- Kareena Kapoor Khan is outstanding in this less-than-glamorous role. She has the acting depth and range to play Maya, a woman trapped into a life-and-death situation, and someone with the guts to get out of it.
Titled “Jaane Jaan” in India, and released internationally as “Suspect X,” the film is a mystery thriller written and directed by Sujoy Ghosh for Netflix. It stars Kareena Kapoor Khan as a single mother involved in a murder, alongside Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma as police inspector Karan. Right from the get-go, I knew at the back of my mind that this story had Japanese roots. Not because the locale was Nepal, and the background characters were Nepalese or from the Northeastern part of India. When I saw the mother and her daughter Tara D’Souza (Naisha Khanna) cooped up in a small apartment, trying to make the best of their lives, I was hooked. The brevity of dialogue, and the cryptic, idiomatic interactions felt as though I was sitting on a riverside bench reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s story. When a murder happened in the small apartment, I was transfixed.
It reads like a tale a Nobel laureate would spin. Only after coming to the end, when I started reviewing the film, I realized that “Suspect X” is based on “The Devotion of Suspect X,” which in turn was based on the 2005 Japanese novel “The Devotion of Suspect X” by Keigo Higashino and movie of the same name directed by Hiroshi Nishitani. This police procedural takes audiences on an intricate journey through a murder investigation filled with moral ambiguity, subtle twists, and intriguing inputs from a mathematical genius. Although, or because it is not an original, it caught my attention as a breath of fresh air in the Indian cinematic landscape. It is bereft of the “same old” Bollywood stuff and challenges the mind of age-old concepts of human trust, love, and logic.
Sujay Ghosh follows the lead of the original film “The Devotion of Suspect X” and displays the visually arresting beauty of dark mindscapes and somber vistas of Kalimpong’s rustic hills and valleys. The tawdry nightclubs, the serene school, the karaoke bars with Helen’s cabaret sequences, the hilltop restaurants serving “dragon momos “and the dark alleys create a contrasting chimera that is intriguing. The screenplay although appearing as a convenient love triangle between “the hot” Maya, “neighbor” Naren and the “young investigating police officer” Vijay is very complex and weaves a cryptic plot. It leaves us wondering if anyone is in love with anyone at all.
Vijay knows Naren as a math whiz from school days and suspects Naren as a murder suspect when the initial suspect (the victim’s wife) Maya’s alibis match up, but Vijay has a soft spot for the lovely Maya. Although Vijay cannot discount how the evidence matches up when Naren admits to the crime, he is still perplexed about his motive. I loved the way Naren identifies every action and reaction with ( x+y )mathematical equations. What an incredible gift to study, understand and relate mathematics to life! Most of us want to forget Math as soon as we pass school. The recruitment of the math guru kept me guessing and engaged from start to finish.
Kareena Kapoor Khan is outstanding in this less-than-glamorous role as Maya D’Souza, a woman who once did not have two cents to rub together because she was enslaved by a man (Ajit) she married! Kareena has the acting depth and range to play Maya, a woman trapped in a life-and-death situation, and someone with the guts to get out of it. Her portrayal of Maya’s transformation from a vulnerable victim to a fearless woman who fights for survival is both compelling and emotionally resonant. Jaideep Ahlawat as Naren, the savant math teacher with a mask-like face, cryptic dialogue, and ability to connect with children and humans at different levels owns the film with a mesmerizing aura, and hidden depths and keeps us guessing his intentions and actions steals the show. I loved his interaction with the kids. To paraphrase “The world will not lower itself to meet your brain…you have to rise to meet the world!”
Like many ancient stories from the East, “Suspect X” is imbued with symbolism, and it raises profound questions about the blurred lines between right and wrong, and the manipulations the human mind is capable of to protect what they hold dear. Mathematical symbolism throughout the film underscores the intellectual battle between the characters. The film’s editing keeps the audience on edge, mirroring the tension of the story. Flashbacks and cleverly edited sequences lead to a climactic reveal that is both surprising and satisfying.
“Suspect X” excels in crafting characters with layered emotions and motives. The film’s exploration of the human psyche and its intricacies leaves a lasting impression. Viewers will find themselves emotionally invested in Maya, Naren, and Karan’s thoughts, intentions, and outcomes. The film is produced under the banner 12th Street Entertainment and Northern Lights Films in association with Kross Pictures and Balaji Motion Pictures. It was released on 21 September 2023 on Netflix Don’t miss the opportunity to unravel universal and socially relevant secrets on “Suspect X.”
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.