After the success of Netflix’s true crime anthology Indian Predator last year, rival Prime Video is gearing up to enter the Indian true crime space with the documentary Dancing On The Grave. The documentary is produced by India Today Originals.
With its trailer released today (April 18) and a premiere date set for Friday (April 21), Dancing On The Grave sheds light on the chilling murder of Shakereh Kaleeli. Like the fourth Indian Predator season (The Beast of Bangalore), Karnataka’s capital city serves as the location for the Prime original.
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Born in Chennai and based in Bangalore, Shakereh Khaleeli was a real estate developer who went missing in 1991. With police and neighbours pointing suspicious fingers at her husband Swami Shraddananda, the case of disappearance began gaining media coverage.
However, Khaleeli made it to the headlines in 1994 when after a rigorous three-year-long sting operation, the Karnataka Police could get a confession out of the husband. Previously known as Murali Manohar Mishra, Shraddananda admitted to having murdered his wife. He went on to lead the cops to her remains that he had buried under his own house.
As is evident from his alias, Murali Manohar Mishra became a self-styled godman and even managed to brainwash Khaleeli. The Muslim real-estate developer had earlier married her first cousin and Indian Foreign Service officer Akbar Khaleeli at the age of 18, back in 1965. The couple met Shraddananda in 1982 and struck a cordial relationship with the so-called “Swami”.
However, when Akbar temporarily moved to Iran for professional reasons, something came upon Khaleeli. Right upon Akbar’s arrival, Khaleeli filed for divorce and six months later, she completely shunned her family and religion to marry Shraddananda in 1986.
After her second marriage, Khaleeli continued living in her sprawling bungalow on Bangalore’s 81 Richmond Road. The house was shared not just by her new husband but the four daughters she had with Akbar Khaleeli earlier.
When Swami Shraddhananda was sentenced to death by a Bangalore trial court on May 21, the self-proclaimed godman's supernatural powers proved more than defunct. Nearly 20 years ago, Shakereh Khaleeli had thought otherwise. pic.twitter.com/ercXyMxyiO— awadhi (@awadh_ki) November 16, 2022
While the couple seemed to enjoy a happily married life, frequent scuffles were over the daughters. Finally, it was one of the daughters, Sabah, who took Shraddananda down. In 1991, when Khaleeli mysteriously disappeared, Sabah enquired her stepfather, only to get blank responses.
The daughters continued worrying but Shraddananda continued to lead a fancy life at the bungalow. If any suspicious neighbours would ask him about his wife, he would just answer that Khaleeli has gone on a long vacation.
Bothered by her stepfather’s relaxed attitude, Sabah sought help of the authorities. She filed a habeas corpus petition (unlawful detention or imprisonment) at Bangalore’s Ashok Nagar Police Station. Even when the police showed up at Shraddananda’s door, he managed to evade their questions, giving the authorities little to no room for arrest.
The case ultimately proved to be similar to the Drishyam movies. The only difference is that unlike the hero, Shraddananda couldn’t get away with burying skeletal remains under his courtyard.
With help from Sabah, the police managed to dig up the house’s courtyard only to find a skeleton on a mattress.
Shraddananda finally gave himself up and let the cat out of the bag. It turns out that on April 28, 1991, he laced his wife’s tea with sedatives and then buried her alive over a mattress enclosed within a coffin in a pit in the courtyard. Three years later, when the police found the skeleton, they could find its hand clutching on to a mattress, indicating that she was literally clinging on for dear life while being buried alive.
This factor alone contributed to the shock value of the murder.
Born Shakereh Nizami, the real estate agent hailed from a wealthy family and was the granddaughter of a former Diwan of Mysore, Mirza Ismail. The motive to kill her was simple: Shraddananda was after her wealth and property. In 1987, he even got the power of attorney over Khaleeli’s property.
Dancing On The Grave, however, promises to offer deeper context behind the murder that the public isn't aware of.
Swami Shraddhananda with Shakereh Khaleeli grand daughter of Mirza Ismail. pic.twitter.com/9vdOhBvvQD— awadhi (@awadh_ki) November 16, 2022
Khaleeli’s murder marked a landmark moment in Indian judicial history as this was the first case where DNA testing was used (to identify the victim from the skeleton). This was also the first case where the exhumation process was recorded on video.
Shraddananda was arrested in 1994, after Khaleeli's remains were discovered.
The trial against Shraddananda began in 1994 and in 2005, he was sentenced to death by hanging.
However, a 2006 appeal caused another judgment in 2008 that sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Shraddananda initially served his sentence in Bangalore Central Prison but was moved to Sagar Central Prison in Madhya Pradesh as Sagar is where he hails from. In 2022, the 83-year-old pleaded with the Supreme Court to release him much like how the Rajiv Gandhi killers were set free that year. Having spent 29 years in jail without a single day of parole, Shraddananda's counsel added that he is suffering from multiple ailments.
In the trailer for Dancing on the Grave, Shraddananda tells the filmmakers that he is innocent and the case has been one big lie to trap him.
Dancing On The Grave drops on Amazon Prime Video on April 21.
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