Mahim Murder, JioCinema’s new original series based on Jerry Pinto’s novel of the same name, is a crime thriller that tells the story of the brutal murder of a gay sex worker in a public toilet at Mumbai’s Mahim railway station. Starring popular characters Vijay Raaz and Ashutosh Rana, the series combines a conventional crime thriller narrative with social commentary, placing their performances at the center of the unfolding investigation.

Throughout the eight episodes, Raaz’s police inspector and Rana’s ex-journalist – both now estranged friends – try to solve the sinister case in their own way. During the investigation, we are taken to gay clubs, queer parties, rallies and the forbidden alleys of Mumbai, where the dark and disturbing world of gay prostitution exists after dark. The series delves into the lives of sex workers, portraying their plight and tenacity with visible care.

While Murder in Mahim seems a bit overwrought and predictable with over-the-top plots, familiar loopholes of heavy-handed social commentary in the beginning, it soon blossoms into an unmissable work of art with strong performances. If you’re a little patient with the series, at least until the third episode, you’re in for a cinematic treat that seamlessly tackles complex themes.

Shivaji Satam in a still from Murder in Mahim

The show unfolds the various layers of homophobia and abuse, from offensive slurs and outright prejudice-driven cruelty, to honey-trap crimes where queer people who are being blackmailed have nowhere to turn for help, including the police. The Mahim Murder captures the all-consuming impact of class homophobia; from penniless queers forced into prostitution to even those in positions of power terrified of coming out, the series examines the anxieties of the LGBTQ community through a broad lens. The depiction of strange lives is also done in a natural tone and doesn’t come across as forced, over-dramatic or pompous.

There is a particular scene showing two lesbians in love panicking in a room when their parents, still unaware of their sexuality, come unannounced. All the characters’ reactions are thankfully measured and innocent, and the scene normalizes queer lives.

However, Murder in Mahim also tries to play it safe at times, especially when Rana’s Peter Fernandes and his wife are uncomfortable with the possibility of their son being gay. Unaware of what the “cure” for this “condition” might be, in some scenes the couple seem like fictional models of what might be wrong with parenting a strange child, only to grow up into what should be the ideal parent as later.

The show isn’t just about homosexuality, though. Murder in Mahin also subtly examines the conflicts and complexities of the father-son relationship. What a beautiful image! It is so rare that the Indian film and television industry takes up this subject and gives it its due. Be it the estranged relationship between Vijay Raaz’s Shiva and his grumpy father played by Shivaji Satam (of ACP Pradyuman of CID fame) or Shiva and his teenage son slowly drifting apart, the series handles the dynamics with tenderness . I could find myself smiling at so many scenes in the second half of the show, some of which provoked the amusing relationship between Amitabh Bachchan’s grumbling father and Deepika Padukone’s wayward daughter in Piku.

There is one scene that will probably stick in my memory for a long time, where a junior police officer finds his teenage son’s dirty magazines. One would expect a warning to follow, but otherwise the comic character handles the situation sensibly without pushing his son into the pit of guilt and shame. It is a simple but powerful scene that portrays the unspoken tenderness between father and son.

Vijay Raaz 1 kill in Mahim

Vijay Raaz and Shivani Raghuvanshi in a still from Mahim Murder

The killing in Mahim also takes a satirical stand against the sensationalist media and indifferent police officers who conveniently distort the facts before chewing on ‘brilliant news’ or ‘official statements’ without any reliable source of information, adding fuel to the already raging fire of homophobia. There’s a scene where the press accuses an old man of being a pedophile, homophobic monster on a flimsy basis. As the media inquisition piles up, the hero helplessly tries to fend off angry protesters outside his house. The fictional scene isn’t too far from the truth, highlighting several similar real-life incidents where news reporters conveniently sidestepped ethics for clicks and views.

Although Mahim Murder has many intense sequences that capture the smallest nuances of the human psyche and emotions, the makers have struck a perfect balance with frequent comic relief to break the tension – often necessary for a film or show with a strong social message. which would appeal to the masses who would otherwise not turn to or even have access to select critically acclaimed cinema. The creators have made a decent attempt to convey complex and important issues in an accessible and palatable way, without compromising on the subtleties of the subject at hand.

The killing in Mahim does creep in in the first few episodes, but with its gripping story, strong performances and brilliant cinematography, the series shines slowly but surely.