Bollywood is an industry which though the passage of time has established itself to be one of powerhouses in world cinema. Known for its radiant use of colour and music, it has conquered the genre of ‘masala-entertainers’. However, every now and then several directors have had the potential to carve out the less ventured genre of cinema – Murder Mysteries. Directors like Vijay Anand, Ram Gopal Verma and Anurag Kashyap have breathed life into to art of intriguing the audience with their creative thought process. While Hollywood has done exceptionally well in producing murder mysteries, Bollywood is gradually working towards this genre of cinema. Here is a list of the top Bollywood murder mysteries. You can watch several of these Hindi murder mystery movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Talaash: The Answer Lies Within
Unlike the other films on the list, ‘Talaash’ isn’t your exact murder mystery. While murder does take the central theme, it is interwoven by a variety of thematic elements such as family, relationships, psychology and depression. Directed by newbie Reema Kagti, the 2012 psychological horror film is about a mysterious car accident of an established actor. This causes a string of investigations which crops up several convoluted mysterious which a cop with a haunting and depressing history has to resolve. With stellar performances by the leading cast – Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor Khan; a gripping portrayal by “some” Nawazuddin Siddiqui and a coherent screenplay by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar makes the film a perfect choice for all the murder mystery devotees.
9. The Stoneman Murders (2009)
Based on the infamous real life Stoneman serial killings that shook India in the 1980s, the Manish Gupta suspense thriller is about a suspended investigator played by Kay Kay Menon who takes the task to catch old of the notorious killer. Written by the director himself, the film colludes fiction and reality to keep the audience griping to the chain of events. The 2009 murder mystery adds a bit of sensationalism and chose to evade any sub-plots, songs or any other form of deterrent which keeps the story true to a riveting murder mystery. The film dexterously uses lighting and sound to effectively influence grotesqueness of the gruesome murders without adding excessive violence to a serious issue. The cinematography works dazzlingly with the writing by showcasing short and crisp scenes which bring out the intensiveness of the acts.
8. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)
Byomkesh Bakshy was Shardindu Bandhopadhay’s answer to Canon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The dhoti-clad pre-independence era detective was a hit among Indian’s as it showcased a different side of colonial India which was suppressed by the British. Dibaker Banerjee artistically paints a “modern” version of the inexplicable detective while staying true to its source material and inspiration. An adaptation, the film sets itself in war-torn colonial Kolkata where the witty investigator faces the challenge to stop a criminal mastermind from taking over the criminal gangland and is caught in a web of treachery, betrayal and most importantly – murder. What Banerjee does is crop out an inexperienced Bakshy played by Sushant Singh Rajput along with his trusted companion and friend Ajit Banerjee played by Anand Tiwari and keeps the idea of a murder mystery quite fresh.
The 2105 film is heavily inspired from Vijay Anand’s works and impressed both the critics and audience. The actors are commendable and the two leads astound all through their camaraderie and friendship. The worn torn Calcutta acts as a tool to outline the suspense and thriller genre of the film. It is different take in Bollywood as ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ introduces us to a detective with a different approach in style, fashion and intellect.
7. Ittefaq (1969)
‘Ittefaq’ is a 1969 thriller directed by veteran Yash Chopra which tells the story about a painting trying to prove his innocence when convicted of his wife’s murder. Starring the raging sensation of the 60s Rajesh Khanna perfectly en-captures the essence of a man torn apart by his crumbling life. While Bollywood has often been criticized of hindering the plot by adding musical performances, ‘Ittefaq’ uniquely did away with it and kept the mystery intact without disturbing the plot. Audiences are left scratching their heads right till the end and the background musical score by Salil Choudhury just helps the suspense even further.
6. Khamosh (1985)
Helmed by a then ripe and inexperienced Vidhu Vinod Chopra, ‘Khamosh’ knits its plot by narrating a tale of the murder of starlet and the events leading up to the crime being solved. Sketching out an emotional perspective by introducing us to the detective played by Naseeruddin Shah who has taken the realms to solve his sister’s murder. What follows is a classic murder mystery brimming with suspense, thrills and a nerve wrecking musical score. Written by Chopra himself, ‘Khamosh’ elevated the 64 year-old director’s status as a force to be reckoned with. Khamosh’s unconventional plot did pose several issues, such as distribution, but has since garnered appreciation for the director’s efforts of writing a stomach-churning murder mystery.
5. Bees Saal Baad (1962)
‘Bees Saal Baad’, the name drips with spine-chilling suspense. Directed by debutant Biren Nag, ‘Bees Saal Baad’ impressed as well as shocked the audience due to its subject material. The 1962 work is psychological thriller about a folklore mystery about a vengeful spirit and an educated man being held the culprit for her stinging vengeance. It speaks on the taboo issue of rape and represents quite grotesque and incongruous scenes which were not expected by people at that time. Having inspired by Bengali hit thriller ‘Jighansa’ (1961) and Arthur Canon Doyle’s ‘The Hound if Baskervilles’, Nag’s artistic and surreal approach to mystery amalgamated with a supernatural element earned him three Filmfare nominations and four Filmfare wins.
