A young inter-religion couple is on the run. There is a John Wick-type retired hitman on the prowl. There is another hitman with a heart almost in its right place. There is also a dysfunctional couple who are caught in between murders, mayhem, and multiple instances of mistaken identities. Throw in a bumbling cop and a smarter subordinate into the mix, and we get Sony LIV’s latest web series, A Simple Murder.
A Simple Murder begins with a campy opening credits sequence that sets the tone for the seven-episode season. There is a case study to be made about how a trippy start (I see you, Scam 1992), prepares us for the never-ending capers that follow. In A Simple Murder, there is no dearth of whimsical, situational comedy in the darkest of places.
There is a thin line between cringe and wacky, and the writers — Akhilesh Jaiswal and Prateek Payodhi — walk this tightrope. What else explains that when a contract killer (the ever-dependable Amit Sial) makes a young kid blow up the house of a hotshot politician, we end up laughing.
What else explains that we also find it funny that a pesky rat’s machinations become turning points in this series. It is important that even if the occurrences are bizarre or weird, it makes sense in the world that it is set in, and on that note, A Simple Murd e r works wonders. Each of the zany characters from the multiple storylines is linked to one another in easily understandable ways.
We have Manish (a brilliant Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub), a failed entrepreneur and an abject failure as a husband, turn into a contract killer. His wife is Richa (an impressive Priya Anand), a perennial opportunist with zero sense of remorse. There is something calming about seeing Sushant Singh on screen, and as Himmat, a contract killer, he has too much fun.
What connects them all is avarice. Though this series explores the pitfalls of greed, there is no attempt at overt preachiness. In fact, the only place where the narrative gets uncharacteristically serious is while exploring the Hindu-Muslim angle. This angle isn’t ineffective, but the sudden tonal shift feels jarring. What keeps A Simple Murder ticking is the consistently good performances, the brazenness of the violence, and shifting goalposts of morality.
It is refreshing that the writing is not judgmental of its characters; neither does it encourage that quality in us. That’s why we don’t mind the policemen being caricatures. We don’t mind cuss words that hit us more frequently than the Shayari of contract killers baying for blood. We don’t squirm about one of them being an army veteran. And that’s why even if there is no ultimate payof f, it doesn’t matter.
In A Simple Murder, greed is anything but good, as everyone pays a price for succumbing to one of the seven deadly sins. In fact, there are enough betrayals and double-crosses in A Simple Murder to put Abbas- Mustan films to shame. The makers ensure that despite the overwhelming number of murders and other crimes in this series, the humour is never found wanting.
From slapstick humour to self-deprecating jokes and dark comedy, the variety keeps us invested. Take, for instance, the scene after Manish tells Himmat about how he proposed to Richa at a Dosa stall after having Paper Masala Dosa. After a series of events, Manish’s long-standing doubts about the affair Richa has with her boss come to fruition.
He meets her in a hotel room, and the first thing a visibly distraught Manish asks after assessing the room, “Masala dosa khaa rahi thi uske saath?” Pat comes the reply, “Paper Masala Dosa nahi khaa rahi thi”. Even before we laugh out loud, Himmat does, and this emotionally draining scene instantly turns uproarious. Such scenes fill up this enjoyable series.
Like every other recent Indian web series on major streaming platforms, this series too ends with a sort of cliffhanger. But unlike many of them, the cliffhanger here doesn’t feel forced. What’s in store for Manish and Co in Season 2? With what we have seen so far, no matter what they go through, there’s a good chance it could all turn out to be highly enjoyable for us.
Cast: Mohammed Zeeshan
Ayub, Priya Anand, Amit
Sial, Sushant Singh
Streaming on: SonyLiv