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“Did you murder your daughter, Sheena?” asks the voice behind the camera in ‘The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth’ to the woman on trial. Pat came the retort: “What a stupid question,” barks Indrani Mukerjea, the woman accused of murdering her 25-year-old daughter Sheena Bora.

The tainted and disgraced media mogul doesn’t answer with a definitive ‘no’ or ‘yes’, and that’s precisely the problem with this four-part series on an ongoing murder trial. You don’t get concrete answers even after spending more than four hours with the dysfunctional Mukerjea clan.

This series is fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. And, what sticks to you is that none of the members of the Mukerjea clan are particularly likeable, but being collectively abrasive doesn’t make them cold-blooded murderers either.

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Indrani Mukerjea, the prime accused in the alleged murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, who was reportedly kidnapped, strangled, and buried

Plus, there’s no denying that the salacious voyeur in us for a real-life gruesome tragedy is satiated with a macabre series like this one. It’s got murder, materialism, greed, ambition, and twisty minds to keep us hooked from the word go.

In 2015, Indians across the globe were gripped by this murky Mukerjea trial and its twists were more morbid than your average murder mystery novel or potboiler.

A young and beautiful Sheena Bora, 25, disappears from Mumbai in April 2012. Three years later, Indrani Mukerjea, who was then married to top television executive Peter Mukerjea, gets charged with murdering Bora when a dead body, identified as Sheena Bora’s corpse, was found in a wasteland in Raigad district in Maharashtra.

At first, we were led to understand that Sheena Bora was Indrani’s pretty and smart sister, but later Indrani allegedly confessed that Sheena is her daughter from a previous marriage. She concealed that information, presumably to stave off questions about her past marriages and her troubled past. She also claimed that Sheena was a child born out of rape by her own father.

The well-documented trial, which saw new twists every day, became one of the most chronicled and sensationalised cases in Indian media history. The case, which is still on trial, gripped the media worldwide and saw police naming Indrani as the main suspect, followed by the arrest of her first husband as a co-conspirator in the murder. Peter Mukerjea, who claimed that he always thought Sheena was his then-wife’s sister and not her daughter, was also arrested for allegedly plotting with his wife to kill Sheena. Peter is Indrani’s third husband and the two committed to kill Sheena because they were allegedly against her relationship with his son Rahul. All the accused are now out on bail.

Only Indrani and her children from different marriages – daughter Vidhie and son Mikhail – are featured in the documentary, the rest declined to participate in the OTT series. So what we get is the classic case of half-baked voices. The directors opt for a fly-in-the-wall approach as they open with how Sheena’s fiancé Rahul was desperately trying to find out Sheena’s whereabouts. Telephone conversations featuring the real voice of Rahul questioning his dad Peter and step-mum sets the tone of the documentary. It then cuts into Indrani’s daughter Vidhie speaking of her mother in the most ambivalent of tones.

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Indrani Mukerjea, accused of the murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, who is out of the jail on bail, reaches court, in Mumbai on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

On one hand, she claims her mother isn’t the smartest woman in the room but she was a hustler who came up from nothing. While you remind yourself not to take sides in a true-crime documentary, you feel as if Vidhie was at least trying to be authentic. She touches upon her struggle with alcoholism, her attempt to self-harm when the family she knew was slipping away from her, and her borderline distaste for her own mother with as much conviction as you can muster. Be warned, none of the players in this documentary are particularly likeable and seem to be a portrait of greed and moral bankruptcy. If Indrani came across as a rabid social climber, then her children from various relationships didn’t do any better. They all seem to be motivated by economics and quick-rich schemes than scruples.

A hardened Indrani Mukerjea, who spent six-and-a-half-years in custody before being let out on bail, even claims that she was being witch-hunted because she dared to be audaciously ambitious. Fortunately, the documentary does not go about humanizing its subjects. Many a times, it shows their messy and manipulative minds in a funnily clinical manner. The scenes in which Indrani tries to coach her lawyer, who asks her to take a chill pill and not disturb his train of thinking, is unintentionally hilarious making you almost forget that a young life was possibly snuffed out by this woman. Many a times, you get the strong feeling as a viewer that the motives behind the subjects volunteering to let us into their lives is murky.

Their answers seemed rehearsed, orchestrated and even stage-managed. While you are keenly aware that their responses don’t make full sense, this true-crime docu-series is what you call a guilty pleasure in more ways than one. Guilt comes with this package because you feel like you are abetting the commodification of a possible gruesome crime.

The documentary also serves as a stark reminder that human nature is complex and ambition can often lead you to plummet to harrowing depths. And let’s not forget, there’s always an audience with a voracious appetite for the macabre, even if the answers are not always in black and white.

Gulf News rating:

Series: The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth

Director: Shaana Levy and Uraaz Bahl

Stars: 3 out of 5

Streaming on: Netflix