The Story of the Serial Killer Who Pooped on a Cop’s feet to Escape Custody is Now a Netflix Series

Beast of Bangalore, the final instalment of the “Indian Predator” docuseries, produced by VICE Studios, will urge you to focus on the failure of the system built to protect its citizens.
indian predator netflix show
Photo via Netflix

Content warning: sexual assault

“Umesh Reddy was the first serial killer to enter my consciousness,” said Ashwin Rai Shetty, the writer-director of Beast of Bangalore, the fourth and final season of true crime docuseries Indian Predator, produced by VICE Studios India and currently streaming on Netflix. 

The Indian Predator docuseries was created in the attempt to profile, understand and dissect India’s most notorious serial killers. The focus in previous seasons has been on Chandrakant Jha in The Butcher of Delhi, Raja Kolander in The Diary of a Serial Killer, and Akku Yadav in Murder in a Courtroom.


Beast of Bangalore introduces us to Reddy, a convicted serial killer and rapist who was active between the years of 1996 to 2002. Sentenced to death in 2009 by the Karnataka High Court for the rape and murder of nine women, it is alleged that the actual murders committed by him was likely much higher – somewhere between 18 and 20. Reddy’s also recently been in the news for having his death sentence commuted to a 30-year life imprisonment sentence. 

Shetty recalls being around eight or nine years old when he first came across Reddy’s name in local newspapers in India. “I lived just two lanes down from the Mico Layout Police Station [in Bengaluru] where he was held for a while. We were one of the many households that had metal doors and deadbolts installed to the relief of my grandmother,” said Shetty, who remembered being intrigued by several details from the case. “When I had to make my thesis film [in 2010], the character of the serial killer – while not central [to my story] – was based on him. He was always at the back of my mind.”

indian predator show on netflix

Director Ashwin Rai Shetty on location with journalist Vinay Madhav (right). “This interview spanned two and a half days of shoot. Vinay pieced [together] the whole Umesh Reddy story for us as he did back in 1997 when he wrote the first Umesh Reddy feature for the Indian Express," Shetty said.

Through the series, viewers learn how Reddy changed his MO in Bengaluru from the one he employed in Chitradurga, a city 200 km away. In Bengaluru, Reddy targeted women who were home alone around noon. He gained entry into their homes on different pretexts – seeking directions or posing as a cable operator. Once inside, he’d strip his victims naked, sexually assault them, and then escape with valuables including jewellery.


During an interrogation, Reddy directed police to a room where they found several items including TVs, VCRs (videocassette recorders), cash, gold ornaments, and a bag filled with women’s clothes and undergarments. Reddy’s motivation for stealing from his victims has always been ambiguous: Did he want to sell the valuables? Were the pieces of jewellery meant to serve as keepsakes from his victims? Why did he hoard women’s clothes? Was he a fetishist? No one seemed to know quite how to place Reddy, except as someone who existed outside of societal norms of the time.

‘Reddy was a product of the system’

Shetty’s preoccupation with the character of Umesh Reddy was not unusual for the time and place that he grew up in. As journalist Vinay Madhav points out in the docuseries, 2002 heralded “big change” in the media landscape in Bengaluru, a city that was slowly transitioning from “a pensioner’s paradise” to “the Silicon Valley of India.” Private news channels had entered the market and were aggressively vying for audiences. Metrics to gauge a channel’s popularity and reach in the form of TRPs (Television Rating Points) would soon follow, and with that the weekly race for the maximum TRPs commenced.

“The media in those days were looking for ways by which they could sell this story of murders taking place everywhere in a way that captured public imagination,” journalist Pamela Philipose points out in the docuseries. As a result, Reddy was branded a “pervert,” a “deviant,” one of many “devils lurking in the city.” Eventually, he would become the “Beast of Bangalore.” As Madhav points out, “Every TV channel had their own stories about Umesh Reddy.” 


“Every crime should make the system look at itself,” Madhu Bhushan, a women’s rights activist who features in the three-part docuseries, told VICE. Madhu, who is associated with the Gamana Mahila Samuha, a women’s rights collective, suggests a shift in focus from the criminal to “the system in which crime is embedded.” 

