Dahaad, which means “roar,” is one of the many television shows that are set in the arid region of Rajasthan. All these years, we could only see the colorful cities of Rajasthan, but through Dahaad, we are made privy to the inner workings of the small towns and villages based in Rajasthan. The caste system, religious discrimination, smuggling, murders, etc., are all practiced without being questioned. Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti give us a wide view of the life led by an honest sub-inspector and a station house officer and the ordeal they face as they unearth something big. A serial killer is on the loose in a small town, and the police are rattled. How soon or late will the police be in nabbing the man on the prowl?
The Missing Girls And Their Stories
Set in Mandawa, Rajasthan, the show begins with a man and his son being questioned by the police, SI Anjali, SHO Devilal Singh, and SI Kailash Parghi, over the issue of their family member Altaf eloping with a Hindu girl, Rajni. Rajni’s parents, backed by a local fringe political party, pressure the police because they do not want their daughter to marry a man from another religion. Because the Mandawa police know the couple who eloped are adults and did it consensually, they are not keen on filing any chargesheet. But there is pressure on the local party and the Rajni family to make this a case of abduction. This is a proper case of the family pressuring the girl and not allowing her to be with the person she loves. The moment an abduction case is charged, it would be easy for Rajni’s family to force her to leave the man and live with her parents, possibly never letting her out of their sight. SI Anjali Bhaati is not sure how legitimate the case is, but they pretend to show some interest in it.
Murali, another local of lesser means, also approaches the same Mandawa police to inquire about the missing complaint he had filed for his sister Krishna. He claims Krishna eloped with a man but never contacted Murali again, which put the man she married under suspicion. The police are unable to help him because they claim the girl is an adult, so eloping with the person she loves is her right. Frustrated with how the police are handling the case, he lets the local political party know that his sister eloped with a Muslim man. The political party helps Murali fast-track the case, and they start checking Krishna’s phone records. They find out the girl was speaking to a boy named Javed from a nearby town. On reaching the next town, they come to know that the man Javed never used the phone; it was always used by his sister, who used to speak to another man. Javed also reveals that he had filed a missing person complaint about his sister with the police, but the local police did nothing, claiming she was an adult and elopement is not a crime in the country. As Anjali, Devilal, and Kailash dig deep and follow the trail, they come to know of many women who have gone missing. The common pattern here is the woman running away with money, gold, and clothes, leaving a letter behind to make the family think the girl is safe and sound and that she is eloping with her consent. Anjali realizes the pattern is disturbing and that she needs to find out what happened to these women and why they never contacted anyone once they were out of the house. Anjali is sure there is more to these women’s missing cases. She wants to follow up on the case because now she thinks it is essential to know how these women are entrapped in this racket. The women have met the same man who used different identities to lure them out of their misery-filled life of rural womanhood. Mandawa police soon send a lookout notice for Krishna, and they come to know that the woman has been dead for a while, and they think it was a suicide in the beginning. As the case progresses, they learn that the women killed themselves by consuming cyanide. Either those women consumed it on their will and committed suicide, or they were forced to consume one. This modus operandi of the killer opens up avenues for the Mandawa police because they now know there is a serial killer amongst them. Only time will tell how soon or late Anjali and her team will get hold of the man.
Anand Swarnakar And His Identities
Anand Swarnakar comes across as a charmer of a young man in his late thirties who has a wife who works for a local 5-star hotel and a school-going son. It is as if it’s Anand’s habit to approach women who are alone in a public place, start up a conversation with them, and end up having them fall for his wit and charm. Every single time, the man shows a different identity, lures women onto his side, and convinces them to rebel and leave their families to elope with him. Anand Swarnakar gets a high out of getting girls conned and murdered this way. Anand’s father and brother are jewelers by profession, and they have many pieces of equipment that help melt the gold he cons out of them. Anand forces these girls to leave him with the gold, for after murdering them, he smelts the gold using the equipment at his father’s place, and sells it off to sellers to further smuggle the gold to the neighboring country. It is a big racket that he is a part of, and murdering women is just one part of the big cycle.
Anand also makes a video call as Richard with a woman named Miriam. He comes across as intelligent yet sensitive, and Miriam happens to fall for this face of his. Anand knows what he is doing and does not let any of his different characters get interchanged because he is efficient that way. The man also runs a mobile library using a tempo traveler, but this vehicle is the place where he keeps evidence of his murders, which is the photos of the women and the mobile phones of the women he killed. He makes sure to keep them safe and sound and away from anybody who can spot them. On the outside, the man comes across as a decent man, but Anand has two different faces.
Where Was Anand Swarnakar Finally Caught?
Every killer, no matter how confident they are, eventually makes a mistake. A mistake that would compromise the entire system they follow to murder their target. This is what happens to Anand as well. Though Anand comes across as a decent member of the society around him, he is not ready for what is to be unleashed on him. His son, Kapish, accidentally takes out a smartphone that belonged to one of Anand’s victims from the past. Unknown to any of them, Anjali and the IT team were relentlessly tracking all the phone numbers of the women who had supposedly gone off the radar. As Kapish switches on the phone, it alerts Anjali’s team, and they track the phone to the school in their village itself. The boy was quick to reveal that the phone belonged to his father, but Anand was quick to let the police know that he found this phone in a nearby town two years ago, and he kept it in his lost and found box inside his van, where he claims to be keeping other few phones as well and allows the police to investigate to avoid suspicion. The man was smart enough to remove many other phones from the box and other evidence just to make sure the police did not catch up to him. He keeps a couple of his incriminating items in his college staff room locker, which he knows is not accessible.
