THE PERFECT MURDER

UK/India 1998
93 minutes

 director.gif (905 bytes)  Zafar Hai & & M.R. Shahjahan

CAST

Inspector Ghote - Naseeruddin Shah
Stellan Skarsgård - Axel Svensson

Mr. Perfect - Dinshaw Daji
Miss Twinkle - Archana Puran Singh
Mrs. Lal - Madhur Jaffrey
Neena lal - Sakeena Jaffrey
lala Heera Lal - Amjad Khan
Pratima Ghote - Ratna Pathak Shah


USA PREMIERE

March 2, 1990

UK PREMIERE

July 1, 1988

 


SYNOPSIS

Someone has tried to murder Mr. Perfect  and now the beleaguered Inspector Ghote  must figure out who tried to do it. Set in Bombay, India, the story centers on Ghote's search for the would-be killer. Unfortunately, the pressures from his other cases that include a ring of jewel smugglers and a bureaucrat's purloined piece of costume jewelry prevent Ghote from giving his full attention to Perfect's assailant. That Ghote must also entertain the meddlesome Axel Svensson, a renowned Swedish crime scientist, does nothing to help matters.

PRODUCTION NOTES:

The film took just seven weeks in 1987 to film in India on a budget of $108,000. Although it is a Merchant Ivory production, which is credited for helping to arrange financing and distribution, it had very little to do with the actual shooting of the film. In the late 1980s, Merchant became interested in organizing an independent film unit in Bombay that would provide an opportunity for local film people to make modestly budgeted films for distribution in the West.

Sweden obviously wanted to take advantage of featuring Stellan on their DVD cover.

IMAGES:

REVIEW:

Janet Maslin, NY Times:
Flaming pastels, singsong delivery, facetiously broad acting and jangling musical numbers are among the things that have long made Indian popular cinema an acquired taste for Western audiences. But ''The Perfect Murder,'' which opens today at the Angelika Film Center, is a bustling and touristy, if somewhat overeager, attempt to bridge the gulf. Conceived as a colorful export, ''The Perfect Murder'' is based on a 1964 mystery novel by H. R. F. Keating, who began writing about a character named Inspector Ghote 10 years before he ever visited India himself. Inspector Ghote, for all his Indian habits, is essentially a Western invention, complete with overbearing boss and comically nagging wife.

Although the murder case he tackles here would never hold the interest of a Poirot or Miss Marple, and although its solution is far from dazzling, the mystery plot does serve as a pretext for touring Bombay and introducing a polite, personable hero. Investigating the near murder of an elderly man named Mr. Perfect - such is the title's weak humor -brings the Inspector (Naseeruddin Shah) and a visiting Swedish colleague (Stellan Skarsgard) all over town.

They encounter a bull with bright orange-painted horns and magical powers; they visit a film studio and watch the mahurat, a religious ceremony observed when the film makers begin work on a new project. They meet a star named Miss Twinkle, who wears a lot of glitter, and they celebrate the arrival of a monsoon that actually helps to resolve the case. On two different occasions, the inspector's exploits lead other characters to be doused with brightly colored buckets of dye.

The direction by Zafar Hai, who wrote the screenplay with Mr. Keating, is consistently genial, if mild. And it's clear from the ''Vertigo'' and ''Spellbound'' posters on view in one scene that Mr. Hai's heart is in the right place. But ''The Perfect Murder'' is as plagued by overacting as Bombay is by overcrowding, and the film's cultural roots are more than a little confused.