no actor, but his stand-up comedy has a following in India. His comedy tours always do well. And there is a case to be made that Indians, overall, are extremely under-represented in Hollywood. (Quick exercise: Name one famous 'Indian' in Hollywood other than Aziz Ansari — and no, Priyanka Chopra and Apu from The Simpsons don't count). The plot (for lack of a better word) goes thus: Doug D'Mello (Peters), a police officer in Toronto, begins investigating a murder while visiting his dad Stanley (Anupam Kher) in India, and gets sucked into a conspiracy.

Whatever the thinking, I am sorry to say that Netflix has completely missed the mark with The Indian Detective. It's not that the show is even bad. If it was bad, at least I could have derived some sadistic joy from its awfulness. It is just there. While others have criticised The Indian Detective for peddling the usual stereotypes of India, filled with cows and crime bosses, poverty and people with untold wealth — and don't get me wrong, the show puts out every conceivable cliche about India you can imagine — to me, the greater crime was that the show was just boring as hellIt did not even draw a weak chuckle from me. I do not think I ever smiled while watching it.

While Peters' comedy is not for everyone, and quite a few might likely take offence, I have always been of the mind that people need to learn to laugh, especially at themselves and their foibles. While I cannot rag on Peters for his lack of acting skill, his jokes were tired, and worse, lazy. Note to Peters: Its 2018. Lay off the being a closet homosexual is inherently funny. I could have imagined a couple of Peters' jokes landing in a stand-up set in front of an adoring audience and aided by his timing and poise, but here everything fell flat. Peters, much like myself, seemed bored and put upon (at last, a feeling I could identify with).

I wanted to take notes while watching the show. But instead, I just sat there. Staring. Gobsmacked than anyone thought that putting this drivel on any kind of screen for public consumption was a good idea. I spent most of the time wondering whether the show would ever end (thankfully, it did) and if I would be a terrible reviewer for  just turning it on halfway through (much to my everlasting regret, I did not).

Anupam Kher, who played Peters' father, seemed to being going through the motions as well. The wig is perhaps the most awful I have seen since the Game of Thrones Season 7 finale. The great William Shatner turns up in the first episode, looking completely out of place. Hopefully he will cash in a nice, fat paycheck for his efforts and buy a nice beach house somewhere.

But what I found most grating was that the 'local' actors were not even local, speaking Hindi with a heavy accent. Would it have been so terrible to, I do not know, employ people who can actually speak the local language and perhaps inject a sense of realism to the show?

Watching a bevy of Spanish, Italian and Japanese language shows with subtitles has been a joy to many a Netflix viewer and critic alike. It certainly did not hurt the popularity of Narcos, which is arguably, the most popular Netflix show in history. Although, being on drugs might be the only way to actually enjoy The Indian Detective.

Updated Date: Jan 03, 2018 14:28 PM