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Interview with Uraaz Bahl and Shaana Levy, the makers of Netflix’s ‘The Indrani Mukerjea Story’


Media maven Indrani Mukerjea, arrested in connection with her daughter Sheena Bora’s murder, is brought to court in Mumbai, 2018.
| Photo Credit: Vijay Bate

Almost a decade ago, it was a story that riveted the country and dominated the news cycle. The disappearance and murder of 25-year-old Sheena Bora unveiled an internecine family drama that put to shame the wildest of masala potboilers. 

A file photo of Sheena Bora who was allegedly murdered by her mother Indrani Mukerjea in 2012.

A file photo of Sheena Bora who was allegedly murdered by her mother Indrani Mukerjea in 2012.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

To recap, Sheena disappeared in April 2012; three years later, her sister, media maven Indrani Mukerjea (who turned out to be her mother), was arrested for the murder along with Indrani’s driver and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna. A few months later, Sheena’s stepfather and Indrani’s then husband, Peter Mukerjea, former CEO of Star TV, was also arrested. As details were made public, it turned out that Sheena was dating Rahul Mukerjea, her stepfather’s son from his previous marriage. Confused? 

With its myriad twists, this head-spinning case had all the makings of a great cinematic tale. A new Netflix documentary series, titled The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth, now brings to life this stranger-than-fiction saga. It was delayed from airing on its original release date of February 23 by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which argued that the case was ongoing and the series could influence the outcome. The Bombay High Court later rejected the CBI petition.

Like peeling an onion

Directed by Uraaz Bahl and Shaana Levy, the husband-wife duo behind Ladies First (2017), the award-winning documentary on Olympic archer Deepika Kumari, the gripping four-part series features appearances by key players in the case, including Indrani herself and her third child, Vidhie. The documentary peels back the curtain on Indrani’s life, including her early years in Assam and West Bengal, as well as her high society life amongst Mumbai’s swish set.

“We all love a mystery and true crime allows you to pretend you are an investigative journalist, or detective,” says Shaana, explaining why the case continues to fascinate the public. “The fact that this is a real story told to you by real people has a level of authenticity,” Uraaz adds. “There is certainly a bit of voyeurism, you know, how the mighty have fallen, that kind of thing.” Conspiracy theories abound on the involvement of top cops and politicians. “It was this onion you kept on peeling to find different parts of the story,” Shaana says.

Shaana Levy and Uraaz Bahl, the directors of ‘The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth’.

Shaana Levy and Uraaz Bahl, the directors of ‘The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth’.
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Shaana, 40, and Uraaz, 47, spent five years working on the series. They had just finished a documentary short on Indian nanny Sandra Samuel, who saved two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, when they decided to tackle the sensational Indrani Mukerjea story. “It was a story that all of us were obsessed with,” says Uraaz, a Mumbai-born and -bred self-described ‘accidental’ filmmaker whose day job involves real estate investing. He learnt the ropes of filmmaking by watching YouTube videos.

Meeting the half-Indian, half-Swiss Shaana, a once-aspiring actor, in the late 2000s in Mumbai may have encouraged him to take the plunge. Their relationship was sparked by a mutual love for film. Shaana, who grew up in London, had been cast in a Bollywood movie in 2007, which brought her to Mumbai and eventually the producing side of the business. “I started my career in theatre but filmmaking and telling stories, whether in front of or behind the camera, has been my passion,” she says. 

Access to key players 

The series prominently features Vidhie Mukerjea, Indrani’s third child.

The series prominently features Vidhie Mukerjea, Indrani’s third child.
| Photo Credit:
Courtesy of Netflix

The couple is certainly passionate about filmmaking and has worked with teams — editors, cinematographers, and producers — in Los Angeles and around the world. The documentary does a stellar job of reporting the story. Riveting scenes include one where Indrani asks for the camera to stop rolling when her lawyer is speaking and the lawyer responds by asking Indrani to “relax” and not interrupt his flow of thought. That’s pure documentary gold.

In the intervening five years of the documentary’s making, the couple managed to have two babies — Shaana jokingly calls the series their third baby. Researching the case took time but so did gaining access to the key players, including Indrani, who was in jail till 2022. “The case kept evolving, we had an incredible team doing archival research with us,” Shaana says. The series also includes interviews with lawyers and journalists to provide context.

File photo of Indrani with her then husband Peter Mukerjea.

File photo of Indrani with her then husband Peter Mukerjea.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

According to the filmmakers, Indrani was “very professional on set, always arrived on time and came well prepared for the interview. She is an extremely intelligent woman who knows every aspect of her case. We didn’t know Indrani before making this documentary and had the opportunity to interview her twice a few months apart. This allowed us to start with Indrani’s backstory and lead up to more difficult questions. Indrani rarely refused to answer any of our questions,” says Shaana. 

These days Indrani, who wrote a memoir last year, can be seen on Instagram (she has 1.2 million followers), travelling to the Andamans and posting her dance routines. She maintains her innocence. The court case continues. 

“When we started this, we thought the case was going to get resolved,” says Shaana. The filmmakers disclose at the beginning of the series that it is based on publicly available information. “We tried to give a balanced point-of-view and kept waiting for a verdict. But in a way, that made us work harder to make sure we did justice to the subject matter.”

The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and author.



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