After three dramatised and far from reality screen adaptations — Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke (1963), Achanak (1973) and Rustom (2016)– finally, someone knew what to do with an intriguing and spicy narrative which borrows from the infamous K M Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case. The Verdict: State Vs Nanavati, Alt Balaji’s 10-episode web series, also streaming on ZEE5, educates you about the reality of the murder case of 1959, when a decorated naval officer KM Nanavati fired three bullets and shot dead businessman Prem Ahuja after learning about his extra-marital affair with his wife Sylvia.
The web series not only follows the real course of events that happened back in the ’50s but also uses the real names of the people involved. So, for those unaware of the case, The Verdict will come as a revelation. But, those who are aware of how things transpired can watch it if for a compelling story and gripping courtroom drama.
Set in the Bombay of 1950s, The Verdict tackles the wheeling and dealing of the Indian court system when the jury decided the fate of convicts. It begins with maverick lawyer Ram Jethmalani, played by Sumeet Vyas, narrating the saga of KM Nanavati in the flashback. After murdering Sindhi businessman Prem Ahuja (Viraf Patel), Nanavati (Manav Kaul) surrenders to the police but pleads ‘not guilty’ in the court.
He finds sympathisers in the Parsi community for whom he is a national hero and a victim of adultery. Then popular tabloid, Blitz owned by Russi Karanjia (Saurabh Shukla) presents him as a victim, Sylvia as an unfaithful wife and a woman of questionable character and her lover Prem Ahuja as a womaniser.
If that description makes you cringe, you are not alone. The woman journalist, Vidya Munshi (Pooja Gor) is righteously indignant over the whole scenario. Through her, the viewers are compelled to look at the story from Sylvia’s perspective that a woman can be attracted to another man if her husband fails her. Also, it doesn’t denigrate the lover. The web series through the character of an actor (Lopamudra Raut) tries to tackle the issue of misogyny prevalent in the society then and calls into question the social dynamics.
All in all, the plot of The Verdict elicits different emotions– from anger, sympathy to laughter. Despite being based on a murder case, it brings humour through the characters of Chandu Trivedi and his “handler” Jethmalani. Both of them deliver the best dialogues and their banter keeps you hooked.
While Vyas’ older Jethmalani looks caricaturish in those thick brows, stooped back and glasses, he nails his job as the younger version of the criminal lawyer. A special mention to Makarand Deshpande for his portrayal of Chandu Trivedi who appears in a never seen before avatar. He sports short hair and thin-lined moustache and it’s almost impossible to look away when he is in the frame. Also, Saurabh Shukla makes his role of editor Russi believable.
The other cast members, Angad Bedi as Karl Khandalavala, Nanavati’s lawyer, Elli as Sylvia, and Manav as Nanavati have done a decent job too.
However, being a crime thriller, the web series misses the edge-of-your-seat crime-solving element. The makers meander in between the episodes only to return on track towards the end. But, The Verdict, as far as I am concerned, is by far the best and most ‘real’ on-screen adaptation of the popular criminal case of independent India.