Wednesday, November 02, 2011
#230: The Stoneman Murders
The Stoneman Murders is a taut and a grippingly dramatized version of the spate of murders on the streets on Mumbai in the 1980s. Each murder was gruesomely committed in the middle of the night with a large stone and had the police confounded with no leads to follow. The film takes commences from the time the first murder takes place. Around the same time in an unrelated incident, the protagonist Inspector Shekhar Shelar (KK) gets suspended from the police force for an accidental custodial death. Shekhar, eager to regain the trust of his superior AIG Satam (Vikram Gokhale) offers to solve the killings that start recurring. Satam agrees but also wants this parallel investigation to be under the wraps because Shekhar's peer Inspector Phadke is given the official reins to lead the investigation on paper.
The Stoneman Murders is written and directed by Manish Gupta (whose previous claim to fame was the story and screenplay of Sarkar) and Manish's painstaking research of the subject pays rich dividends in the narrative. Gupta paints a grim and a stark picture of the Mumbai of the 80s and extracts extremely convincing performances from his actors. KK as the short-tempered but zealous cop soon finds himself embroiled in a Hitchcockian plot where his quest to prove his innocence becomes an attractive fulfillment for the audience even as we close on the heels of the murderer. With smoldering intensity, KK's character makes us champion for him by the end of the climax. Arbaaz Khan and Vikram Gokhale play sincere second fiddles and it's a surprise that we don't see Arbaaz in similar roles more often on-screen. The only angle that didn't work well enough in the movie is the relationship that KK shares with his wife Rukhsar. There wasn't enough depth in that relationship for it to have any impact on the storyline even if the wife's character wasn't there in the movie. A better background score could've perhaps also heightened the overall tension of the movie.
The Stoneman Murders is unique for a number of reasons. For one, this is one of Bollywood's very few whodunnits. Secondly, nearly 80% of the movie is shot at night and thirdly it is in fact a period movie set in the Mumbai of the early 80s. The second and third points here, may I add place tremendous restrictions on the technical team of the movie and the filmmaking team here didn't miss a beat on both those counts. Watching the film on DVD, I couldn't help but get the feeling that its one of those releases that didn't get its due at the box-office. An overriding solace of course being that this is undoubtedly one of the best Hindi DVD's money can buy in recent years. In other words, it is what I call a goooooood film !