THE STONEMAN MURDERS (2009)

The Stoneman Murders was an infamous set of killings of road dwellers that happened in Mumbai in 1983 and then again in Kolkata in 1987. While the mystery so as to who might have done the killings still remains a mystery, there have been many takes on the matter by various experts. The Stoneman Murders, the film, takes one such approach and weaves a fictional tales around it.

Sanjay Shelar (Kay Kay Menon) is a hot headed cop who murders a man in the lock up who he believes is connected to a set of murders. He is subsequently fired from his job for the offense. It is during this time that the Stoneman Murders start in Mumbai and it becomes apparent that Sanjay was the first cop to having actually understood the first murder to be a part of many. His superior orders him to carry out an off the records investigation into the murders and bring out the culprit. The rest of the film is about his investigation and what it leads too.

The Stoneman Murders is a grim and gripping thriller that for at least 90% of its runtime remains believable. Bolstered by some terrific performance from Kay Kay Menon (no surprises there) the film takes you on a whirlwind journey as Sanjay peels off layer after layer from the mystery surrounding the murders. It has to be given to the director that he does exceedingly well to keep the mystery wrapped under some thick veils. Even though a few nudges here and there are given hinting at the culprit but the story mostly diverts your attention from the real killer.

There were many times when I felt that the character of Kay Kay Menon himself is the killer. He is such a troubled soul that it isn’t had to imagine him to be the murderer but that turns out to be a diversion. The film has just one song and that too only furthers the story. It has a very short runtime of just about 85 minutes and that I believe contributes heavily to making the film as gripping as it is. You do not get the chance to think of anything else. Everything happens so fast that you are left almost dazed.

The film also has an element of horror associated with it. Each of the murders that happen is built up beautifully. The music, the camera movements, and the editing are pitch perfect to make up the suspense and also a sense of horror. The fact that the killer remains a step ahead of the cops for the greater p[art of the film is another contributing factor into making the narrative intriguing. Sanjay’s search for the murderer lands his personal life in a mess too. His wife believes that he is seeing someone else and Sanjay is unable to tell her anything about the case. This situation leads to some interesting dynamics.

My complaints with the film are mostly from the manner in which the film ends. I cannot get into the points without giving a few spoilers and so I request those who haven’t seen the film to first watch it and then come back to this review.

In the end, it is uncovered that the constable, who had so long helped Sanjay, was the actual killer. However, by that time the police believe that Sanjay is the killer and in the final tussle between Sanjay and the constable, the police gun down Sanjay who interestingly survives. Just a scene later, in the hospital, the constable again tries to kill Sanjay but this time the whole police department is already waiting for him in disguise in Sanjay’s room and nab him effortlessly. Alter it is explained that it was a part of the commissioner’s master plan.

This felt very flimsy and unbelievable for me. If the commissioner was aware of the murderer then why didn’t he ask his men to shoot the constable in the first place? Also, there was no way in which he could have known about the real murderer as Sanjay learned about it only after he was attacked. This is scene to a great extent liquidates the seriousness and realism that the film had maintained up till that point.

All that was needed was a few more re-writes and some more conclusive thoughts going into the finale and this film would have turned out to be one of the best murder mysteries of our times. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The ending also felt a tad bit hurried and as though the makers had run out of plans of how to end the film. I was also not totally convinced by the manner in which Kay Kay Menon is left off the hook for the murder he committed in the lock up.

Having said all that, The Stoneman Murders is still a worthy thriller to be given a watch. It’s well crafted, well shot and well envisioned. It has a leading man who doesn’t put a single wrong step. Sans the last 10 minutes, this film deserved a place among the best whodunit thrillers to have ever come out of Bollywood.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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