Even as we recover from the previous three instalments of the Netflix true crime series Indian Predator, a fourth chapter has slunk into view. Beast of Bangalore profiles murderer and rapist Umesh Reddy, who is serving a life sentence in a prison in Karnataka.
The three-episode series begins on the tantalising premise that Reddy’s killing spree, which began in 1996, coincided with the transformation of Bengaluru from retirement haven into traffic nightmare. That thought is rapidly jettisoned for the gruesome details of Reddy’s crimes. We know the zone we are in when a character spouts the cliche without which such true crime shows are incomplete: “I have never seen a case like this before.”
Reddy, who brutalised, raped and robbed his female victims, was fond of stripping them so that he could gain more time to escape (many of them survived, but understandably did not want to be interviewed for this series). This perverse detail of Reddy’s modus operandi is repeated with apparent consternation but also an undertone of voyeuristic glee by the police officers who investigated Reddy’s crimes.
While the police case files guide the episodes of Beast of Bangalore, their shoddy investigation and inexplicable inability to prevent Reddy from frequently escaping don’t show them in a flattering light. A less formulaic and more rigorous series might have made more out of one of the real reasons serial killers get away for years before being caught: a deadly, and life-threatening, combination of inefficiency and possible corruption.
The show has been written and directed by Ashwin Rai Shetty and produced by Vice Studios. After wallowing in tawdriness for two episodes, the show’s makers wake up to the exploitative nature of true crime documentaries by lining up a couple of feminist commentators.
The way in which the media frames violence against women as true crime is counter-productive, says activist Madhu Bhushan. We had a problem with the way you even pitched this series to us, she adds.
The meta-touch, while welcome, isn’t enough to prevent Beast of Bangalore from being a more slickly produced version of such television shows as FIR and Crime Patrol. The most affecting part of the show is the testimony of a young man who, as a child, saw Reddy at his house, just having finished brutally assaulting his mother.
The boy sat there listening to his mother draw her last breaths. In this victim’s testimony, the extent of Reddy’s misogyny, and the price paid for sloppy police work, becomes tragically vivid.