Murder Mubarak is a meandering whodunit

Sara Ali Khan and Vijay Varma in Murder Mubarak. Photo: Publicis-Consultants Asia

By definition, whodunits must mislead the audiences and make them go on a mental see-saw of ‘Yes, X should be the killer’ and ‘No, now it seems Y must be the killer.’

The classic whodunit (in Hindi cinema, Khufiya was the latest good example!) styled on vintage Agatha Christie mould finds a rather clumsy, bumbling and seemingly fumbling detective interrogate every suspect (there are always many) separately. He finally summons everyone together to reveal the real truth and the actual murderer in a theoretically edge-of-the-seat climax, on paper or on screen.

While the basic template is followed in Murder Mubarak, the climax is not only no edge-of-the-seat experience but comes after a very confusing, over-jumpy narrative and the now-sickeningly mandatory gay angle, typical of Netflix dramas! Posing as a social statement about the haves and the have-nots and of veneers worn by the high society elite, the film is director Homi Adajania’s weakest work this side of Angrezi Medium (which was not a thriller) in a track-record that includes Being Cyrus (2004), Cocktail (not a thriller again and released in 2012), Finding Fanny (2015) and Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo (2023).

For one, the script, though based on a novel, isn’t without its flaws. I, for one, cannot really fathom how a body can so easily be buried in the location shown—the logic is baffling. Even more so, I cannot understand how the murder victim, Leo (Aashim Gulati), a gym trainer, got to know so many facts about the club members so easily as to blackmail them. The saga of the fake ‘Raja sahib’ (Sanjay Kapoor) also is not all that convincing either.

As a C-grade star, Shehnaz (Karisma Kapoor) and a cranky artist, Cookie Katoch (Dimple Kapadia) are wasted in inconsequential roles. The focus, apart from Raja Sahib, is on Bambi (Sara Ali Khan) and her lover, Akash a.k.a. Kashi (Vijay Varma), a lawyer, who inveigle themselves into the investigations led by ACP Bhavani Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) and sub-inspector Padam (Priyank Tiwari). The detective’s acolyte, for a change with fictional ace detectives, is not dense. Finally, we have Guppie Ram (Brijendra Kala), the demented staff member of the elite Delhi club where all the action takes place, and sundry other characters.

It is not explicitly shown how Bhawani unravels the layers of deception, though some instances like the one pertaining to the beetroots were interesting flashes in a rather drab narrative. Also, though the film has a good plot, the script is too complex and meandering, focusing on social subtleties and ironies and character quirks in too much detail.

Technically adept, the film has a brilliant olde-worlde British-hangover (like the world shown in the movie) background score by Sachin-Jigar, though their few songs are frankly terrible.

Sara Ali Khan is the highlight of the film with a nuanced performance with many shades of intensity. I found Pankaj Tripathi a shade repetitious, shockingly, while Sanjay Kapoor was hamming away as Raja Sahib. Dimple Kapadia and Tisca Chopra are excellent in their limited roles, while the rest are alright. Priyank Tiwary, however, makes for a convincing sub-inspector and Brijendra Kala is also interestingly pitched.

I wish the film had a better script, for plots alone do not make for an engaging mystery, and there are many points at which I, a thriller addict since school in book or film, became restive.

Netflix presents Maddock Films’ Murder Mubarak  Produced by: Dinesh Vijan  Directed by: Homi Adajania  Written by: Anuja Chauhan, Gazal Dhaliwal & Suprotim Sengupta  Music: Sachin-Jigar  Starring: Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Tripathi, Karisma Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Vijay Varma, Sanjay Kapoor, Tisca Chopra, Brijendra Kala, Priyank Tiwari, Purnendu Bhattacharya, Suhail Nayyar, Tara Alisha Berry, Aashim Gulati, Deven Bhojani, Alok Panwar, Grusha Kapoor, Varun Mitra, Padmini Sardesai & others






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