Netflix’s The Serpent depicts the horrifying true crimes committed—in some capacity—by Charles Sobhraj (“Alain”), Marie‐Andrée Leclerc (“Monique”), and Ajay Chowdhury. Lead by Sobhraj, the group befriended, poisoned, stole from, impersonated, and killed at least a dozen western tourists traveling through Thailand, India, and Nepal in the 1970s.
Of the group, Ajay—consistently referred to by his only his first name—feels more literary than real. Ajay is something of a Faustian figure whom Charles Sobhraj meets somewhere in Asia and, at least in the show, entices to commit progressively violent crimes. One of these acts is the stabbing and then burning of American backpacker Connie Jo Boronzich and Canadian tourist Laurent Carrière. Those murders were committed in Nepal and were real. In the series, they act as something like Ajay’s christening. The night before, Ajay is shown having a psychedelic experience with a western tourist before Sobhraj confronts him and questions his loyalty. Killing Boronzich and Carrière become, in the series at least, his initiation act, his deal with the devil.
From there, Ajay participates in at least one other killing on screen, the drowning of Teresa Knowlton (another real murder). For the rest of the series, Ajay and Sobhraj are seen carrying sick guests into cars—the murders occurring, we’re led to believe, off screen.
We last see Ajay traveling with Sobhraj. By then Sobhraj has apparently chosen Leclarc as his sole partner. He drives Ajay into a remote village and then releases him from his service—the devil, (Sobhraj) having already claimed the soul of his accomplice, discards him.
In less literary terms, Ajay kind of just disappeared from recorded history. Here’s what we know about the historical Ajay, his role in the murders, and what happened to him.
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Who is Ajay Chowdhury?
Little is actually known about Ajay. He is believed to have met Sobhraj in 1975 and to have become his partner in some professional capacity. Sobhraj himself has said that Ajay helped pick up Knowlton and bring her back to the pair’s apartment. Ajay is implicated in both Knowlton’s death as well as others, though his role is not clear.
Leclarc’s role in the trio’s crimes is less understood; she denies being privy to any murders, though she likely helped participate in drugging Sobhraj’s victims. (One of the trio’s victims later claimed that Leclerc “had to know about it. Anyone with eyes and ears could see what was going on in this apartment.”)
Ajay seems more clearly implicated in the actual murders. Some believe that the killing spree was mostly perpetrated by him—that it was he who escalated Sobhraj’s criminal activity to include serial murder.
Whatever the exact nature of his role, in 1976 Ajay was allegedly sent on a gem run to Malaysia by Sobhraj. After he returned, he met with Sobhraj and then disappeared.
What happened to Ajay?
At the end of The Serpentthe audience is informed that “aside from one sighting in Germany in late 1976, Ajay Chowdhury has never been seen again.”
Amesh Edireweera, who plays Ajay, commentedon his character’s ambiguity. “Ajay is interesting because there are no direct accounts of him – just some evidence from other people speaking about him.” That, of course, means most of what we see of Ajay is only imagined.
Edireweera was, however, able to access interview recording with Ajay’s parents during his prepeartion for the role. “For me, the greatest shock was hearing his parents talk about him,” he said. “They described him as such a ‘good boy’ and ‘clever’. In the interview, I listened to Ajay’s mother talk about ‘her boy’ and felt connected to the love that she still showed for him in spite of everything that has happened. I felt a real sense of sorrow for the family.”
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