The second season of the Disney+ Hotstar series Criminal Justice follows the trial of Anu Chandra, who is accused of stabbing her husband. Kirti Kulhari plays the woman at the centre of the courtroom drama, which has been directed by Rohan Sippy and Arjun Mukherjee and written by Apurva Asrani. The returning cast includes Pankaj Tripathi, Anupriya Goenka and Mita Vashisht. They will be joined by Shilpa Shukla, Deepti Naval, Jisshu Sengupta and Ashish Vidhyarthi. An official remake of the British crime series of the same name, Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors will be streamed from December 24.
For Kulhari, the role of a weak and anguished woman is the polar opposite of the tipple-loving, fashion-forward Anjana from Four More Shots Please! and the earnest Indian Air Force pilot from Uri: The Surgical Strike. Kulhari told Scroll.in about why she initially hesitated before taking on the pivotal role – and what made her change her mind.
If there is Anjana on one hand, there is Anu on the other.
Yes. I always get a new character to play, but there is a tendency to play independent, empowered women, characters of substance with a vulnerable side. Anu is the complete opposite. She personifies being a victim – weak, broken, voiceless, just surviving. It’s very different from what people have seen me do in the past. Though there have been shades, the journey is not the same in any way. This was also the reason why at first I was unsure about taking on Criminal Justice.
Then what changed your mind?
Personally I am in a good place, empowered and independent, so I questioned whether I wanted to venture into this space – where you don’t know how far you can go and whether it will suck a part of you; a space where I might leave behind a part of myself.
These are the same reasons that persuaded me to go into it. You don’t want to do it because of a fear of the unknown, then that should exactly be something you should explore, to see where you are in life. It was like being in the water and not getting wet. Is that possible? And exactly a year after we began this journey, I am happy to report that I have stayed so dry. On set, I would be joking and laughing, but as soon as action was called I was totally immersed and then as soon as I heard cut, I was back out. It was surprising that I could go so deep into the character but still be untouched by those emotions.
What attracted you to the series?
It’s intriguing and with a very important and topical theme which needs to be spoken about. It needs to start a conversation. That’s why I wanted to be part of this story.
What was it like working with two directors?
It was tricky initially as Rohan (Sippy) and Arjun (Mukherjee) are very different from each other. If you are prepared as an actor, then everything becomes easier. But the person is not separate from the actor and you have to understand your director and be on the same page as him.
This season appears to have many more significant female characters.
Oh yes. There are amazing characters in this show, of which quite a few have agency and power without being in your face. There is a lot of representation across different strata.
When shooting, you could feel the connection off camera as well, especially with the other women. Something connects you to each other’s pain, not just as women but all of us because emotions are universal after all.
Did you watch the original 2009 series?
I saw two episodes of the second season just to get a sense of the story before I signed on, because the flavour of the Hotstar adaptation is very different. The basic story is the same, but there are lots of changes and local flavour.
What else will we see you in?
There’s the remake of Girl on the Train, a film called Shaadistan, and two short films, Charu and Inside Out. I will also start shooting the next season of Four More Shots Please!
I am looking forward to playing all kinds of characters. Though I am very interested in dark characters and white ones, those are not easy to come by as those roles need to be written well. But I can add grey to anything that I am doing. This grey is an important colour because who is completely black or completely white anyway?
Look at social media – every fight looks at issues as either this or that. But why can’t the answer be something in between? I want to talk about the in-between space. The more I explore the grey the more it widens my perspective on life and makes me less judgemental.