Starring Biswajeet and Waheeda Rehman, the near-perfect portrayal of Kumar Vijay Singh amd Radha gathered admiration and critical acclaim. Bees Saal Baad nailed the eerie, creepy and disturbing back-ground score which is probably the best feature in the work of art. Who can forget Lata Mangeshkar’s mellifluous voice in the song Kahin deep jale? Bees Saal Baad has aged like fine wine and is a perfect pick for those who love some suspense bathed with supernatural rudiments.
4. Teesri Manzil (1966)
Listed among the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Movies, ‘Teesri Manzil’ has often been referred to as one of most enthralling and riveting thrillers by critics and audience alike, the Vijay Anand movie has managed to achieve the rare feat of being a “reachable murder mystery”. Starring Shammi Kapoor as Anil Kumar “Sona”/Rocky, the foot-tapping rock-star who is blamed for the suicide of a girl and Asha Parekh as Sunita, the sister on the path of finding the truth; the movie played on the foundations on the controversial lives of superstars who have to measure every step they take. The title itself is an art of its own as it somewhere paints out the whole story just through a name. Teesri Manzil’s musical and background score by the ever-enigmatic R. D. Burman still brings out the inner Shammi Kapoor dance moves and makes our feet tap. ‘Teesri Manzil’ masterfully applies suspense with music to poke the audiences’ grey-matter to discover the truth.
3. Manorama Six Feet Under (2007)
Directed and co-written by Navdeep Singh, ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’ is about an amateur detective played by Abhay Deol, who is stuck in a sticky web of deception, mendacity and murder. Inspired by the 1974 Roman Polanski directed mystery film ‘Chinatown’, ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’ builds its foundation on the neo-noir genre of narrative which is foiled up with intense mystery and suspense. What makes this movie such a great murder-mystery is the artistic screenplay co-written by Devika Bhagat and Navdeep Singh amalgamated with the implausible cast consisting Abhay Deol, Raima Sen and Gul Panag. Although the 2007 film did not score well commercially, ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’ has reaped praise for its impeccable story-telling, the character representation and articulation of dialogues. The build-up to the events keep the viewers at the edge of their seats and is a must watch for all the murder mystery enthusiasts.
2. Kaun? (1999)
This was Ram Gopal Verma at his best. ‘Kaun?’ is a psychological horror thriller directed by Verma and written by the then unknown Anurag Kashyap. It is about a serial killer on the loose and a woman who might be inviting that killer to her house. The title, meaning “Who’s There?” itself builds some suspense to attract the audience. Starring the RGV trio of Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh; ‘Kaun?’ manages to pen out the director’s and writer’s idea of a crisp murder mystery. Following similar steps as Ittefaq, the film takes a detour and does not include any songs which keep the film plot intact. Ram Gopal digs that innate “fear” which has the power to erase rationality, logic and the voice of reason.
Like a perfect murder mystery, ‘Kaun?’ starts off with a bang evoking the idea of doubt and dread and slows down only to eventually surprise the viewers with mind-bending plot twists and scenarios. Playing the cards of a Hollywood production, the film is just 90 minutes long and does not miss a single beat of uncertainty, insecurity, doubt and suspense.
1. Talvar (2015)
India was completely shaken at the news of the much-hyped Arushi murder case. ‘Talvar’, directed by Meghna Gulzar presented a variety of views enrapturing every Indian’s thought process in the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl i.e. Arushi and her family servant were found murdered and her parents were convicted for the crime. Starring Irfaan Khan as the chief inspector, Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi as the primary parent-duo suspects, ‘Talvar’ opted for a “multi-angle” viewpoint which worked wonders. Interestingly, the movie does to spotlight the murder only but scrutinizes the thematic elements of how office politics, professional rivalries and media reportage can effect and impact the truth and essentially the justice. It effortlessly portrayed the power of the media which influences the mind of the public which often leads cataclysmic results. The 2015 film builds its idea on storyline, direction, cast and performance.
The storyline is a multi-layered idea which presents multiple possibilities to solve one of the most intriguing murder cases. It is sketched out fluently by the still amateur Gulzar who manages to choose the apt actors to portray the characters. The most impressive it earns is the fact that although the audience knows about the primary story, ‘Talvar’ still manages to poke the inner Holmes in all of us. Written and composed by Vishal Bharadwaj, ‘Talvar’ brings out the earthiness and Indian judiciary system and was awarded with the Filmfare Award for Best Editing at the 61st Fimfare Awards.
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