The Verdict – State Vs Nanavati Review: Nothing Like Other Retellings Of The 1959 Case
The Verdict: State vs Nanavati, a new web series on ZEE5 and ALTBalaji, is based on the infamous 1959 KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case.
The infamous 1959 KM Nanavati vs the State of Maharashtra case has inspired several silver screen projects in the past, including Rustom, Akshay Kumar’s 2016 blockbuster. The Verdict: State vs Nanavati, a new web series that started streaming on ZEE5 and ALTBalaji from Monday (30 September 2019), is based on those very ‘three shots that shook the nation.’ The makers pulled off a commendable casting coup by throwing Manav Kaul, Sumeet Vyas, Kubbra Sait, Makrand Deshpande, Saurabh Shukla, Soni Razdan, Angad Bedi and Elli AvrRam in the mix. The 12-part series revisits the criminal case of Indian Naval Commander Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati killing his wife Sylvia’s lover Prem Ahuja after finding out about their extramarital affair. The Verdict enjoys an extra point of distinction from other retellings of the landmark case by retaining the original names and facts intact.
Sumeet Vyas steps into the shoes of late Ram Jethmalani, an eminent lawyer, and former Union Minister while Manav Kaul plays KM Nanavati and Angad Bedi, his defense lawyer Karl Khandalavala. The episodes dig deeper into what actually went inside a courtroom, between the prosecution and defense. Khandalavala was the most flamboyant and sought-after lawyers in those days, who found a nemesis and strong competition in Jethmalani, courtesy of the crime of passion. Angad’s Karl often refers to Sumeet’s Ram as public prosecutor Chandu Trivedi’s (Makrand Deshpande) ‘handler,’ much to his dissent. As the case goes to trial in the Bombay Sessions Court, another is started by the media, attracting public and communal interest. Pooja Gor joins The Verdict as a staunch feminist, journalist Vidya Munshi. Russi Karanjia, portrayed by Saurabh Shukla, is the real deal-breaker in this case as the editor of Blitz who through his sharp articles raises support for Nanavati in the streets.
The Verdict is not your run-of-the-mill courtroom drama. It expands and uses the screen time to establish a character graph for each of the actors involved, even with predictable writing. So what’s new in this digital drama you ask? For perhaps the first time, Sylvia’s side of the story unfolds on the screen. Throwing baits and cliffhangers like confetti, episode after episode, the elements of jealousy, romance, a murder plot, a political motive, patriotism and court proceedings all pack a powerful punch to keep you glued to the screens. Even at times when the pace seems slow, the hard-hitting dialogues and a game of powerplay are enough to keep the intrigue from falling short.
Bombay of the late 50s has been impressively recreated. The vintage cars, women shying away from smoking in public, bouffant hairstyles, puffed sleeves, midi-dresses, OTT bronzer and mustache game, waistcoats among other things all hit you with truckloads of nostalgia and curiosity, depending on the age bracket you fall in. The upside is, The Verdict is still a relevant subject of discussion and debate for people of all age groups and the makers use the opportunity to their maximum advantage.
Sumeet Vyas is tailor-made to play Ram Jethmalani – the slapstick dry humour, poker face expressions, and street smart strategies to get the Chandu Trivedi to march to the beat of his drums all prove so. Albeit his days of a young and dynamic lawyer have been aced to perfection by Sumeet, the ones where he is seen as a 96-year-old don’t exactly offer delight. Manav Kaul effortlessly slips under the skin of Naval Command Officer Kawas Nanavati while Kubbra Sait lands another remarkable feat in her kitty as Prem Ahuja’s bereaving sister Mamie. Thespian actors Saurabh Shukla and Makrand Deshpande put up acts par excellence, each stepping into the shoes of their characters with great ease. Makrand is almost unrecognizable behind the dark-rimmed glasses, thin moustache, and black coat. Angad Bedi as Karl Khandalavala delivers one of his career’s best innings yet because he is primarily one of the reasons why you would want to delve further into the series. Soni Razdan makes a brief appearance, but a striking one, nonetheless.
Our Verdict: Besides the fact that Viraf Patel and Elli AvrRam‘s characters could have used extra dialogues, we also feel the episodes could have been kept crisp. Karl announces in one of the court arguments that ‘every word matters,’ but not every word needs to be spelled out. Despite being an extended watch, The Verdict picks up pace in the later episodes, ensuring a riveting watch with an informative side. It outstands everything that has been shown on the 70mm before about the case. You will walk out far more enriched in terms of knowledge and perspective, both.
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