The mind of a serial killer has always been a topic of debate for psychologists throughout the world. Initially, the general audience wasn’t aware of words like “psychopath” or “serial killer,” but I guess in popular media, it was Alfred Hitchcock who first introduced us to the subject through his 1960 film, Psycho. Additionally, soon after the 1980s, there was a boom of true crime stories revolving around such maniacs. But for a country like India, I believe the subject is still quite new, mostly because we don’t have a proper research department for such crimes yet, and also, considering the discussion about mental health is not our cup of tea. In Prime Video’s Dahaad, we come across one such psycho-serial killer named Anand Swarnakar, played gracefully by Vijay Varma.
After finishing Dahaad Season 1, we couldn’t help noticing that Anand Swarnakar has quite an uncanny resemblance with Mohan Kumar Vivekanand, who has been popularized in the media by the name of Cyanide Mohan. The reason for such a title is because Mohan used to give cyanide-coated pills to his victims, who were mostly unmarried women from underprivileged families. After spending a night with them in a hotel room, Mohan used to cunningly persuade them into taking the cyanide-laced contraceptive pills to avoid pregnancy. We believe that most of these women might have lacked a proper educational background, because of which they never questioned the man and, thus, became easy targets. Mohan, much like Anand, convinced these women to take the pills inside a public toilet as they might feel the need to vomit (or urinate) after taking the pill, and unfortunately, they never questioned his intentions. The location was crucial because, in both the series and in real life, the dead body of a victim was found in a public toilet.
However, the use of cyanide as the murder weapon wasn’t the only similarity between Mohan and Anand Swarnakar. Just like Anand, Mohan too was a teacher; the only difference here is that Anand used to teach Hindi in a girls’ college while Mohan was a physical education teacher in a primary school. The creators of Dahaad have also changed the location of their antagonist, as most of the Prime Video series take place in Rajasthan, whereas Mohan was born in Karnataka and used to target victims in the same state. As per the reports, Mohan used to change his name, caste, and religion to lure the victims so that they would trust him easily, believing that he belonged to the same community. We all know what an important role caste and religion play in a country like India, especially when it comes to marrying a stranger. However, Mohan was never a stranger to his victims; he would spend an adequate amount of time bonding with them before he could propose to them for marriage. Similar to the series, Mohan used to approach women at bus stands or in public places and try to strike up a conversation with them. In case he got an amicable reply, he wouldn’t waste a second before befriending them.
Another major similarity in Mohan and Anand’s cases was that they used to target women in their late 20s who were not getting a suitable groom because their parents had failed to arrange a dowry for their marriage. Dowry played an important role in most of these cases, as we saw that Anand pretended to be only interested in spending a lifetime with his victims, thereby making the women think that he wasn’t like every other man who was trying to marry them for the dowry. However, he would cunningly convince them to steal jewelry or cash from their house, saying that it was needed to start a new life. Later, Anand would steal those jewels and disappear, leaving the dead bodies of his victims behind. The parents of these victims, on the other hand, were ashamed that their daughter had run away from the house, and thus, in order to avoid any more embarrassment, they would never file a missing person’s report, which worked in favor of their killer.
If we talk about the source of cyanide in the two cases, then Anand’s family were goldsmiths, or “sonars,” as depicted in the series. Cyanide is commonly used by these jewelers to clean or purify the gold, and Anand had easy access to the dangerous chemical, which he used to steal from his brother’s shop. Mohan, on the other hand, used to get the chemical from different shops by pretending to be a goldsmith. It is important to note here that Mohan operated during the early 2000s, when there was easy access to such chemicals and the government hadn’t imposed the necessary regulations. While in Dahaad, we were quickly informed through a scene that to get cyanide, one needs to have authorized permission, but the makers dealt with this conflict by giving Anand’s brother the profession of a goldsmith.
Another interesting resemblance between the two psychopaths was that the police first found a lead in the case when they started tracing the phone numbers of the deceased victims and found that one of the SIM cards was still active. In Dahaad Episode 2, a person named Jawed Lohar told the police that the SIM card was registered in his name but was used by his sister, who had been missing for six months. From there on, a string of missing women’s cases came to light. A similar incident happened in real life, where the police found out that the mobile number of the deceased victim was active and was being used by the killer to contact other targets. Given the similarity in the way the real and fictional cases were investigated, we must ask why the creator of the “fictional” series didn’t bother informing the audience about it.
Mohan was also involved in bank fraud, and even though we don’t have much information about those crimes, we could speculatively mention that Anand had done something similar in Dahaad series. He used to melt the gold jewelry stolen from his victims in an old workshop and later sold it to the tribals, called Meghwals, in exchange for hard cash. Anand used a long route to get rid of the jewels so that he couldn’t be traced. Later, he would deposit the cash in a bank account under a false identity so that no one would ever suspect him.
The last thing we want to discuss is the reason why Anand Swarnakar used to target innocent women and steal from them. The root cause of his mental instability lay in his childhood trauma, where he was a witness to his own mother’s murder. His father had shamefully asked Anand to keep his mouth shut and never tell the truth to anyone. We understand how traumatized he would have been all throughout these years, unable to speak about the horrors he had witnessed with his own eyes. This incident certainly took a toll on his mental health, and he started living a dual life.
As per the retired criminologist Professor Z. Ansari, Anand was a classic example of a psychopath who hated the female gender. He also speculated that Anand could have been passive-aggressive in nature and didn’t like to get involved in violence directly. We believe that Anand was forced to bury his feelings of anger, because of which he lacked the ability to express himself later in life. However, he found a new channel to express it by punishing any innocent woman who was willing to talk to strangers. In order to accomplish his task, he would poison them with cyanide, as he believed that these women didn’t deserve to live.
In Mohan’s case, however, there’s no evidence of such a life-altering traumatic incident. His father had abandoned Mohan when he was just 14 years old (as per the Indian Express article), and it’s likely that the absence of a father figure in his life might have had a psychological impact on him. However, neither in Anand’s nor Mohan’s case could we point out the exact cause that gave birth to such psychopathic tendencies. But in my personal opinion, if the creators had tried to give some background to their antagonist instead of blindly getting inspired by a true story, they might have had an answer for us.
On a concluding note, Mohan was accused of killing some 20 women, and surprisingly, the figure in the Prime Video Series was similar. By the end of Dahaad Season 1, Anand was guilty of killing around 29 women, and what surprised us more was that many of the scenes in the series were influenced by the real-life case of Cyanide Mohan, yet there wasn’t any explicit mention of it. We don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but some credits wouldn’t have hurt the work done by the showrunners.