Murder Mubarak Review: Watchable All The Way

Murder Mubarak Review: The film does not rely on action for effect. And the script ensures that talk isn't dull. The editing keeps pace with the speed at which the investigation unfolds and the directorial flourishes ensure that the film is never less than riveting.

Murder Mubarak Review: Watchable All The Way

A still from Murder Mubarak. (courtesy: YouTube)

Three days before election day at an upscale Delhi club, the members are rattled by the death of a brawny Zumba trainer. The incident is sought to be dismissed as a gym accident. But a seasoned police investigator, employing unconventional methods, sniffs foul play and decides that there is more here than meets the eye.

That is how Murder Mubarak, a whodunnit with the heart of a caper film, opens. Crisply edited and studded with performances that by and large are in perfect sync with the spirit of the genre, it is watchable all the way.

As Assistant Commissioner of Police Bhavani Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) ferrets around for clues and conclusions, the Homi Adajania-directed murder mystery wends its way through unusual and therefore unpredictable twists and turns that keep the Netflix film on a sustained boil.

Towards the end, the cop describes what we have just seen as a "peculiar" love story. It indeed is. Murder Mubarak is not only about a romantic liaison between two people but also about an affair that a collective of people has with a swish club where they descend in the hope of momentarily wishing away, if not actually washing away, their problems and peccadilloes.

At another point in his investigation, Bhavani asserts that a killer is usually an ordinary person. He (or she), the policeman says, is in all likelihood a club member who is right now congratulating himself (or herself) for getting away with murder.

Adapted for the screen by Gazal Dhaliwal and Suprotim Sengupta from Anuja Chauhan's Club You to Death, Murder Mubarak presents a gallery comprising bigmouths, hunks, voyeurs, socialites, predators and lovers, each of whom is on Bhavani's list of suspects.

The guy who dies, Leo Matthews (Aashim Gulati), it turns out, gave nearly everyone he dealt with a reason to want him dead. Bhavani's job isn't easy, but he makes it look like a walk in the park as he, with an able assistant, Sub-Inspector Padam Kumar (Priyank Tiwari), lays one trap at a time and waits for the killer to walk into it and expose himself.

Bhavani is a far cry from other Hindi movie sleuths. He prefers not to don a uniform. He does not even carry a gun. The unflappable 48-year-old man has a faint, all-knowing smile on his lips when he reacts to provocation and stonewalling with gentle repartee. He is only ten days away from relocating to Lucknow. His wife has had enough of the grime and slime of Delhi.

Laced with sly humour directed against privilege, vanity and the hollow bubble that Royal Delhi Club represents, the story borrows methodologies familiar to detective genre fans to deliver a commentary on a status-conscious class desperate to hold on to what they believe to be their birthright.

Bhavani receives unsolicited help from a young widow Bambi Todi (Sara Ali Khan) and an activist-lawyer Akash "Kashi" Dogra (Vijay Varma), lovers who parted ways years ago for reasons unknown. The latter is in Delhi for Diwali. He has lived in Kolkata for three years, a period during which, his mother (Grusha Kapoor) believes, the man picked up his "Commie" tendencies.

The needle of suspicion moves one way, then another, and then yet another. Bhavani spares nobody. On his widening radar is Cookie Katoch (Dimple Kapadia), known for her tequila and beetroot cocktail; Roshni Batra (Tisca Chopra) and her son Yash Batra (Suhail Nayyar), a drug addict just out of rehab; and Shehnaz Noorani (Karisma Kapoor), a fading movie actress who throws her hat in the ring for the post of club president.

Shehnaz's rival is Rannvijay Singh (Sanjay Kapoor), a man from a royal family who never lets anybody forget his lineage. He is at home in a club where ayahs, servants, gunmen and security guards are not allowed beyond a point and employees and waiters are barred from using restrooms meant for members.

The staff at Royal Delhi Club - where, the outgoing president Devendra Bhatti (Deven Bhojani) tells Bhavani, heads of state have played golf - have their own ways of getting back at the ill-behaved members. One of the club's oldest staffers - Guppie Ram (Brijendra Kala) - has lost his mind but knows enough to be of use to everyone.

And there is Ganga (Tara Alisha Berry) who works in the club's beauty parlour. Her back story begins to have a bearing on the investigation as Bhavani inches ever closer to the bottom of the truth. What complicates the probe is that while the killer could be anybody who has ever had anything to do with the victim, none of the suspects is outright wicked. They do not look like folks who would use murder as a weapon against anybody.

The death with which Murder Mubarak kicks off isn't the only one that occurs in the film. There are three others along the way - a murder committed in the past, a suspected suicide in the present, and a tragic accident involving a pet.

The film is set in a world where darkness of the soul dominates but director of photography Linesh Desai does not smother it with overly atmospheric lighting. Much of Murder Mubarak plays out in open spaces but the film is within the confines of a cocoon. Life on the streets and in the neighbourhoods of Delhi aren't part of the film's visual palette.

When Murder Mubarak moves indoors, the frames aren't excessively gloomy and grim. The even lighting conveys the superficiality of the world that club exists in. It also serves as a contrast to the complex, twisted knots that Bhavani must untangle.

Pankaj Tripathi's effortless performance helps Murder Mubarak settle into a steady rhythm. Sara Ali Khan is a touch erratic, swaying awkwardly between being a seductress and turning into a woman with her share of secrets. Vijay Varma keeps it simple and supple as he plays a man who is ill at ease with all the ostentation around him.

As part of the ensemble cast, Dimple Kapadia, Karisma Kapoor, Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Kapoor play their parts with just the right mix of playfulness and intensity, adding their collective mite to the jigsaw.

Murder Mubarak does not rely on action for effect. And the script ensures that talk isn't dull. The editing keeps pace with the speed at which the investigation unfolds and the directorial flourishes ensure that the film is never less than riveting.


Sara Ali Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Vijay Varma, Dimple Kapadia, Sanjay Kapoor, Tisca Chopra, Pankaj Tripathi


Homi Adajania