Of course there is nothing uncomplicated about killing in a series titled A Simple Murder. The premise for Sachin Pathak’s crime drama is that the world is a ridiculously tiny place where coincidences can happen – and will. This approach leaves the show’s characters show with neither wiggle room nor an escape hatch. Just when they think they have trumped their adversaries, a new problem emerges to remind them that the exit sign is just an illusion.

At the centre of the beehive in Delhi is Manish (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a serial failure who is unable to satisfy his wife Richa in every imaginable way. Richa (Priya Anand) wants to sleep on a bed of currency notes and wear a garland of rupees around her neck. The first thought is potentially uncomfortable and the second is plain silly, but the lovestruck Manish is blind to Richa’s mania for money.

The debt-ridden Manish enters the lair of Pandit who, despite running a mini-empire of crime, is liable to making mistakes. Pandit (Yashpal Sharma) hands Manish a hit on a politician’s daughter who has eloped with her Muslim boyfriend. It’s a big task for Pandit, but he confuses Manish for another assassin.

Is this all a cosmic joke, as Vijay Raaz’s droll voiceover would have us believe? Nope. An excuse for bedlam? Only occasionally. Does a bag stuffed with rupee notes feature prominently. Of course.

Priya Anand in A Simple Murder (2020). Courtesy Jar Pictures/SonyLIV.

The screenplay, by Akhilesh Jaiswal and Prateek Payodhi, comes up with innumerable ways to entangle its characters. The show braids together Manish, Richa, her lover Rahul, Rahul’s lover, Rahul’s lover’s lover Santosh, Santosh’s boss Pandit, Pandit’s preferred hitman Himmat and the runaway couple. When the bodies start piling up, two police officials enter an already crowded scene.

The contrived chaos does not aim to make a convincing argument that Delhi is a bizarre and disorderly place as much as it tries to stretch the series to seven episodes. Repetitive by design, unevenly paced and only sporadically funny, A Simple Murder would have been even less effective if it hadn’t been for its cast, many of them seasoned professionals with the ability to make the ordinary appear special.

Among the actors who elevate their scenes are Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as the lovelorn murderer, Amit Sial as the ruthless killer Santosh, Sushant Singh as the ghazal-spouting mercenary Himmat and Yashpal Sharma as the goon Pandit. Gopal Datt plays a Delhi police inspector who is slow on the uptake, while Vikram Kocchar is his deputy who chafes at his superior’s inefficient ways.

There is solace in individual moments – the unusual bond that develops between Manish and Himmat, Santosh’s charm overkill that precedes actual acts of killing. Manish’s bumbling journey from slack-jawed wonderment to enlightenment allows him many moments of redemption – a generosity never offered to Priya Anand’s gold-digger Richa. Her name is as calculated as the mayhem that marks events.

Nearly all the characters are sketchily drawn, but perhaps none suffers as much as Richa, whose villainy outstrips Pandit’s monstrosity and Santosh’s ruthlessness. Like many elements in the show, the decision to lay most of the blame at Richa’s high-heeled feet is lazy and unnecessary.

A Simple Murder (2020).