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Decoding Detective Agni Mitra


While conceiving the character of ACP Agni Mitra, I was very clear that he would be anything but a larger-than-life, infallible law enforcement machinery. I wanted a detective who would go about his job as a homicide investigator with a smart, analytical mind solving the trickiest of cases, but at the end of the day would be like anyone of us.

 And Agni Mitra ended up being just that.

 The first Agni Mitra thriller ‘In the Shadows of Death’ introduces him as a homicide investigator with sharp “intuition, his deep understanding of the human mind and his style of getting into the psyche of a suspect rather than deliberating on material evidence.”

 His style of interrogation is also unique in that, Agni does not believe in using brute force. It is all about getting into the psyche of his suspect and bringing out hidden secrets to the surface by asking leading questions, observing the body language of the suspect, and making provocative comments, as we see in numerous examples in both the novels.

 In him, we see a man with his own insecurities and vulnerabilities. Even after all these years in the job, the sight of a corpse leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. The celebrated sleuth is lonely when he walks into his apartment, and it is not a rare sight to see him soaking in the serenity of the night with his glass of whisky, his brain rummaging through the facts of a case or the other. And he often has a bad day, like we all do.

 When his wife Medha Chatterjee walks out on him after four years of a troubled marriage, he struggles to come to terms with his loss.

 “His eyes kept looking for Medha wherever he went. A five-foot-something woman with straight hair – he had no idea there were so many of them in the city! He would see one next to his car on a busy road, driving a car herself or in the back seat of a car probably with a male companion. Or, he would walk briskly to catch up with one walking a few steps ahead of him with someone on the pavement. Or he would find someone on the escalator in a mall. Every time he felt an inexplicable sense of relief on discovering the woman was not Medha, and then, he would look around once again. He had never found himself in a similar state of mind. He both wanted and did not want to run into her. More importantly, Agni could not find a logical explanation for this behaviour of his.

At times he wished he had a girlfriend, just so that he could flaunt one, if and when he ran into Medha. He imagined the scene, scripted in his mind an exchange that would follow, and then wiped out those images from his mind, laughing to himself.

There were days when he remembered her affairs and her decision to walk out of the marriage and he felt extreme rage. And then there were days when his eyes turned moist when he heard a romantic song they had listened together in happier times. Agni was beginning to come to terms with that inconsistency in his feelings for her, now that they would never be together again. There was nothing he could do about the unpredictability of his feelings for that woman. He had better learn to accept them.

Agni had loaded his car with CDs of flippant dance numbers to escape from such mood swings for good.”

 And when Medha dies under mysterious circumstances (Read ‘In the Shadows of Death’) he is alone in bed during the nights, and sleep eludes him.

 “That was the bed where Medha and Agni had spent nights shouting at each other and fighting like alley cats, often over issues that seemed so trivial when Agni looked back now. And that was the bed where they had made love night after night. Towards the end of their marriage, their lovemaking had been reduced to a domestic routine that they would indulge in a few times every month, just because a healthy married couple was supposed to, and to satisfy a physical need just as someone sits on the pot every morning to empty one’s bowels or munches on a sandwich in the afternoon to satiate one’s hunger. But there had been times when making love to Medha was a passionate experience, where they could sense the union of their souls and not just of two bodies, and they would often end up teary-eyed. He missed that – he missed that sorely.

Agni tried to calculate how many times they had made love. There was no way to figure out. Did she keep track? She would often surprise Agni by effortlessly quoting from memory the number of days that had passed since the last time they had made love. The intervals would most often be several weeks mostly because Agni had been too tired after his work or had been away from home investigating a murder. Which meant she did keep track. How did she? Did she write down the dates somewhere? Did she make tally marks?”

 In the second novel ‘The Colours of Passion’, Agni is more evolved and more ruthless, having emerged stronger from his tragedy, but his past still haunts him.

 Agni was somewhat relieved to leave the café. The song they had been playing inside was from a Bollywood movie about a serial killer and it had been distracting Agni for the last several minutes, reminding him of the personal loss he had suffered last year when several women in Kolkata had fallen prey to a ruthless killer, the shadow of death looming large over the city.”

 And “Agni spent the autumn nursing his heartache over the tragic turn of events last year. When the city erupted with festivities, when happy faces beamed all around and laughter echoed in the autumn air, when crowds thronged streets awash with lights, Agni was left to fend for his broken heart, holed up in his flat. He was conscious of his loneliness more than ever—that’s what the festive season did to him anyway.”

 To add to Agni’s emotional turmoil, Rituja Bose, the celluloid diva he had a crush on in his youth and whose association with him in the early years of service almost resulted in a professional disaster, is one of the key suspects in the investigation. There could not have been a worse time for his past to catch up with detective Agni Mitra!

 However, in spite of his battling the demons within, both ‘In the Shadows of Death’ and ‘The Colours of Passion’ come to life with the witty repartees between Agni and his partner Inspector Arya Sen.


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