This fortnight at seventymm.com
The Perfect Murder
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Stellan Skarsgard, Amjad Khan, Madhur Jaffery, Mohan Agashe, Dalip Tahil, Archana Puran Singh
Director: Zafar Hai
Screenplay: Zafar Hai &
H. R. F. Keating
All that one has come to expect from a Merchant-Ivory production is there to be savoured in “The Perfect Murder”. From picture-perfect frames to a genteelness harking back to a forgotten era, it is all present and accounted for.
This 1988 film is brings on a heavy-duty sense of nostalgia. And just as you are commending the set decorators for authentic props, for that ‘80s look and feel, you realise, that “The Perfect Murder”, was not shot as a period film! Inspector Ghote typing up his reports on a typewriter is not period detail, it was standard issue office stationery of the time.
Based on H.R.F. Keating’s first Ghote novel, the movie tells the story of the investigation by the Bombay police into an attack on Mr. Perfect, accountant to the rich and powerful Lala Hira Lal.
A day at the office for Ghote includes chaperoning Swedish UNESCO analyst Axel Svensson who has come to study Indian policing methods, cracking an involved diamond smuggling ring and also locating a ring for an oily, unctuous minister. Ghote’s wife Pratima nags him about his irregular working hours and for a colour television.
The movie is at times irritatingly simplistic especially in the generous doses of exotic India that fly off the screen thick and fast.
There are stereotypes galore. From the innocent abroad, to the colours and flavours of India and Bollywood to the greatest cliché of them all — the monsoon.
However, one does not want to come to heavily down on the movie because it does speak of a gentler time, a time before the gritty, angsty cop dramas.
Directed by adman, Zafar Hai, the particular pleasure of watching “The Perfect Murder” is to try and work where the cast is today on the Bollywood firmament.
While we all know Naseeruddin Shah who plays the long-suffering Inspector Ganesh Ghote has gone on to conquer several creative peaks, there are others, who have gone on to become well-known actors or have vanished without a trace.
Amjad Khan is a riot as the mountainous Lala Heera Lal, and one is reminded acutely of what the stage and screen lost with the thespian’s untimely death.
Stellan Skarsgard, plays the constantly befuddled Svenson while Madhu Jaffery is suitably regal as Mrs. Lal.
Mohan Agashe plays the harried police chief, who lights into Ghote at every possible moment.
There is Anu Malik as the strangest masseur, a painfully young Archana Puran Singh as the slyly simpering starlet, Miss Twinkle, Dalip Tahil plays the propah son with lots to hide, Salim Ghouse as a scary goon and Sameer Kakkad as Sousa.
Sakina Jaffrey plays the sexy Lal Bahu, while Nayeem Hafizka plays the younger Lal son Prem, a laddie who fancies himself to be quite the actor and detective.
The DVD has a featurette introducing the Merchant Ivory Box Sets where all the Merchant Ivory regulars from Shashi Kapoor and Sir Anthony Hopkins to Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Helena Bonham Carter and Hugh Grant talk about their experiences while shooting the films.
The movie at a mercifully short 93 minutes is charming way to spend an evening, to watch a totally different grammar of filmmaking unfold graciously before your eyes.MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER