Scenes from a Crime by John Dryden

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Scenes from a Crime by John Dryden. Dir. John Dryden. Perf. Vivek Madan, Faezeh Jalali. BBC Radio 4, 26 Feb. 2015. BBCiPlayer to 28 Mar. 2015.

Recorded on the streets of Mumbai, "Scenes from a Crime" conjures up a teeming world of crowded streets, poky buildings, quiet nooks and crannies and perpetual activity. It seems a frightening place for the Man (Vivek Madan) to wake up near an apartment-block with little or no memory of who he is, his family background, or what he has been doing recently. He encounters a child (Faezeh Jalali) and together they embark on a journey to discover what has really happened to the Man.

The story is a familiar one; suffice to say that the Man discovers he is the local rent collector who has suffered some kind of retribution for what he has done in the past. What renders "Scenes from a Crime" so interesting is the soundscape that director John Dryden creates - a world of perpetual chatter in both English and Hindi, interspersed with snatches of music from various cultures. This is not the ordered world of a western capital such as New York or London; on the contrary, Mumbai comes across as a place in which anything can happen, where order is a relative term, dependent on who invokes it. This does not mean to say that Dryden has created a stereotypical representation of an "oriental" city (as opposed to its western counterpart); far from it. He is far more interested in showing how the truth about the Man's past lurks in various places, and often appears at the most unexpected times. "Scenes from a Crime" is not a detective story per se wherein clues fall logically into place to produce a solution; on the contrary, it creates a random world where anything - the tiniest sound, a half-heard snatch of conversation - might or might not be construed as a clue to the Man's past. It is up to the listeners to make the connections (if they can).

In this kind of random universe, the only way for people to survive is to trust in their instincts and not search for the truth. This is what the Man discovers, although he has to undergo painful experiences along the way.