Cyanide Mohan/’Dahaad’, Bombay Talkies/’Jubilee’: Real lives, reel stories

Mumbai, May 17 (IANS) The uncanny similarities between Anand Swarnakar, Vijay Varma’s evil character in the web series “Dahaad”, and the serial killer notorious as ‘Cyanide Mohan’ have not escaped people familiar with the real-life story.
What’s striking, though, is the silence of the “Dahaad” makers — Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s Excel Entertainment — on the inspiration for the show.
Mohan Kumar Vivekanand, aka ‘Cyanide Mohan’, was a soft-spoken physical education teacher between 1980 and 2003 before his arrest at his home village outside Mangaluru, Karnataka, in 2009. In “Dahaad”, Anand Swarnakar teaches Hindi in a women’s college in Rajasthan. But that is where the dissimilarities end.
‘Cyanide Mohan’ was arrested on the charge on marrying women from economically less privileged families, killing them using cyanide-laced contraceptive pills after spending a night with them, and dumping their bodies clad in wedding finery in public toilets. He repeated this crime 20 times. Sounds familiar?
The serial murderer stuck to his modus operandi of making his victims ingest cyanide unknowingly, under the mistaken belief that they were having contraceptive pills, so that their bodies did not have any tell-tale marks to indicate they had died unnatural deaths.
‘Cyanide Mohan’ was awarded death sentence in four cases and life imprisonment in 15 others. He was last pronounced guilty of raping and murdering a woman from Kerala, his 20th victim, back in 2020.
The life sentence awarded to him in four cases were commuted later to life imprisonment, which he is serving at the Hindalga Central Prison in Belagavi, Karnataka.
If the makers of “Dahaad” have been silent about the most likely inspiration for “Dahaad”, there was similar radio silence about the obvious parallels between the lives of the characters in VikramadityaMotawane’s “Jubilee” and the Bombay Talkies founders, Himanshu Roy and Devika Rani, and their star, Ashok Kumar.
Anyone who’s seen the web series would know that the three principal characters — studio mogul Sukant Roy, played by Prosenjit Chatterjee; his actress-wife Sumitra Kumari (Aditi Rao Hydari); and lab assistant Binod Das-turned-leading actor Madan Kumar (AparshaktiKhurana) — have been inspired by the three leading lights of Bombay Talkies, which launched the careers of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, apart from Ashok Kumar.
The similarities aren’t superficial — even Devika Rani’s torrid romance and subsequent elopement with her “JeevanNaiya” co-star Najm-ul-Hassan forms the crux of Jubilee’s opening episode, with Nandish Sandhu playing Jamshed Khan to Hydari’s Sumitra.
Neither Motawane, nor Amazon Prime, the OTT platform where “Jubilee” is streaming, have said a word about the obvious similarities of the two stories.

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