Criminal Justice, Disney+ Hotstar, India, News, Television

‘Criminal Justice’ Returns For Fourth Run In India: “It’s Hard To Underestimate What This Show Did For Our Brand,” Says Disney+ Hotstar Content Chief

EXCLUSIVE: Disney+ Hotstar isn’t done with the Criminal Justice franchise just yet — in fact, it might only just be getting started.

We can reveal the streamer has ordered a fourth season of the Hindi-language series, which is from Applause Entertainment and was originally based on the 2008 BBC series of the same name.

Peter Moffat’s British show went to two seasons, but Gaurav Banerjee, Disney+ Hotstar’s Head of Content for Disney+ Hotstar and HSM Entertainment Network, Disney Star, and his team have now taking the Indian show well beyond that point. You can watch a teaser trailer for the fourth season here.

“This is a pretty special moment because it marks five years of the Hotstar Specials journey, which launched in 2019,” he said. “Criminal Justice was our first big fiction series, and it is fantastic to see the franchise become stronger and continue to get critical acclaim and consumer love.”

Pankaj Tripathi will return as lawyer Madhav Mishra in a new story, though other casting details are remaining under wraps. Banerjee said a “large part” of the shoot is completed and that “lots of the original characters will come back.” Furthermore, it will feature “some powerhouse casting who have been part of the world before.”

Banerjee said the season would reinforce the evolution of the Mishra character, who called the “anchor” of the show. “Everyone wants to root for him, and you can always trust him to finally do the right thing,” he added. 

Rohan Sippy will direct, with Applause making the show in association with BBC Studios, which owns the rights to the scripted format. No airdate has been set, but Disney+ Hotstar said it would be “soon.”

Season one of the show launched in 2019, starring the likes of Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Jackie Shroff and Anupriya Goenka. It followed a similar plot line to the BBC show, which starred Ben Whishaw as a man accused of murder after a drunken night out. Season two, dubbed Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors and launched in December 2020, focused on a murder within a family, while season three, Criminal Justice: Adhura Sach followed the murder of a teenage celebrity.

‘The biggest stars to come out of Indian streaming”

Banerjee praised Disney+ Hotstar’s partnership with the BBC, saying the British content giant had allowed Applause CEO Sameer Nair and the writing team the “freedom” to follow their vision and make the series “completely Indian.”

The series has turned Tripathi and Massey into “the biggest stars to come out of the streaming world in India,” and been a trigger for numerous scripted shows that have followed on Disney+ Hotstar, he added.

Indeed, Tripathi and Massey have broken out into film, with the former nominated for a Filmfare award for Best Actor for his role in 2023 comedy-drama OMG 2 and the latter winning the same category this year for biographical drama 12th Fail.

“It is hard to underestimate what Criminal Justice has done for our brand, for Applause, the lead actors, and the incredibly talented writers and directors,” said Banerjee. “When you try something on a big scale with such complexity, it might not be an easy watch and you are taking a risk – and Criminal Justice is far from what a conventional TV show in India is. When that pays off and you get consumer love, you are emboldened. Criminal Justice has been followed by shows such as Special Ops, Aarya, The Night Manager and The Freelancer — all with great, highly ambitious and sometimes morally ambiguous storytelling.”

Though most of its shows are, like Criminal Justice, produced in the Hindi language, Disney+ Hotstar has been pushing into high-profile, event-style TV in languages such as Tamil and Malayalam over the past years, with around ten now going to multiple seasons. “In many ways, that all started with Criminal Justice,” said Banerjee.

Criminal Justice

Besides the Indian and UK versions of Criminal Justice, HBO ran an acclaimed 2016 version starring Riz Ahmed, which won him a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series of Movie, with John Turturro nominated in the same category. There have also been French and Korea remakes, for now-defunct streaming service Salto and Coupang Play, respectively.

India’s fourth season recommission comes at an interesting time for Disney+ Hotstar, whose parent Disney India is in the process of forming a joint venture with manufacturing giant Reliance Industries’ entertainment wing — a deal that would place the streamer in the same stable as its biggest competition, JioCinema. Data last year out of India suggested JioCinema was in position to overtake Disney+ Hotstar in total numbers after bagging the streaming rights to the Indian Premier League cricket and several U.S. content deals. However, Disney’s service remains top of the subscription pile.

Banerjee didn’t comment on the corporate wrangling beyond saying: “Right now, we don’t have regulatory approvals in place and business continues as usual. Me and my team have an excellent strategy and have everything we need from resourcing point of view.” 

Addressing the wider Indian streaming market, Banerjee said it was “natural for there to be more competition,” with the likes of Netflix and Prime Video putting India front and center of their international expansion plans, and local players wanting a piece of the giant entertainment sector. “We built out a market that is growing at a phenomenal rate,” he added.

“India is in an incredible position — it is the most populous country in the world, with limitless potential and a consumption increase that is unparalleled. It’s natural for all global companies to have India at the top of their growth agendas. We welcome the competition — it helps us to finesse our offer and we remain the leader of SVOD in every which way.”

To accent the latter point, Banerjee pointed to the popularity of long-running talk show Koffee With Karan as one example of how the streamer has built fanbases, along with the multiple language versions of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother that also play on the Star linear channels. He also noted how it has launched new talent through series such as Taaza Khabar, built out a ‘spy universe’ through the Special Ops thriller brand and push hard into animation through the likes of The Legend of Hanuman, whose fourth season launched last month.

Banerjee noted there was a gap in the sitcom space on the streamer and was assessing how the expand Criminal Justice further. Questioned if a spin-off is forthcoming, he said: “We have been thinking about it.”

Looks like Criminal Justice really is just getting started.

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