The police do not have any evidence against him because Anjali ended up illegally entering his tempo traveler without any warrant. Any proof they submit after this stunt can be used against the police; it can be proved that the evidence was planted or tampered with. With one big piece of evidence out of hand, which is the van, the police have to find other ways to gather strong pieces of evidence against him. The police cannot build up a case based on theories or assumptions. They must back their assumptions with strong proof, which is the only way to incriminate the man; otherwise, there is no way they can get hold of him. The other proof they can use is the statement of one of his victims who survived. They came across her name as they were tracing numbers they were following up on.
The survivor’s name is Sindoora, and Anjali makes many attempts to request that she speak to the police, but she refuses to do so. Sindoora is now happily married and has a kid, and she does not want to be reminded of her shameful past. The girl is hell-bent on not wanting to relive the ordeal because it was painful enough to get over it. Sindoora attempts to kill herself to make sure the police do not catch up with her because she thinks it would be better to do that than relive the shameful past of her life, which she does not want even her husband to know about. Sindoora’s husband eventually becomes aware of her tryst with Anand, and he convinces her to speak up so that the man can be caught, and her statement can be used as strong evidence. Sindoora finally gives her statement when she reveals that after spending the wedding night with the man, he gave her an emergency contraceptive pill laced with cyanide. She was not sure if she should take it, and when the medicine had barely touched her tongue, she fainted and was taken to the hospital. It’s not clear if Anand ever knew that the woman survived, and he never tried to kill her. Anand never looked back on any victim after he was done with them. The police are finally glad to have gotten this statement. So far, they had nothing on Anand to incriminate him, but with this one statement, it would be enough for the Mandawa police to file a chargesheet.
Anand plans to escape to Jaipur with one of the women he is trapping, and he lets her know to prepare for eloping. Meanwhile, he makes sure to use his brother’s car and plant evidence on it so that once the girl dies, all the evidence will point to his brother, and he will be captured. Anand is truly a despicable and selfish man who was willing to put his brother behind bars so that he would remain scot-free. His brother Shiva is the nicest of the two and a town favorite as well. Anand had no specific reason to frame his brother for all the crimes, and the only reasonable explanation for that is that he wanted some time to lay the groundwork to exit the town and make sure no one suspects him when he leaves. But the police catch up with him because none of them are stupid. They find evidence to prove that Shiva is not the murderer, but is being framed. With Sindoora’s statement in hand, the police head out to arrest Anand. The Mandawa police, spearheaded by Anjali, Devilal, and Kailash, are finally content to know the man could finally be nabbed and thrown behind bars. But Anand is confronted by his wife, who now suspects him, thanks to Anjali, who informs her that Anand is not the person they believe him to be. As she confronts him, the man locks his wife up and runs away with the gold she has in the house. Anand feels dizzy and freaked out to know his wife now knows his reality, and now his only option is to finally leave town, and he takes his tempo traveler with him. Anand knew he had to run away as far as he could because he would not want to be arrested by the police, and he was not in the mood to surrender either.
Anand takes off, and before he leaves the town, he has one final video chat with Miriam as Richard and lets her know his intention of marrying her. The girl has seen the man only through video calls for more than two years and agrees to marry him. So it can be assumed the man left Mandawa to be with Miriam and possibly con her as well. Anand tricks the police into thinking he is headed to Bikaner and from there to Karachi. He misled the police, hoping they would never trace him. The man was smart enough to never have kept his phone switched on to avoid being traced. The police are still trying to figure out why Anand is killing these women.
Anand resurfaces in Goa, and he ends up marrying Miriam and starts working on his MO all over again, targeting women who seem vulnerable to him. Miriam is completely unaware of his actions, just like his previous wife, because Anand was always good at hiding his real face. Anjali tracks Anand and Miriam down to Goa using their bank details and information from the women’s hostel she used to live in. As the police reach Goa, they are sure he cannot be let go by any chance. This is the last chance they have to nab him, or else he will disappear again, and this time he won’t resurface at all. Mandawa informs Miriam about his identity, and from her, they get his local contact number. They trace him down to a hotel in Panjim, where he is spending the night with his latest victim, Renuka, a nurse. Anand is finally arrested from this place, and this is a feather in the cap of the police to have finally gotten hold of a serial killer who had murdered 29 women. Anand may have gotten a tad bit overconfident with his ruse and got carried away, thinking yet again that this time he would not be caught, but he was wrong. The police caught up to him and arrested him.
As they bring him back. Anjali asks him one final question about why he killed these innocent women. Anand had a simple answer: the women were not innocent. They were characterless women who flirted with a stranger like him, fell in love with him, and eloped with him. Innocent and good girls always stay at home, and they wouldn’t ever indulge him or his antics in trapping them. This comes across as a deeply patriarchal mindset where women who are coy, shy, stay indoors, and never interact with people of the other gender are considered good women, while women who do the opposite are shamed. This is what Anand did by describing these women as “characterless,” and claiming they had it coming because he intended to murder them because of their character. He believes women like the ones he killed deserve to die. Anjali is shaken by this mindset because she cannot believe a man as educated as Anand would harbor such deeply problematic and misogynistic ideas about what women should be. It turns out education had nothing to do with it; it was the environment in which he was raised that led him to believe women were inferior.
The last scene of Dahaad has Anand question Anjali’s character for working as an equal in the police, while he mouths it openly that women can never strive to be equal to a man. Anand rattles the woman again by hurling casteist slurs at her and insinuating that she is eyeing a boss in a certain way and probably lusts for him. Disgusted by his words, Anjali walks away because this is probably not the first time she has heard such things from someone in her town. She was used to being viewed a certain way, and she had developed a thick skin to not get offended or angry over such words. By the end of the show, Anjali ends up changing her surname back to the old one because, even with the surname her father had given, it did not stop people from dissing and discriminating against her family. She might as well own her identity by using her actual surname. She would rather live by her actual identity from here on.