Akshay Kumar-starrer Rustom is based on the infamous KM Nanavati case of 1959. Here’s the Wikipedia link for the same. The case is said to have led to the abolition of the jury system in Indian judiciary. My main interest in the film was due to this fact only. OK, enough with the background info.
Commander Rustom Pavri (Akshay Kumar acting as Akshay Kumar) is a decorated officer of the Indian Navy and the second-in-command on the INS Mysore. He returns home from a lengthy posting in the UK to find that his wife is at the home of a friend’s, Vikram Makhija, an automobile scion and a playboy, for the last two days. After discovering the love letters Makhija sent to his wife and meeting her on her return, he goes out to get a pistol from his ship and off to Makhija’s house where the elderly domestic help hears 3 shots and arrives to find Makhija dead. Cdr. Pavri surrenders but pleads not guilty in the trial, fighting his case himself.
This film has parallels to the present times in how,concurrently with the actual trial in the courts, we have public and media trials where so-called experts try to shape public opinion on matters that are sub-judice and in the process, give their own verdicts, however half-cooked those might be. This same concept was used in last year’s superlative Talvar (review here). Going further, the film has been teased before the audience as a patriotic courtroom thriller drama, which it most certainly isn’t. It’s more a biased, poorly researched masala film that doesn’t have an iota of an idea about quality and acting credentials needed for a proper drama. The creators — producer Neeraj Pandey and co. (A Wednesday, Baby, Special 26) — have tried to bank on the same formula of a patriotic Akshay Kumar-driven vehicle which doesn’t care whether it’s actors are speaking even decently well-enough for their characters. Kumud Mishra as the Parsi newspaper owner and editor Erach Bilimoria and Ileana D’Cruz as the English-born wife Cynthia are the main eyesores here. The filmmakers seem to have spent quite a fortune in getting up the tone and style of the 50s-60s right but they’d have been better served spending a minuscule percentage of that on a proper dialect coach. That apart, more than a few characters seem to have no idea what a courtroom procedure should be like. There’s the public prosecutor (Sachin Khedekar) who doesn’t know the basic rules of debating, the jury which seems to have an agenda of its own even before the first argument is delivered and the judge who seems the most ineffectual of all. At one point, the public prosecutor objects that Rustom’s question to his wife about whether she feels repentant for her affair with Mr. Makhija is irrelevant to the case. The judge promptly shoots him down. I mean, really? What does her repentance (or the lack of it) count for when she isn’t even the one who’s accused of the murder? Load of crap. There’s also the illogical embellishment of Bilimoria’s paper starting its trial time sale at 25/50 paise and going on to 5 rupees around the time of the judgement. Top papers like TOI sell for ₹ 5 today, but 57 years back? No way!
For a courtroom drama to be effective and memorable, a couple of stirring monologues and one or two brilliant debating sessions are enough. Rustom has atrocious monologues that play to the gallery and debates that seem like a waste of time even before they’ve started. Oh, and did I mention that you don’t need to include dumb humour in courtroom proceedings only for the sake of comic relief? Yeah, that is an issue too. There’s far too much melodrama here for an effective drama. The only seemingly redeemable character is that of Senior Inspector Vincent Lobo (Pawan Malhotra) who injects some sense of workmanship here. Make no mistake, I know biopics distort the truth to their own end, but a well-made and well-acted film can make you overlook its flaws, not a pathetic one like this. It draws bits and pieces from many iconic courtroom dramas, from A Few Good Men to 12 Angry Men, but fails to even come close to any single one of them. The music is decent though, with a couple of love songs that will grow on you the more you listen to them.
Rustom is a film that might delight you in places if you’re prepared to be drowned in a silly flow of mindless patriotism. If not, you’re better off giving it a miss.
Rustom is 148 minutes long and rated U/A. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 2.5/5.
Share your thoughts on the film and the review in the comments.
P.S. : I’d advise you to check that Wikipedia link out or this Indian Express article. They make for some very informative reading. Mild spoilers alert though.
Thanks for reading.