‘Indian Predator’ has factors that make it effective, but when you do not have a concrete case, you can only go so far.
India has long harbored a dream of making its own ‘Silence of the Lambs’ or a non-fictional ‘Ted Bundy Tapes’, but we have largely been successful. The latest crime documentary that shook India was ‘House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths.’ However, any documentary or film about serial killers has not been able to impress Indian audiences yet. This is why when the ‘Indian Predator: The Diary of a Serial Killer’ came to our Netflix screens, we became hopeful. A serial killer who murdered 14 people and indulged in cannibalism sounded like the perfect premise for a crime-based documentary. However, The TV-styled documentary failed to create anything concrete.
The Indian Predator is the story of Allahabad’s (now Prayagraj) Ram Niranjan alias Raja Kolander who was accused in 2000 of killing 14 people. He has also been accused of cannibalism, of drinking the gravy of his victims’ boiled brains and intestines. Along with Kolander, his wife Phoolan Devi, and his brother-in-law Vakshraj are accused too. However, the documentary series soon forgets the latter persons.
When we think of a serial killer, we think of someone villainously smart who progresses with each murder. However, here’s a criminal with a very simple mind and a police investigation that barely lasts for a few days. In fact, the method of committing the crime and hiding evidence is very conveniently predictable, as if it has been taken from a Bollywood film. Hence, the makers had to sensationalize the crime to keep the audience interested. The documentary tried to sensationalize a case with very few facts in hand, which is why they had to rely on a dramatic background source and a camera villainizing the criminal to instill fear. Some like to watch crime documentaries because they inspire gore and dread. Except for the cannibalism charge, which stays unproved to date, there was nothing highly gory about the documentary, nothing scary. In fact, one ought to ask how inefficient the Indian Police was that they had no clue of the 13 crimes at all.
The efforts of the makers are apparent; apart from the criminal and police, they spoke with the relatives, an anthropologist, a social activist, a clinical psychologist, Kolander’s jail inmates, a politician, and a few more. However, all of them repeated things stretching it into a series while it could have easily been a documentary film. It also indulges in casteism, politics, culture, symbolism, psychology, and police brutality. It shows how politics and power can affect one’s psyche and how caste and class determine what justice means and who gets it. It talks about the Kol tribe, which is oppressed by the upper class and scheduled class alike. It describes the casteism inherent in our system. It reveals how the police itself is casteist and doesn’t bat an eyelash before resorting to brutality.
Thus the Indian Predator has factors that make it effective, but when you do not have a concrete case, you can only go so far. As of now, India’s wait for a serial killer documentary stays elongated as the Indian Predator fails to make any mark whatsoever.
‘Indian Predator: The Diary of a Serial Killer’ is streaming on Netflix.