A SIMPLE MURDER (2020)

Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub as Manish in a still from A Simple Murder
  • Release Date: 20/11/2020
  • Cast: Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub, Priya Anand, Amit Sial, Sushant Singh Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Dutt
  • Director: Sachin Pathak

Outstanding performances save this series from falling into an abyss created out of its own lackluster writing and absence of realism

Manish (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub) is a down on luck husband whose wife Richa (Priya Anand) thinks that he is good for nothing. He is looking for investors for his maiden business venture but hasn’t had any luck. His bills are piling up and Richa hasn’t allowed him to touch her for ages. She is also having an affair with her boss Rahul (Ayaz Khan) who, she thinks is her ticket out of her sorry existence and lackluster marriage. Manish’s luck changes for good or for the worse when he receives a call from a potential investor but accidentally lands up at Panditji’s (Yashpal Sharma) den. Panditji runs a lucrative business of arranging murders for bounties and hands over his latest assignment to Manish thinking him to be one of his own crew. Himmat (Sushant Singh) was supposed to be the one to undertake the mission but when he meets Pandit, they both realize that a cheeky third had made way with their money and weapon. Pandit orders Himmat to track down Manish and retrieve from him what is theirs.

Santosh (Amit Sial) is a contract killer who has just completed his last mission for Pandit and is about to slip into a blissful retirement with his girlfriend. Shockingly, his girlfriend is accidentally murdered by Manish who mistakes her for the target that Panditji sent him after. Manish also makes way with Santosh’s life’s saving — a whopping amount of 5 crores — that he had left with his girlfriend. His girlfriend was having an affair with Richa’s boss Rahul and the two were about to elope with Santosh’s money anyway but Manish strikes before they could do so. Manish carries the money home, tells Richa everything, and is then sent off by Richa to dispose of an incriminating piece of evidence. He is picked up en-route by Himmat and by the time the two reach back home to retrieve the cash from Richa’s possession, she disappears with the cash.

Sushant Singh as Himmat in a still from A Simple Murder

Rahul, through various circumstances, crosses paths with Richa who is now on the top of the world with all that money. He discovers the money in her possession after the two consummate over the stash of cash. Rahul then makes way with the cash leaving Richa trapped with no other option but to fall back on Manish to help her find a way back to the cash. Santosh is hot on the heels of the lot as he wants retribution for his girlfriend’s murder and wants his life’s saving back. Panditji, who by now realizes that he is in a bigger mess than anyone else, is also in pursuit of Manish and the actual targets that Manish was supposed to eliminate. As the story progresses, these characters keep running into each other leading to some intriguing drama and hilarious exchanges culminating in an unexpectedly violent climax.

A Simple Murder would have been a great series had it not shun realism and tossed believability out of the windows at every juncture where it had to stick to being credible. As the story progresses after a rollicking setup, the writers seemed to have run out of ideas to make the various plot points and characters intertwine and develop the story in a believable manner. The characters and their choices are envisioned so poorly that it becomes very hard to take the story and the proceedings seriously and that resulted in the series losing its grip on me. I was on board for at least the first two episodes but the manner in which certain things happened and the effect that it had on the overall narrative took me completely out of the experience. Another issue that is becoming a repetitive factor in the Hindi web series of late is the gargantuan number of conducive coincidences that propels that story forward and culminates archs. Coincidences are fine if they are used sparingly but in this case, it is used to culminate plot points and advance the narrative in such a blatant manner that it becomes impossible to be on the same page with the story, characters, and the proceedings.

Amit Sial as Santosh in a still from A Simple Murder

What makes these poor writing choices stand out, even more, is the sparkling performances by the ensemble cast. Had the performances not been this good, some of the blame might have shifted to the actors for failing to do justice to the characters and render them realistically. However, every cast member delivers a performance that is not only in strong keeping with the mood and feel of the characters but also helps cover-up the gaping holes left behind by the writers in terms of the character motivations, action, and the overall development of the story.

Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub plays a tricky character with confidence and charm. Manish is someone who is so much on the edge because of the failures of his life that he decides to go ahead with the contract killing. He meets Himmat in a bar just before undertaking the mission and is so impressed by his gusto and style that he starts believing that it would suit his persona to copy him and starts modeling himself on Himmat’s mannerisms. Once he reaches the spot of the murder and is viciously attacked by Santosh’s girlfriend, we see his gusto precipitate faster than water droplets in the dreary desert sand. I thoroughly enjoyed Ayyub’s rendering of the portions where he is shown being manipulated by his wife Richa. These sequences felt so real and displayed his inability to shun her out of his life in such a heartfelt manner that it affected me. By the end of the film, Manish is transformed into someone whom we can hardly relate to what he started off as. This metamorphosis was shocking, affecting, and rendered superbly by Ayyub.

Amit Sial is terrific as always. What stands out about his performance is the feeling of overbearing that his girlfriend’s death has on him and his actions throughout the series. He is shown to be someone who has taken the incident in a calm and composed manner but every now and then we are shown signs in Sial’s performance that conveys how distraught he is at the loss. Sial is also able to bring an unpredictable charm to the character that works well for him and also elevates the impact of the character. Sushant Singh is equally good. I hated how the writers ended his character abruptly. It just left a feeling that there was a lot more that could have been done with the character but it seemed as if they ran out of ideas about how to push forward the character. Priya Anand is evil. I hated everything about her character and it just goes on to show how successful she was in rendering her character in a manner that had the exact impact on the audiences that the makers must have intended it to. Her essays sum up everything wrong with today’s woman but at the same time, you also feel a tinz of sadness for her character as her dreams and aspirations are shown to get the better of her and make her do things that are despicable.

Priya Anand as Richa in a still from A Simple Murder

Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Dutt, Vikram Kochhar, and Tejasvi Singh Ahlawat do great in minuscule roles. It must be added that these actors play characters that are integral to the narrative and any lapse on their part would have spiraled the series into a deeper and darker abyss. However, each of these characters brings a sense of likability and charm to the respective characters and hold on to our attention. Yashpal Sharma and Gopal Dutt are particularly effective in their respective characters.

A Simple Murder had all the ingredients to be an entertaining and thought-provoking thriller but it is done in badly by the poor writing and lack of realism in key situations. It needed a couple of re-writes to solve these issues making it a much more realistic, believable, and cohesive story. By the looks of it, there seems to be a follow-up planned and I am interested to see if the makers are able to nail the issues of this series in the subsequent seasons.

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

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