Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead
One of the best lessons taught in a defense law school is how to get away with murder. That is what K.M Nanavati vs state of Maharashtra case showcased. Rustom takes place at a time with the essence of British culture was still visible in Independent India. Anglo-Indians are marrying nationals and have settled happily. Rustom Pavri is a naval officer happily married to Cynthia. He is transferred to London and when he returned, he finds out that Cynthia has been having an affair with Vikram (Arjan Bajwa). He murders Vikram and Vikram’s sister Preeti (Esha Gupta) hires the best lawyer to ensure the harshest punishment for Rustom. He, on the other hand, is confident enough to win the case and walk free. Backed by Cynthia and the public, Rustom goes ahead to defend himself.
The movie is simply a cardboard cut out of every court drama I have seen so far with traces of history and law & order scattered here and there. There is a theme with a powerful background, but it lacked the proper punch and the “change” aspect is something that we end up forgetting 15 minutes after watching the film. K.M Nanavati case was so sensational that the jury system was abolished in India. It was certain that Nanavati was guilty yet he was acquitted of all charges and his wife, who cheated on him, came forward to support him. All these trivia drew my curiosity to this movie as I wanted to witness how the trial happened. In a nutshell, the film showed how one can get away with murder. Rustom actually manipulates all the evidence to get him free after committing pre-meditated murder. Apart from his wife’s alleged infidelity, Vikram’s harsh nature and corruption prompted him to commit the crime. Rustom is supposed to be a hero in shining armor. But, it makes us question again and again, just like the jury and public, do we feel the same? Rustom stood up against corruption with integrity yet he had to commit murder to end it all. Does it end there? And does it actually justify his act?
Esha Gupta plays Vikram’s sister who does everything she could to trap Rustom from her attempts to dominate a crime with her credentials to showing off her exaggerated high-class feminine attitude in the court. She is an antagonist and if we rule out her role in Vikram’s plans to subdue Rustom, she is simply someone fighting for justice. Yet, the movie showed her as the evil dominatrix. Is it how it was in real life? Esha Gupta performed such that she didn’t want to disturb her lipstick and excess makeup, making us sigh “typical”. Akshay Kumar is likable and he delivered a controlled performance. It is not easy to like him due to the fact that he actually got away with a crime by manipulating the mindsets of people altogether. Yet we will admire his guts and cleverness. Maybe Vikram deserved what he got but it would have been much better if he was exposed and condemned in the court of law along with other corrupt officers. What the film showed is factual, they can’t really change the past. Ileana D’Cruz is very expressive and she will make you feel sorry for her vulnerability and guilt. However, her performance in the scene where she blackmailed a senior navy official into paying 5 crores seemed too stressed out. That wasn’t Ileana’s cup of tea.
Overall the film gave an insight into what really happened during the trial. The direction is where the film went wrong. The first half was boring due to the insufficient effect caused by the technical side; cinematography and editing were less impressive. But the second half of the film picked up by creating the necessary anticipation. Production design did a tremendous job by providing the feel of the late 1950s. But compositing and visual effects were obvious. Akshay, Ileana and Anang Desai, the one who played the judge in the film and had his moments of hilarity, did sincere jobs in their roles. Rustom is a good one time watch if you like history.
Featured image: baltana.com