Anyone who read newspapers in India 1988, would have been shocked by the news of ace badminton player Syed Modi’s ghastly murder in broad daylight, outside the K.D. Singh Babu stadium, Lucknow. I used to follow that case in detail especially as the prime accused then, politician Sanjay Singh, was a close friend of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and the son-in-law of the next Prime Minister, V.P. Singh. Why would such a high profile person murder an eight time National champion and winner of multiple international trophies? The masala got spicier when news trickled out that Syed’s wife Ameeta Modi was in an extra marital affair with Sanjay for a long time (and subsequently married him in 1995). Various reports suggested that Ameeta’s mother was never happy with her daughter’s marriage to Syed and infact orchestrated her affair with Sanjay. Cut to 2020, Ameeta and Sanjaya Sinh (now) are happily married and in politics. With so much murky twists, turns, high profile names and scandals attached, one would expect an edge of the seat web series on this topic. Zee5’s Chargesheet – Innocent or Guilty doesn’t live up to the desired level, but nevertheless it does enough for you to dig into Google and refresh the entire incident.
Expectedly, to steer clear of controversies, more so as Sanjaya Sinh and Ameeta are both affiliated to India’s premier ruling party, BJP, the makers have tried to morph any possible coincidence. So badminton is changed to table tennis, Syed Modi becomes Shiraz Malik, Ameeta becomes Antara, Rajiv becomes Sanjeev, Sanjay becomes Ranveer and so on and so forth! The tagline was changed from ‘The Shuttlecock Murder’ to ‘Innocent or Guilty’ last minute, yet the posters still show a blood soaked shuttlecock! Surely the makers were confused till the last minute and that reflects on the output.
The coincidences are obvious; the plot showcases what we have mostly read in the newspapers; the casting could have been better (Hrishitaa Bhatt should have played Antara’s role); the prosthetics are ordinary (starts from Arunoday Singh’s funny wig); the screenplay is lazy (even the intimate scenes lack steam); the talent at disposal isn’t used properly (Satish Kaushik constantly suffering from cold is irritating in court scenes); the dialogues are weak (even the legal arguments) and hence the series is low on engagement. What saves it, is the link to Syed Modi’s ghastly unsolved murder mystery that has till today, puzzled the nation. Every viewer would have wished to see a conclusion or atleast some theories established ala Talvar, but the makers play it safe and offer neither. As a viewer, you feel cheated at the end. Yet, you will open your internet browser and search for Syed Modi’s solemn face pictures and related reports. There were other sides to the coin too. Maybe Syed wasn’t a good husband. Maybe his daughter was not actually his daughter. Maybe Syed’s humble family were paid off, maybe threatened. Maybe… we will never know.. All we know is that India lost a sporting hero, his loved ones got scarred forever, an extra marital affair got upgraded to a happy marriage, the legal system failed and powerful political people accused did a victory lap, yet again.
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