A scrubbed South Mumbai is the setting for Rajesh Mapuskar’s Hindi adaptation of the British series Luther. In Rudra: The Edge of Darkness, Ajay Devgn plays the eponymous cop who works in the special crimes unit, operating more with his mind than his muscle. He famously never carries a gun and infamously uses mind games to solve grisly crimes.
In the six-episode series (Disney+ Hotstar), South Mumbai’s roads and heritage buildings may be scrubbed of grime but gruesome crimes fester in its by-lanes and warehouses. Rudra gets the pick of the cases – serial murderers, kidnappings, more murders, theft. “Kanoon bachane ke liye kanoon toda bhi ja sakta hai” (to uphold the law, sometimes laws can be broken) is Rudra’s credo.
The shadow of Rudra’s unconventional methods hangs over him in the shape of a culprit whose actions have haunted him for a long time. His methods and personality have contributed to the breakdown of his marriage to Shaila (Esha Deol Takhtani).
Like the original Luther, starring Idris Elba, Rudra opens with a double homicide case that outwits the police. Through this case, Rudra meets Aliyah Choksi (Raashi Khanna), an intelligent and plucky woman with whom he shares a crackling chemistry. Their interaction gives the series a rush and a set-up that can only get more interesting in future seasons.
Each episode focuses on a different case. Rudra’s junior officers realise the value of learning from him, even though one wonders why these seemingly accomplished cops go into crime scenes without gloves, often contaminating crime scenes.
Simultaneously, Rudra is dealing with his own demons and anger management issues. He’s not as volatile as Luther, but a slow-burning rage gets ignited when specific buttons are pressed.
The dialogue, like the crimes, are near facsimiles of the original. Mapuskar dips his palette into earthy, moody tones. Greens, greys, blues abound and create a sense of the macabre without being horrifying. The streets and sites are in Mumbai, but the setting remains curiously fictional. Events could be unfolding anywhere.
Each episode has unique actors. Rajiv Kachroo, KC Shankar, Milind Gunaji, Hemant Kher and Luke Kenny are among the actors playing obsessive, unhinged, corrupt and unsettling psychopaths. The perpetrators are all men and their victims are either children or women.
Ashwini Kalsekar, as the station chief, and Raashi Khanna tip the balance in a testosterone-intensive show. Atul Kulkarni, Tarun Gahlot and Ashish Vidyarthi are solid as the colleagues of Rudra, whose own moral compass and ethics are often tested. Satyadeep Mishra brings a softness as Shaila’s hapless boyfriend.
Raashi Khanna plays the mercurial and smirking Aliyah with relish. A brooding Devgn’s controlled performance as Rudra keeps the character’s temperature just below boiling point.
A fairly faithful and stylised remake, Rudra: The Edge of Darkness is a far more satisfying watch if you haven’t seen the original.