Anuja Chauhan’s best-selling books have somehow failed to inspire worthy films or shows. Could it be that Chauhan’s use of Hinglish is lost in its transition to the screen? Or is it that her air-light plots vapourise when fleshed out?

Previous adaptations such as The Zoya Factor (based on Chauhan’s debut novel of the same name) and Dil Bekaraar (adapted from Those Pricey Thakur Girls) went phuss, as one of Chauhan’s characters might say. Murder Mubarak, based on the 2021 page-turner Club You to Death, fares somewhat better.

Homi Adajania’s film for Netflix, adapted by Gazal Dhaliwal and Suprotim Sengupta, stays mostly faithful to Chauhan’s giggly take on Agatha Christie. Murder Mubarak is set in the elite Royal Delhi Club, whose members are so shallow they would drown in a tea spoon of water.

The murder of hunky Zumba instructor Leo (Aashim Gulati) at the club gym invites shock as well as glee. Assistant Commissioner of Police Bhavani Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) and sub-inspector Padam (Priyank Tiwari) have an unenviable pick of suspects among the stuffed shirts and lusty aunties.

These include bleeding-heart lawyer Akash (Vijay Varma) and his childhood crush Bambi (Sara Ali Khan). Rannvijay (Sanjay Kapoor) is the pompous dispenser of Rs 20 tips. The frequently imbibing Cookie (Dimple Kapadia) makes ugly sculptures. The furiously flitty Roshni (Tisca Chopra) has a drug-addled son, Yash (Suhail Nayyar). Shehnaz (Karisma Kapoor) is a B-movie actor with A-lister vibes. Ganga (Tara Alisha Berry) and the gardener Guppie Ram (Brijendra Kala) behave suspiciously too.

Pankaj Tripathi and Vijay Varma in Murder Mubarak (2024). Courtesy Maddock Films/Netflix.

The film’s makers duly reach for low-hanging fruit in their portrayal of the easily contemptible swish set. But they find themselves hard-pressed to take either the Delhi class dimension that Chauhan skewered beyond the obvious observations or delve into the murder mystery itself. Sachin-Jigar’s background music, which is needlessly slathered on nearly every scene, has a quality best described by the subtitles: “whimsical”.

Like baubles at a private auction, a bunch of in-form actors present themselves for appraisal, only to disappear whenever Adajania remembers that there’s a crime or two waiting to be solved. The finely picked actors, many of whom are utterly comfortable in their luxe surroundings, hold together a disjointed plot that jumps from laugh-out-loud moments to intimate observations of relationships.

From Karisma Kapoor to Sanjay Kapoor and Tisca Chopra to Dimple Kapadia, Adajania draws out the sublime and ridiculous in their characters. (Roshni: “Poor people should die young.”) Vijay Verma and Sara Ali Khan have lovely scenes together, as well as the suggestion of depth to their mutual ardour.

Khan, in particular, is in superb form, giving serious competition to Pankaj Tripathi’s unflappable, highly observant and perennially amused Bhavani. Tripathi, who hasn’t had such a meaty role in a while, delivers a feast of wan smiles and wise observations on the silly ways of the poor little rich.

Murder Mubarak (2024).