Netflix’s The Indian Detective is an odd cross between a serious police drama, a Bollywood romance, and The Office. I loved it. I’ve been reading reviews online and many critics don’t seem to like it all that much. Reviews are lukewarm. That’s a shame because anytime you can slide a William Shatner cameo into an Indian police story, it’s a win.
But I digress…
(Some spoilers in my review, below)
The Indian Detective is set in Toronto and the slums of Mumbai. The hero, Doug D’mello (Russell Peters) is on the brink of a big drug bust when it all goes wrong. He ends up getting suspended from the police force. A phone call from his father in Mumbai, played by Anupam Kher, sends him jetting halfway around the world to visit his father in the hospital. While Doug is in India, he becomes embroiled in the murder of a young woman, leading back to the crime syndicate he’d originally set out to bust.
The show itself is four episodes, which felt oddly both too long and too short. I think the problem with the show is that the crimes seem random at first. It’s as if he’s solving one mystery, and you think he’s done, and then the second mystery is introduced and it is connected to the first in an odd way. Some of the connections felt forced.
Doug falls in love with Priya, played by Mishqah Parthiephal , a beautiful, intelligent lawyer who dedicates her considerable talent to the Indian legal aid society helping the poor. This local connection enables Doug to search for clues amidst Mumbai’s citizens with Priya as his guide.
It’s obvious Doug likes Priya – a lot – but she is supposed to be engaged in an arranged marriage. The comedy portions of the show are mostly “fish out of water” type of jokes with Doug, who is Indian but born in Toronto, trying India’s food from a street vendor and appalled at the lack of hygiene as the man hands him his meal, his interactions and bad jokes about a Lieutenant Devo (“Do you whip it? Whip it good?”) and other sidebars. Doug’s smirking one-liners add levity to the plot.
Doug’s interactions with his coworkers in the Toronto police force had an “Office” vibe to them with some funny bits. I liked his relationship with Robyn, his partner, and his brotherly affection for her.
The funniest and most realistic interactions are between Doug and his father, Stanley, a former airline pilot who dons an obvious wig for his bald head, falls in love with his massage therapist and hides a serious heart condition from his son by pretending it’s gas. Their interactions rang so true and heartbreaking – father and son clashes, old family hurts brought up to heal – that their relationship could spawn its own show.
I’d say the strength of The Indian Detective are moments like the ones between Doug and his dad, and some of the other relationships among the characters. The characters all felt real and true; only the gangster twins felt a bit like stock characters out of a B movie, but most of the characters were well rounded and likable. You looked forward to certain characters on screen like Devo and Stanley because of the jokes between Doug and these characters but the interactionis and interplay felt just right.
William Shatner, another Canadian actor, makes a few appearances as a shady businessman. He pretends to be a good guy but is working with the Mumbai gang on a real estate deal. It’s fun to see Shatner cast as a villain and I hope they bring him back for another go as the global bad guy.
My biggest complaint with the show is how neatly they wrapped it up with a bow at the end of the fourth episode. The ending had a bit of a Bollywood musical tacked on to it, which was fun but felt forced and rushed. The romance between Priya and Doug seemed doomed and is just pushed forward without much development on Priya’s part. We know that Doug really, really likes her, and why not? She’s brilliant, kind, and smart. But for Priya to disobey her parents’ wishes for the arranged marriage, give up the wealthy nice lawyer she’s engaged to, and suddenly fall for the pudgy not handsome but wacky dedicated detective just felt too sudden for me.
All in all, this is a fun show and worth a watch. A bit of violence and bad language but you won’t be embarrassed to watch it with your grandmother. I look forward to Season 2 and to more adventure with Doug D’mello!