Vicky Rai (Zafar Karachiwala) is a millionaire playboy producer. The son of a corrupt and powerful politician, Mamta Rai (Radhika Mital), he is able to get away with anything...even murder. Before he is an adult he mows down two homeless people, killing one and crippling the other. The case is covered up without much fuss. 10 years later and he shoots a bargirl in view of hundreds of witnesses, simply because she refuses to serve him. This crime is not so easily muffled. The girl is a well-liked up-and-coming middleclass student and Vicky will have to stand trial. Nevertheless, he is still powerful enough to get acquitted to detriment of his mother's career. However, justice will find him in another way and he will be murdered too, but who is responsible...
The suspects and their backgrounds and their motives will be revealed by investigative journalist, Arun Advani (Rajit Kapur), a man determined to reveal the truth about the corruption of modern Delhi. There are plenty who would benefit from the utter non-existence of Vicky Rai. These include the scammed American tourist, Larry Page (Gary Richardson), who is often mistaken for his famous Google creator namesake, and has been convinced that his mail order bride is Bollywood actress, Shabnam Saxena (Shernaz Patel). Saxena is also implicated having both been a witness to Rai's shooting of the waitress and being blackmailed to prolong her relationship with the playboy on the basis of a dark secret. As we go through suspect by suspect, we uncover the corruption and villainy that now underlie the politics and media of modern Delhi...
This is an audio dramatization to Vikas Swarup's second novel, "Six Suspects", apparently recorded in Mumbai. Swarup rose to prominence with the phenomenal success of his debut novel "Q and A" that was re-made as the Oscar-sweeping low budget film, "Slumdog Millionaire". After several cult classics featuring Indian immigrants in the UK such as "Anita and Me" and "Bend it Like Beckham", and then the rise of very strong niche cinema like Bollywood, in the form of such representative pieces as "Indian Wedding", "Slumdog" worked out how to take India to western mainstream. The formula is quite simple. You make an Indian film or write an Indian novel in English with a shrewd eye for the western viewer or reader. This is exactly the same format taken with "Six Suspects", except this time Swarup seems to have set his eyes on a far larger scale.
Having said this, don't expect Salman Rushdie style modern mythologizing or unpredictable personalities. Swarup's six suspects are clearly mainly an A-Z list of stereotypes. Likewise despite the original book being noted as an attempt at "the great Indian novel", it is a fairly clichéd whodunit using the vehicle of a modern satire by blatantly picking several well-known recent examples of corruption in India and combing them all in the character of Vicky Rai. I haven't read the original novel and I appreciate that it has far more depth, and even supposed "layers" to the tale, but the fundamental structure is the same. From what I have read from reviews it seems that there have been some significant changes made by Ayeesha Menon in adapting it as a radio series. In fact, whole characters have been changed and it makes you wonder what will be in store with the inevitable feature film intended to follow on from the success of "Slumdog". Vicky Rai's mother, the corrupt politician, was his father in the novel. Her character has also been combined with the corrupt bureaucrat with a dissociative personality disorder from the original novel.
The whole drama plays out like a soap opera melodrama, aided by the very high production values. In fact, this is pretty much as close as audio gets to the feel of a TV drama. The acting is of a high convincing calibre and director/producer John Dryden the pace keeps everything exciting and intriguing. Unfortunately for a fairly lengthy drama - two and a half hours divided into episodes - you don't leave it feeling like you have learnt anything or had a particularly rewarding experience. The clichés are almost painfully obvious. Eketi is the honourable simple tribesman from the Andaman Islands and perhaps the first fictional native of this region since Doyle's "The Sign of the Four" character, Tonga. He is shown to be a figure of simple naivety and integrity - the perfect sacrificial lamb in the corrupt Indian metropolis of Delhi. We get him stereotypically speaking in the third person and he is the only individual who finds Munna Mobile's blind sister beautiful. Even Shabnam Saxena's alliterative name is hardly much of a stretch from the world's most well-known real Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. Then the actual murder is a blatant Agatha Christie style event. The lights go off!
So, in conclusion "Six Suspects" brings nothing new to the table. It offers up stereotypes to represent the Indian caste system, uses very obvious satire of real events and presents a highly predictable an unimaginative whodunit. Nevertheless, it is certainly redeemed by a great cast, superb production values and is very well-paced. This is not a great Indian serial based on a great Indian novel. It is entertaining escapism, and is that really a bad thing?