Prime Video’s P.I. Meena is the kind of series that comments on itself, perhaps unintentionally.
I don’t even know how to start an investigation, says Meenakshi – a moment of honesty from a frequently slow-witted sleuth. This case is beyond your capabilities, a government intelligence agent tells her. Perhaps the best assessment of Meenakshi is provided by her colleague: “What is with your happy hormones? Where are they?”
An excellent observation, given how morose Meenakshi (Tanya Maniktala) is at all times. Defined entirely by her detecting instincts, Meenakshi is the latest instance of the all-work-and-no-play attitude that characterises the lone female gumshoe treading into dangerous terrain.
The people around Meenakshi are livelier. The show has a fine bunch of actors who enliven the proceedings.
Meenakshi’s boss Pritam (Harsh Chhaya) is always ready to burst a blood vessel. Subho (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) gives Meenakshi inviting looks and cute grins from time to time. Tridib (Vipin Sharma) might be a government spook involved in shady business but he seems to be enjoying his work. The cast includes Vinay Pathak as an avuncular professor and Samir Soni as a scientist.
Meenakshi’s descent into deadly seriousness begins with the suspicious death of a virologist in a road accident. Moved by the grief of the victim Partho’s mother (Zarina Wahab), Meenakshi tries to find out who has killed Partho and why.
Meanwhile, a virus is barrelling through Kolkata, with possible origins at a hospital run by the doctor Andrew (Jisshu Sengupta). Conspiracy theories are loosely tossed around – a human-engineered laboratory leak, bio-terror, Big Pharma. Could there be something even worse behind Partho’s death? Rogue science combines with poor plotting to ensure that the question doesn’t get a befitting answer.
The Hindi-language series has been created by Arindam Mitra and directed by Debaloy Bhattacharya. Meenakshi’s quest lasts for eight drawn-out episodes, in which new plot strands and characters are being continually added even before making sense of the ones that are already there.
The hard-working heroine, doughtily played by Tanya Maniktala, also provides the voiceover in Hindi and English apart from putting herself at considerable peril. The Bengal setting doesn’t yield much detail beyond the occasional slippages into Bengali and a plot revolving around an extremist political party.
By refusing to follow the rules, Meenakshi singles herself out as a reckless soul, the kind who willingly enters underlit houses all by herself or harangues government officers for information that is almost impossible to extract. “There’s something about the girl that makes you do things,” a character observes. That is yet another incorrect statement.