“Jese apne kaha ki paison ki chinta matt kijiye, main keh raha hun aap case ki chinta matt kijiye,” says Pankaj Tripathi as Madhav Mishra in a scene from the third season of Disney+Hotstar’s Criminal Justice. Mishra is reserved, perhaps even cunning, but always endearing. His view of justice is more concerned with opportunity than it is with the ostentation of triumph. Time and time again, Tripathi has kept a brand together and may have even given it new life. From the second season on, the franchise has essentially stood on his shoulders. However, Criminal Justice’s third season feels shaky, a dull, unconvincing rehash of the first season that practically stumbles over a tale without conviction or a clear sense of its goal. Unfortunately, Tripathi is unable to intervene this time.
The third season tells the tale of Zara, a young TV star who inexplicably vanishes while on vacation with her family and is later discovered dead. Mukul, Zara’s younger brother who is in his teen years, reportedly also has an Oedipus-like sibling issue. Mukul feels unrecognised and frequently undervalued because of his famous sister. Niraj, portrayed by the good Purab Kohli, and Avantika, played by Swastika Mukherjee, are the devoted parents of both kids. The Ahujass are very opulent to look at and equally revolting to behold under the gloss of virtue, like any aristocratic family. The family is shocked by Zara’s death, and Mukul, the irascible and sarcastic youngster who is doing his best to control himself, is the prime suspect.
Even though the current season’s emphasis is on the juvenile justice system, it resembles the first season in many ways. A apparently unjustifiable defendant, in a template that is identical to the original, goes through some type of hairy change behind bars, while on the outside, a bothersome, street-smart attorney goes about arguing his case from inside of a multi-purpose omni van. This third season drags, as most things done to extend a stale series do, even though it feels like a poor replica of its own prior trajectory. The performances are nearly ineffectively rubbery.
As luck would have it, the Ahujas don’t even have enough money to hire a competent attorney, which is when Pankaj Tripathi, our protagonist and the saviour of subpar material, enters the scene.
Even experienced performers like Kohli and Mukherjee receive very little material to work with. Structure-related complications, such as the fact that both siblings have different dads, are thrown into the mix, although they rarely merit attention.
You have to wonder how much longer Tripathi can get away with doing subpar work. Once more nice, albeit a little monotonous. He has begun to resemble his real personality, the one we see in enthralling interviews and talks, in portrayals like the one of Madhav Mishra. When writers and filmmakers choose to insert Tripathi into a programme rather than giving him the traits of a character they may have invented themselves, it’s possibly a dangerous indicator. In this instance, there is overlap between the two, which may be a telltale indicator of a role that has reached the stage where Tripathi may and perhaps is phoning it in without his own fault.
Zara (Deshna Dugad), a well-known 14-year-old performer, has amassed enormous money for her parents Avantika (Swastika Mukherjee) and Neeraj (Purab Kohli) thanks to their television programme. Even though Avantika and Neeraj constantly repeating how much they adore Zara, they can’t help but capitalise on her success.
An pretext for a rich endorsement agreement is actually a vacation to Madh Island, which is close to Mumbai. All suspicion falls on Zara’s emotionally disturbed teenage brother Mukul when her brutally tortured body is found on the beach (Aaditya Gupta).
The exploitation of youthful talent, the police’s propensity to ignore the legal doctrine of presumed innocence, and the effects of dysfunctional family dynamics on youngsters are among the topics of the current season. Additionally, there is some bile saved for scumbag journalists who never stop reporting on newsworthy crimes.
Feisty inspector Gauri (Kalyanee Mulay) and Madhav’s vivacious wife Ratna are two returning characters from the previous season (Khushboo Atre). An agreeably off-putting side story involving Madhav and Ratna is full of spousal flirtation, sly grins, and distraction.
A track centred on the rich upbringing of public defender Lekha (Shweta Basu Prasad) goes nowhere, and the nuanced relationship between Zara and her parents—whether they are supporters of her ability or parasites—is also scarcely touched upon. When Madhav Mishra strolls in with a well-timed folksy insight given in flawless Hindi, the atmosphere, which is frequently dampened by Avantika’s tears or darkened by Neeraj’s fury, brightens.