The Stoneman Murders
|The Stoneman Murders|
Movie poster for The Stoneman Murders
|Directed by||Manish Gupta|
|Produced by||Bobby Bedi
Sheetal V Talwar
|Written by||Manish Gupta|
|Starring||Kay Kay Menon
|Edited by||Sanjib Datta|
The Stoneman Murders is a 2009 Indian Suspense Thriller film based on the real life Stoneman serial killings that made headlines in the early 1980s in Bombay. The hapless victims of the mystery killer, who was never caught, were footpath dwellers in Bombay. They were stoned to death in their sleep. The movie weaves fiction around reality in an attempt to provide answers to the questions around the case. The Stoneman Murders was director Manish Gupta's first full-length feature film.
The serial killer dubbed 'Stoneman' by the media has just claimed his fifth victim and the case is still of little interest to the Bombay police. But to suspended sub-inspector Sanjay Shelar (Kay Kay Menon), this killer poses an opportunity. Sanjay hopes to track the killer down and thus, possibly find an entry back into the police force. With the secret aid of his patronizing superior AIG Satam (Vikram Gokhale), Sanjay takes up the arduous process of tracking the murderer. The official police investigator of the case, Kedar Phadke (Arbaaz Khan), clashes incessantly with Sanjay. They, separately, delve deeper into the case. Sanjay is determined to find the stone-man. He takes the help of his informer. His wife Manali (Rukhsar) is upset with him and thinks that he is having an affair. One night someone throws a stone into Sanjay's house through a window. Manali thinks it to be the mischief of boys of the locality; Sanjay feels it is the stone-man. Another night the stone-man tries to kill a beggar sleeping on the roadside but is saved by Kedar and some patrolling policemen. Sanjay and his car is spotted by Kedar. Sanjay finds that his investigation house has been visited by the stone-man as he sees vermilion spread everywhere in the room.
Sanjay contemplates a possible danger to his wife and asks her to leave for her village. He rushes to the station to get her rail ticket where he encounters the stone-man. Before he can catch him, Kedar shoots him in the thigh, thinking him to be the killer. Sanjay escapes and the incident brings him closer to his wife. He suspects the killer to be a policeman who is a tribal performing an impotency ritual and asks his trusted cop Kamble (Virendra Saxena) to tell this to AIG Satam alongwith evidence. Kamble turns out to be the killer stone-man and attacks Sanjay, but both are saved by the police. In a trap laid by the police in the hospital, when Kamble sneaks in to kill Sanjay, he is nabbed and the matter is closed. Satam does not want the case to be revealed to the public and the media and wants it to be hushed up since it involved a cop from his own team. Kamble is shot dead and buried in the jungle by Sanjay on the order of Satam. In the end it is shown that in Kamble's village, a covered man with a voice similar to Satam is performing a ritual and asks a person to give him nine offerings of humans and this time to kill people in Calcutta.
- Kay Kay Menon as Sanjay Shelar: a hot-headed suspended police sub-inspector unofficially investigates the case in the hope of getting back into the police force.
- Arbaaz Khan as Inspector Kedar Phadke: the official investigator who is more interested in winning against Sanjay than in his assignment of tracking down the killer.
- Vikram Gokhale as AIG Satam: Sanjay's senior who comes to his aid by unofficially letting Sanjay continue his investigation and to save his job.
- Rukhsaar Rehman as Manali: Sanjay's wife.
- Virendra Saxena as Kamble
- Rachana Maurya as lead dancer in bar
- Ashraf-ul-Haque as Ghanshu
- Rajesh Balwani as Police psychiatrist
- Annu Shah as slum landlord
- Rashid as pimp
- Vishwajeet Soni as hijra
- Ashok Raj as cook
- Ali Shah as Mohammad, taxi driver
- Changazi Khan as beggar in subway
- Vikram Sahoo as Commissioner
- Jayshankar Tripathi as AIG's constable
- Veebha Anand as Sanjay's daughter
- Yogita Dandaykar as bar singer
- Satish Kumar as man at the PCO
- Priya Ahuja as Rukhsana
- Dhanu Mangela as bar bouncer
- Suleman Sheikh as bar-tender
- Pushpender Sain as pavement dweller boy
- Sameer Khan as beggar boy
- Manju Chauhan as beggar girl
- Jagdish Sen as villager
The research that went into the scripting of The Stoneman Murders involved an intensive search for newspaper articles dating to 1983 (when the killings took place). The director Manish Gupta and his team combed the Asiatic Library, the Government Archival Library at Elphinstone College, the Times of India archives and the archival departments of Indian Express, Maharashtra Times, Navbharat Times and other newspapers. Before this, the preliminary research done by the director was over the internet where a few articles about the Stoneman had been posted. The dates obtained from the internet were later used to carry out the more detailed research in the libraries and newspaper archives.
Before the shooting of the film, the director and his team visited nearly all the known murder sites, like the area surrounding Tilak Hospital in Sion, the Gandhi Market near King's Circle, the area outside Matunga police station, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road in Wadala and one small street in Lalbaug. The visits to these sites were made late at night to enable the creative team to absorb a feel of the area and the eerie late-night ambience, which was later recreated in the film in terms of location selection, photography and the general styling of the film.
The production team had to re-create the look of 1980s Bombay despite the fact that cars, shops and advertisements had changed. The pavements where the murders took place were made of black tar unlike the multi-coloured jigsaw shaped tiles of today. This restricted the shooting in myriad manners. For the wide shots of pavements, the unit often had to cover half a kilometre of pavement with black tarpaulin sheets to achieve the look of a tar footpath. The unit often waited until late night before rolling the camera since they needed all modern vehicles off the roads. Often some vehicles remained parked on the road and had to be covered by black tarpaulins. Likewise, the neon hoardings and contemporary advertisements were hidden by 1980s style advertisements and film posters that were sourced out painstakingly by the art director from obscure raddi shops.
The sound design of the film was also done after thorough research. Hit film songs from the period depicted were used along with famous radio jingles and TV commercials of that era.
Nikhat Kazmi of Times of India gave The Stoneman Murders a 3-star rating out of 5 and praised it for its gripping story and taut performances. "The film has an ample thrill quotient with the shadowy frame of the stoneman flitting across on one hand and the police department, specially Arbaaz Khan, holding the renegade cop, Kay Kay Menon, as the prime suspect. Once again, Mumbai and its alleys which turn sinister by night, tower prominently as the perfect backdrop of a film which boast of some high-tension moments. But the real lure is Kay Kay's full bodied portrayal of the trigger-happy cop who is wedded to his duty, yet doesn't mind a bit of black money."
Nithya Ramani from rediff.com praises TSM: "Writer-director Manish Gupta does a wonderful job in telling the story, which has a very realistic touch. Despite being a murder mystery, Gupta avoids gore and bloodshed, and makes it visually appealing. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat, occasionally sending a chill down your spine."
Noyon Jyoti Parasara of AOL India gave the movie a 2.5 out of 5 and said, "Overall, The Stoneman Murders is an honest portrayal of 'what could have been'. But it's not as gripping as it should have been. Nonetheless it's a novel concept and worth a watch…for Kay Kay, if nothing else."
The Stoneman Murders was featured in Avijit Ghosh's book, 40 Retakes: Bollywood Classics You May Have Missed