It’s desperate times that push men towards desperate measures– and it’s a desperate situation that pushes rising star cop Arjun Kadam to the edge. Mumbai Confidential is a noir comic set against the underbelly of a Mumbai bereft with bad cops and good gangsters, none of whose hands are clean. Kadam, a member of the ‘Encounter Squad” of the Mumbai police whose life spirals out of control when his wife dies at childbirth, aggravated by the stress of his job. Kadam is part of the task force that is licensed to execute the worst of the city’s organized criminals.
After waking up from a coma that also kills an innocent young girl, Kadam finds a newsense of purpose and decides to investigate her death. But the investigation takes him to places and reveals the inner dirty dealings of the Encounter Squad members and the helplessness of the Mumbai police and Kadam struggles to separate the good and bad in a gray city.
Dirty cops, gangsters, and stories of redemption are a favorite theme in Mumbai pop culture and a common and popular theme in Bollywood. But unlike the usual comedic, action packed style of movies, Mumbai Confidential is textbook noir. Redemption themes and hard-boiled crime aside, the narration can get a little wordy at times but the dialogue has a good flow to it. The comic starts in medias res, and then jumps back to the beginning before moving on and the transitions at times can be a little confusing.
What helps those transitions is the subtle change in art style. The majority of Mumbai Confidential is drawn with a sombre palette with heavy shadows and sepia tones, certainly a style that lends itself well to noir but largely different from the usual spotted blacks and hard lines. The flashbacks vary from a transition that’s more sharply penciled and brightly colored to one that’s digitally drawn and screentoned.
Overall, Mumbai Confidential is a well-drawn and well-written comic for fans of the genre that is occasionally overwrought and tedious to read in some parts. The best part thing about this book is that we don’t often see this genre executed this well in a setting like Mumbai (i.e, non-Western settings). Having lived there some time ago, I trained a nitpicky eye to all the things I enjoyed about living there and am delighted to note that it extends to the details (code-switching, mannerisms, etc.). Because noir is more recognizable as a western genre, it’s great to see it adapted so deftly to the South Asian setting without losing its identity.
Mumbai Confidential: Good Cop, Bad Cop is the first installation of an ongoing series by writer Saurav Mohapatra (WITCHBLADE, MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, DEVI, THESADHU) and artist Vivek Shinde (SNAKEWOMAN, PROJECT: KALKI).
Read it if you’re a fan of noir comics like Torso (Brian Michael Bendis) or vigilante comics in the noir genre like Parker: The Hunter (Donald Westlake under the pseudonym Richard Stark) or Sin City or are looking for noir in non-Western settings. For more information, visit http://www.mumbaiconfidential.com.