A Simple Murder (2020) Review

A simple tale of strange coincidences, quirky characters, and sheer luck

A Simple Murder (2020) Review

If it weren’t for the macabre nature of murder, especially that at the hands of unassuming hapless souls who’re just trying to succeed in their own small lives, any scene from SonyLIV’s new series titled ‘A Simple Murder’ would be like something straight out of classic black-and-white comedies. The act is usually preceded and succeeded by something unmistakable reminiscent of the screwball or slapstick nature of those films. The fact that A Simple Murder is about something rather murky and certainly not very simple, but it doesn’t take that bit of its story too seriously is its biggest strength. 

What is the story about?

A Simple Murder is a show of many pleasures. And chief among them is the thrill of being constantly surprised. For the most part of the show, even towards the end of the season, you’ll be damned if you know the fate of the characters and whose moral compass points due north, thus reluctant to tear your eyes away lest you miss a crucial moment. 
 
All of it starts with rats in places where they shouldn’t be. At one end is Manish (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub), a jobless bloke who is busy trying to make his schemes gather investors to impress his gold-digging greedy wife Richa (Priya Anand). At the other is Santosh (Amit Sial), a ruthless Bob Biswas-esque contract killer who loses his ‘jaan-e-bahaar’ to a paid assassination gone awry. How will their stories overlap, and how are they both connected to a Hindu Jaat politician’s daughter who has eloped with her Muslim lover, is what the show is about.

Analysis

Like it has been seen in some of the best crime thriller movies and shows of the new millennium, writer Akhilesh Jaiswal (who co-wrote Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2) and director Sachin Pathak are interested in exploring just how dark and sinister the hearts of ordinary people can be when it comes to wealth and the possibility of their ultimate wishes coming true. While some characters in A Simple Murder are simply immoral, some easily sway under influence or pressure or in the heat of the moment, and there is no character who isn’t hiding something.
 
As is also a big part of the trailer, A Simple Murder works on the premise of strange coincidences and random connections between characters. Manish and Richa are at the centre of the story, but there’s a lot going on in this universe of characters, where everyone is seemingly just erring on humanity but put into quirky unlikely situations. The narrator (voiced-over by Vijay Raaz) just gives us subtle exposition on how life’s twists and turns are as coincidental as they are destined. And the rest is just foul rat business. That is how some of the best twists in this tale happen - quickly, hilariously, and completely unexpectedly. 
 
A Simple Murder is extremely fast-paced initially when we are still trying to decipher the connection between two seemingly unrelated characters. This is also the most fun time in the show - unbeatable dialogues, random exchanges full of exasperated expressions, and pop culture references. By the fourth episode of the seven-episode season, the connections between each character are pretty much explained to us and this is also when the pacing starts to slow down and the comedy takes a bit of a dip. Still, there are some fantastic dramatic moments for the lead actors to shine through in. The seventh episode goes into an interesting climax, which although satisfying, takes the cliffhanger to another level in the next season. 

 

Performances

A Simple Murder is almost genius ensemble casting - Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub really embodies the doting husband who is stuck between a rock and a hard place when he’s offered oodles of cash for a misdoing. Amit Sial is the truly vile Santosh whose oddly-positioned calm and smile is bound to make anyone uncomfortable. Very dependable performers make up the rest of the cast - always righteous Sushant Singh who comes to be an unlikely mentor-figure, Yashpal Sharma as the verbose Pandit who is obviously part of a vicious political racket, comedy staple Gopal Dutt who does his usual dim-witted professional to great effect, Vikram Kochhar as the tired smarter subordinate, Ayaz Khan as the cheating douchebag, and Priya Anand as the money-hungry Richa. Each actor plays their part, big or small, with aplomb, and the castmembers really play off each other as they’re constantly swapped around to interact. If I had to nitpick, I’d just do it with Priya Anand’s slightly odd accent. 

 

Music & Other Departments

A Simple Murder opens with a Catch Me If You Can-esque animated credits sequence to launch the crime caper. The show has been scored by Karsh Kale and he mixes a lot of traditional and modern melody. The production design and cinematography of the show are quite impressive. The editing is excellent. The dialogues by Payodhi Prateek are silly, funny and punchy, all rolled into one.

Highlights

One might think that it’s a coincidence when something happens in A Simple Murder because that’s what we’re being told constantly. But every character and where they are has a very specific purpose in the script, leading to a truly profound domino effect. The show is a comedy of errors, and the comedy is used shrewdly and strategically. It never takes away from the plot and purpose of the scene, but it adds a great layer of intelligent bizarre or intelligent cynical humour, which is needed to take the edge off its characters and the bad stuff they’re doing otherwise. Terrible things happen to people who may not actually deserve it, and most of the time, we expect them to but it’s still a thrill to watch. Almost anything that happens at the local bar where the characters frequent is hilarious, and two specific sequences set inside a cinema hall are especially genius. 

Drawbacks

In the second half, though, the pace of the show really suffers. The jokes are brought down to the minimum but scenes aren’t necessarily dramatic either. This pacing remains till the climax but still, the final episode has been thought-out and directed well enough for establishing a good cliffhanger. Even the episodes which don’t make for any laughs have a twist at the end which will make you ‘watch the next episode.’

Did I enjoy it?

Very much. I would have liked more consistency in pacing for the whole show because that would have made the bingeing easier. But still, A Simple Murder is an entertaining fun ride that keeps you constantly guessing.

 

Do I recommend it?

Yes! If you like smart black comedy thrillers and would like to see something really unexpectedly fresh, this show is for you!
 


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