MAGAZINE Voices Pushpesh Pant Ravi Shankar S Vaidhyasubramaniam Shilpi Madan Anirban Bhattacharyya Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI November 27 2022 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Crimes in Ind inspired byia shows and f ilms The 2022 Shra ddha Walker m urder by her live-in pa rtner Aftab Am in Poonawalla is sa id to be inspire d by Dexter, an A merican TV seri es about a psycho path Marketing Murder The Ghaziabad Police recently unravelled a fo ur-year-old crim e in which a woman , along with he r lover, killed her husb and and burrie d him under a cemen t pit under a ho use, much like in th e film, Dhrishy am A true crime wave is sweeping television. Viewers are binging on OTT docuseries such as See No Evil, Mindhunter, OJ: Made in America, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths and The Tinder Swindler featuring real serial killers, multiple homicides, kidnappings and mysterious disappearances. D By Ayesha Singh esign student Shripali Sinha has been addicted to true crime for many years. Her ‘my list’ of favourites on Netflix reads like a sadist’s Pandora’s box that contains some of the grimmest real-life stories of all time. The Girl in the Box, the claustrophobically terrifying true story of 20-year-old Colleen Stan, kidnapped by a psychopath who kept her locked up alive in a box under his bed, to be pulled out, abused and then forced back into captivity for a whole seven years. Men Behind the Sun, the spine-chilling story of Chinese and Russian prisoners of war being treated as human guinea pigs to test the effects of biological weapons by the Japanese Army’s Unit 731, during World War II. House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths about the mass suicide by members of the Chundawat family from Burari, who were found hanging from the ceiling, bound and gagged. Sinha’s absolute favourite is Gangs of Wasseypur, based on gang wars in Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Every Saturday of this crime buff from Delhi has been dedicated to binging on true-crime teleseries. All her social engagements are worked around the date of a new release. Sinha belongs to the growing fandom of true-crime addicts, thirsty for a good mystery. What’s the draw here? “The tingly excitement to be a part of the unthinkable, the forbidden, the taboos. To taste the adrenaline high of fear, to experience holy horror, up, close and personal,” she chuckles with a delicious shiver. As the gruesome murder case of Shraddha Walker, whose body was allegedly chopped into 35 pieces by her live-in partner Aftab Amin Poonawalla, unfolds like a surreal nightmare, Sinha is waiting for its on-screen adaptation. Psychological underpinnings What makes the wildly popular genre of true-crime, as dark and disturbing as it may seem, so popular? “Cinema imitates life,” says actor Vivek Oberoi. “Since it’s rooted in reality, it appeals to society’s basic instinct to survive, for safety, security and justice.” The trend shows a mirror to society, that evil and victimhood is a trope as old as Cain and Abel. Waco or Ashram, gurus and their tricks are media fodder. My Daughter Joined a Cult directed by Naman Saraiya follows the life of the controversial godman, Swami Nithyananda, told through former devotees, who joined the cult without knowing its sinister side. Courtroom dramas are always compelling. Behind Closed Doors on Hotstar explores the Aarushi murder case and raises disturbing questions in the viewer’s mind. India’s overworked and underpaid police get their due in the new televironment, shorn of the Dabbang machismo but elevated by fine police work. Netflix’s Delhi Crime Season 2 is one such dark police story based on the notorious Kachha Baniyan gang that terrorised Delhi, but with a twist in the end. Its first season retold the horrific Nirbhaya gangrape and murder, and eventual justice. Delhi Crime is the first Indian show to pick the Outstanding Drama Series Award at the Emmys in 2020. Crime Stories: India Detectives on Netflix shows the keen-eyed men and women of the Bengaluru Police solving difficult crimes, from murder to kidnapping and extortion. Political conspiracies unfailingly mesmerise people; Kennedy’s assassination or, as in this case, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Death on Zee5. How did India's second prime “There is a vicarious delight in saying, ‘Oh, something so terrible has happened to somebody else. But we are fine.’ On one hand, it’s human instinct to shut your eyes when you see violence, but then you simply can’t.” Leena Yadav, co-creator, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths Aftab Amin Poonawalla and Shraddha Walker Minister die suddenly on a visit to Tashkent? His son and grandson have some theories. Indian Predator: Butcher of Delhi is the ghoulish account of serial killer Chandrakant Jha, a migrant worker from Bihar who taunted the cops by placing dismembered body parts around the city and outside, even Tihar Jail with little handwritten notes. Filmographies date the beginning of the modern true-crime serial fever to 2004, with The Staircase, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, about the trial of Michael Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. Says Leena Yadav, co-creator, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths about watching true-crime: “There is a vicarious delight in saying, ‘Oh, something so terrible has happened to somebody else. But we are fine.’ On one hand, it’s human instinct to wanting to shut your eyes when you see violence, but then you simply can’t shut them. You aren’t simply able to pick up the remote and switch the TV off.” The relationship between the watcher of true-crime shows and the characters, long dead or incarcerated, is horrifyingly symbiotic. The element of schadenfreude, the pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune, is unmistakable, according to clinical psychologists like Gurugram-based Rupal Baveja. “True-crime feeds the morbid curiosity inherent in humans. This is often subdued to become an escape route for forbidden urges,” she says. Take The Tinder Swindler or Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes, both illustrating the politics of intimate relationships. “Given that you can watch the grossest, most ludicrous real-life stories from the safety of your home in a controlled environment makes the experiencing all the more riveting,” Baveja points out. There is an evolutionary component to this voyeuristic pursuit. “A primary human impulse is to protect ourselves, and to find answers. By watching such shows, we’re preparing ourselves that should harm befall us, we can get out of danger. This kind of pre-emptive thinking is a psychological barrier against fear, making you feel in control,” she explains. Women are true-crime TV’s biggest consumers, even as most such shows centre around them. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 70 percent of serial killers’ victims between 1985 and 2010 were women, and most of the crimes were sexual. Dr Sharon Packer, an Assistant Clinical Professor Turn to page 2 In 2018, a boy fr om Meerut was inspired by acto r Vivek Oberoi’s character in Sho otout at Lokhandwala w hen he kidnappe d his classmate to demand ransom , finally murderi ng the victim The 2016 kidnap ping of Snapde al employee Dipti Sarna was insp ired by Shah Rukh Kha n’s character in Darr. The man behind it confessed to following Sarn a for 14 month s before kidnappi ng her. In December 20 10, Rajesh Gulat i from Dehradun mur dered his wife Anupama and dismembered her body into 70 pieces. Police investig ation revealed that he was inspired by the Oscar-winni ng, The Silenc e of the Lambs.
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