In 1959, the Indian judiciary was ruthlessly questioned on account of the Nanavati murder case. The issue came to the fore because Prem Ahuja, a well-known businessman in Mumbai was ruthlessly shot dead by a high-ranking Naval officer, K M Nanavati. Silviya Nanavati (K M Nanavati’s wife was involved in a clandestine affair with the businessman). The uniform had power, but the men who wore it weren’t given the right to kill unarmed, innocent civilians.
‘The Verdict’ is a 10-episode series that premiered on ZEE5 and AltBalaji as part of their collaborative venture — one can find a number of narratives that circumvent around the Nanavati case on the internet. Late Shri Ram Jethmalani was a prolific lawyer and contributed hugely to the India judiciary. He has fought a number of high profile cases, including the Harshad Mehta case. His prominence rose steadily after he took on the Nanavati case.
Exploring the narrative
After spending endless days at sea, the rather romantic K M Nanavati (Manav Kaul) is back home, vying for some quixotic attention from his wife Sylvia Nanavati (Elli Avrram). The response is unexpectedly discounted, as Sylvia throws away the attention that is showered onto her. Nanavati later learns about Sylvia’s affair with Prem Ahuja (Viraf Patel). Anger gets the better of Nanavati, as he quickly makes his way to Prem Ahuja’s residence and shoots the man at point blank range, firing three bullets that gun him down.
Soon after the murder, Nanavati goes to the police headquarters in lieu of confessing the crime. DCP Lobo (Rajesh Keha) is shocked and immediately imprisons Nanavati. And the conflict begins here: Should the naval officer be tried in a civil court or the naval? An answer that every Mumbaikar (then Bombay) wanted to know. Karl Khandalawala (Angad Bedi) comes into the picture as Nanavati’s defence lawyer and contests the case against the state lawyer, Chandu Trivedi (Markand Deshpande).
Mamie Ahuja (Prem’s sister, played by Kubra Sait) has given up on Chandu Trivedi. And in then comes in Ram Jethmalani (Sumee Vays). Just as Ram begins to turn the tide in Mamie’s favour, Rusi Kaknjia (Saurabh Shukla), editor of the famous ‘Blitz’, uses media to shape people’s opinion about the case. The case is ruthlessly marauded in the hope of justifying both Nanavati and Ahuja.
The plot explores a number of issues, one of them being the issue of women’s equality in the India of 1959. It also tries to touch upon unity in diversity as a cold war surfaces between Parsi’s and Sindhi’s during the case. ‘The Verdit’ also throws light on the entrenched male ego and how it dominated the societal ways back in the time.
The plus and minus
The plot has been well held. Sushant Shah has ensured that it keeps the audiences interested till the end. Sumeet Vyas’s performance was more profound as the older Ram Jehmalani, when he assumes the role of a narrator as opposed to his youthful self. One cannot overlook the excellence in production.
The Verdict – State Vs Nanavati could be comfortably rated at a 4/5.