The Raikar Case web series review: Engaging family drama weighed down by a middling whodunit
The Raikar Case is essentially a Karan Johar meets Sriram Raghavan whodunit, though slightly veering towards the former's sensibilities
The Raikar Case begins with a quandary — Has Tarun Zachary Naik Raikar, a teenager hanging out at the edge of a cliff, plummeted to his untimely death of his own volition or was it a murder? A real cliffhanger, if I may. However, he takes time off from it to provide narration to the series, and begins by defining the word, Family — “Udne ke liye pankh, aur girne ke time support.” (A family acts like your wings when you fly and is the support when you fall.) It seems like a very nice thing to say about family, but it quickly turns dark when he adds, “My sweet but strange family is everything to me, even the reason for my death.” The quandary becomes rhetorical. Of course, it is murder!
Director: Aditya Sarpotdar
Cast: Atul Kulkarni, Ashwini Bhave, Parul Gulati, Neil Bhoopalam
The first episode of this 7-part series, currently streaming on Voot Select, plays out like the first episode of Modern Family. Over the course of 30-odd minutes, one-by-one we are introduced to all the members of the Naik Raikar family, a rich and influential family based in Goa. It isn’t easy to draw this family tree, and it takes further episodes for us to get acquainted with the exact familial bonding each of them shares with the other.
This not-so-modern family is headed by Yashwanth Naik Raikar (Atul Kulkarni) and his wife, Sakshi Naik Raikar (Ashwini Bhave). There are the children Etasha (Parul Gulati) and Mohit (Kunal Karan Kapoor). There is Tarun’s mother, Lily D’Silva Naik Raikar (Neena Wadhwa), a widow who lost her husband (Yashwanth’s brother) and daughter in an accident. There is also the extended family of Yashwanth’s sister, Anandi. Apart from the Naik Raiker family, there is also a powerful politician Rajshekar Rane and his hot-headed chauvinistic son, Eklayvya Rane. And over the course of the series, we see almost every one of them become suspects in the murder of Tarun. More importantly, we find out the tremendous variety of skeletons in each of their closets.
More than Modern Family, The Raikar Case is fashioned straight out of Broadchurch. You have a dead kid on the beach, a cop who gets too close to the case, and a never-ending list of suspects. An interesting narrative style is explored in The Raikar Case by beginning each episode with Tarun being struck down by a suspect and ending the episode with a new suspect being added to investigating officer SP John Pereira's (Neil Bhoopalam) list. While this route might seem a bit tedious, it does work... mostly.
Writers Bijesh Jayarajan, Karmanya Ahuja, Anitha Nair incorporate various themes like infidelity, borderline incest, homosexuality, anger issues, power struggle, idealism, voyeurism, misogyny, and politics into The Raikar Case. Not all play out effectively, but most do. It creates enough confusion in the mind of Pereira, who initially seems like a most inept cop. All his breakthroughs are incidental or aided by Etasha, who overcompensates her guilt for not picking Tarun’s calls on that fateful night by investigating the murder. But towards the end of the season, we get to know Pereira's wily nature through a semblance of a twist buried under a series of even bigger twists. Such subtle touches are so very few and far in between that after a point, the reveals lose sting.
However, the series is kept engaging almost till the end by the impressive performances of the entire cast. In some ways, Yashwanth is similar to Atul’s very own Ameya Gaikwad from the political series, City of Dreams. But certain nuances in Yashwanth and subtle undertones in Atul's performance make it stand out as he watches his painfully-built family crumble in front of his very eyes. Ashwini is brilliant as Sakshi, who undergoes a rollercoaster of emotions as she comes to terms with every secret, every catastrophe, and has a few skeletons of her own in the closet. The casting is on point, especially Lalit Prabhakar’s explosive Eklavya Rane and Kunal’s Mohit.
This is essentially a Karan Johar meets Sriram Raghavan whodunit that veers more towards the former's sensibilities. It would have made for a good feature film too. But despite the makers choosing the web-series format, the all-important character arcs of these family members feel underdeveloped. The incessant quest for cliffhangers in each episode results in an underwhelming hook to the second season that even dilutes the mother of all twists in The Raikar Case.
The Naik Raikars, which I first heard as Knight Riders (how cool would that have been), are morally corrupt and have enough skeletons still remaining in their closets to be brought out in the open. And as Tarun, who dropped from a cliff seven times in this seven-part series, taught us — The rich really are different.