The making of a villainFeatured

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Piyush Jha’s latest thriller dwells on the reasons for emergence of serial killers and how the problem is compounded by Indian society and the law and order machinery’s denial about the its presence

AT CANNES THIS year, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s chillingly perfect portrayal of serial killer Raman Raghav drew rave reviews. It is true that India has had its fair share of macabre psychopaths such as Auto Shankar, The Stoneman, Beerman, Pandher- Koli duo, and others who kill for pleasure or are on a revenge spree.

Raakshas, Piyush Jha’s fourth book is a study into the life and mind of social aberrations that are serial killers. A spate of gory, horrific murders is occurring around Mumbai, the victims are all women, and all of them are found headless. Thus, the perpetrator of these crimes is christened “The Mundi Killer. Maithili Prasad, the Additional Commissioner of Police is entrusted with capturing the killer who has caused panic in the city that never sleeps.

Prasad, on her part, has to fight her inner demons that are a product of her past. In cracking the case — by ascertaining how the serial killer became one — Maithili is able to not only face her past, but also highlights the trajectories that make one person a guardian of law and another person its breaker. Raakshas gives an appropriate introduction to the background of the main character and the circumstances, and the incidents that lead him towards insanity and contrary behaviour.

The book throws up chilling moments in its narrative, which despite running on parallel tracks, does not once lose its grip on the plot or the interest of the reader. The gritty, uncompromisingly noir-ish story also conveys the collective lack of empathy in a teeming metropolis, where it is easy to sink into anonymity, change your appearance and identity, and no one may even notice your absence or problems until it is too late. Jha dwells on this topic in the afterword where he discusses the reasons for emergence of serial killers — both psychological and physiological — as part of the old inconclusive debate on whether criminals are born or made, and how the problem is compounded by Indian society and the law and order machinery’s denial about its presence.

As a bonus feature, there is also an appendix on some serial killers — Amardeep Sada, Mohan Kumar (Cyanide Mohan), Umesh Reddy, Darbara Singh (The Baby Killer), Chandrakant Jha (The Body Parts Killer), Sadashiv Sahu (The Godhuli Killer), Devendra Sharma (The Taxi Killer) and Shankariya (The Hammer Man), who have all been equally menacingly deadly.

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