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‘Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi’ review: A shallow exploration

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Clutching purely on the brutality of the crime, this true-crime series hardly tries to break out of the mould or dig beyond the surface

Clutching purely on the brutality of the crime, this true-crime series hardly tries to break out of the mould or dig beyond the surface

Last year, Netflix released an Indian true-crime docu-series House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths that found an audience on a global scale. The series on the demise of 11 family members in Delhi was praised for its riveting writing and deep psychological exploration. However, the recently released Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi, on the other hand, lacks both in its writing and the exploration of the subject’s psyche, instead banking on the brutality of the serial killer at the centre. This is disappointing, given that the case in hand is no ordinary one.

Indian Predator recounts the investigation into Chandrakant Jha, one of the most gruesome serial killers in the country’s history. He was convicted in 2013 for three gruesome killings between 2003 and 2007. The case’s popularity has diminished over the years, and this also doesn’t favour the makers. A lot of time hadn’t passed since the Burari incident, and hence it had the advantage of being popular in the public consciousness.

Right at the beginning, we get a glimpse into the mood that the documentary is going for with a rudimentary montage of higher authorities giving bits and pieces of information about a killer. Minutes into the opening monologue, we see a top cop say the humdrum true-crime cliche, “I have never come across a case like this in 23 years.”

The wonderful title design that we then get gives some hope, even reminding one of a Hannibal Lecter-like figure, but the first episode hardly breaks out of the cliche.

On October 20, 2006, a mysterious caller informs the Delhi police that he has left a corpse near the Gate 3 entrance of the Tihar Jail. The cops find a mutilated body of a middle-aged man, neatly packed and kept inside a fruit basket.

The story eventually unravels into one of the most shocking investigations. Chandrakant, a seemingly-normal migrant worker from Bihar is found to be the killer. How the Delhi police nabbed him seems straightforward as well. But what truly grips us is how the investigation moves, unravelling gruesome truths about a broken man with a shockingly-dark past.

The material in hand is potent, but director Ayesha Sood hardly scratches the story beyond the surface. While experts keep track of the investigations, we are repeatedly shown blood-splattering recreations of the gruesome murders. The actor who plays Chandrakant even looks the part, but he hardly has anything to do, other than appear randomly and bludgeon men to death. Beyond a point, it gets too monotonous and even becomes a disturbance to the narrative at times.

The second and third episodes do get better, especially when the investigation goes back to his roots, unravelling the other alleged crimes of the killer. The portions set in Bihar, particularly, give us a deeper understanding of the killer’s psyche. Even here, it is disappointing that we never get to see an actual mental health professional speak about what made Chandrakant who he is. We instead get expert opinions from police officials and a forensic investigator, who beat around the same bush for quite some time.

The show tries to speak about the social-economic factors that played a role in Chandrakant’s life, but the exploration seems shallow and unconvincing. Unlike many other true-crime accounts, both the killer and the victims here hail from the poorest sections of society. Most victims are destitute and lured in with the promise of food, shelter, or companionship. This could have been an opportunity to explore the importance of mental health awareness among the lower economic sections when mental health issues are ironically trivialised as belonging to the upper sections.

Further, Indian Predator also clearly stays away from Chandrakant’s accusations of police brutality. We keep hearing about how his taunts at the police were all attempts to challenge the system, and are informed that this anger stems from his misfortune with dominant figures in his life like his mother. But none of the officials who Chandrakant mentions are questioned.

The series could have been an enthralling documentary had it pushed the envelope more. It certainly does have its moments, but milking the shock value of a criminal case only gets you so far.

Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi is currently streaming on Netflix



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