“Every criminal is a product of the system. [Reddy] is a product of a patriarchal, misogynistic system. He wasn’t innocent of these crimes, [but] these [were] not individual acts of aberration.”

Madhu believes that the fact that these crimes were against women and sexual in nature exposed the dominant patriarchal mindset. “‘Victim blaming’ is very common, especially in cases of violence against women. If someone is robbed, will you say it was their fault?” said Madhu. “No one wants to get raped and murdered. Don’t tell her that her behaviour has contributed [but, instead, ask] how the system has failed.”

Among the other things that struck Madhu about the case as it played out in the media in the 90s were Reddy’s multiple escapes from police custody. “How were the police allowing him to get away?” Reddy reportedly escaped five times from police custody, including once when he had to appear in court for an escape case and another when he asked if he could use the toilet during a dinner stop while being transferred between cities. In another attempt to escape, though less successful, Reddy shat on a constable’s shoes during a trip to the station.


Returning to Madhu’s question, the docuseries attempts to make sense of it in various ways, including its repeated emphasis on Reddy’s cleverness. Attention is drawn also to his presumed knowledge about the inner workings of the police force, given that Reddy was a trainee cop who trained with the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and the District Armed Reserve (DAR).

Another reason was Bengaluru’s policing system described as “primitive” by journalist Madhav. Cops had to rely on wireless walkie-talkies to communicate with each other, intelligence between stations had to be routed through a central control room that led to delays creating “information gaps.” “We went through hundreds of case files in which everything was hand-written,” said writer-director Shetty, who also found errors in the dates and the names in official records during his research. 

indian predator netflix show

Ashwin Rai Shetty directing Alwyn Paul Sabbathi, who played the younger Suresh, in the playground scene. Seen behind the camera is Remy Dalai, the Director of Photography.

Shetty recalled going through amateur drawings of the murder crime scenes in which stick figures were used to represent victims. “We had to rely on the memories of old people,” he said, adding that he and members of his team had to play at being private investigators themselves while researching for the docuseries. “We could not take anything at face value. Even Wikipedia has Reddy’s year of birth wrong. It’s 1973. Wiki puts it as 1969.”

The other major challenge Shetty faced during filming was a lack of access to Reddy himself. “I never got to meet him. His lawyers tried to discourage us from making the series because they were trying to get his death penalty overturned to a life sentence at the time. They said it would be a matter of sub judice,” said Shetty, adding that attempts to get hold of Reddy’s psychological evaluation were also thwarted.


The act of watching

While profiling a criminal on screen can be tricky terrain, Madhu said it helps to focus on the circumstances that led to and allowed for the creation of a figure such as Umesh Reddy. “The problem with true crime is the focus on individual acts. The focus [should be] on how a system allowed this to happen. The media needs to deconstruct and not reconstruct crimes in the ways they are portrayed,” she said. 

Affording the docuseries a moment of self-reflexivity, Madhu says to someone, presumably Shetty, off camera: “We had a problem with the way you had even pitched this.” Shetty, who was keen to retain the moment, said that he was keenly aware of his limitations, in one sense. “I’m very conscious that I’m a man trying to tell stories of sexual violence against women. It was important to shoot [the series] as sensitively as possible and to ensure that we were not being crass in any way.” 

“I wanted to make something that was as cinematic as possible without it being too exploitative. [My intention is] to suck the audience in and then pull the rug from under their feet,” said Shetty. The audience Shetty most hopes to address are men. “It’s their perspectives that need to change. The system has let women down and women already know this.”

Madhu, however, is not letting anyone off the hook. Recounting a brief exchange she had with a cab driver, who recognised her from the docuseries, she said he asked her why “biopics” were made on people like Umesh Reddy, a character he presumably found to be reprehensible. 

Recognising this as a limitation of the true crime genre itself, Madhu urged him to think more about why he felt the way he did. “The act of watching makes us more culpable,” she said, adding that we must be careful that we aren’t turned into voyeurs and eventual purveyors of violence. “It can become like a WhatsApp forward, [where] you don’t pause to think. Because you’re not being pushed to question.”

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