Cast: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta, Sachin Khedekar, Kumud Mishra, Arjan Bajwa
Direction: Tinu Suresh Desai
I was expecting ‘Rustom’ to be an incisive film; a story that in some way will be as intriguing as the Nanavati case. This one is, however, a tepid offering.
Inspired by the Nanavati case (1959), where a decorated Naval officer is charged with murdering his wife’s lover, this case has a certain allure. This is not just any crime of passion – this is a protagonist who asked his wife’s lover whether he was ready to marry her and when he was certain of the other man’s deceit, he shot him dead, confessed to the murder and surrendered. It sounds like an open-and-shut case. The public prosecutor wanted to prove this a premeditated murder, where the officer decided to fire three shots in cold blood, the defendant, however, pleads ‘not guilty’ saying that he fired the shots under extreme provocation and in self-defense.
The technicalities of the case aside, our protagonist manages to have public opinion completely mobilized in his favour to the extent that even the jury decides to set him free.
The problem with the film is that there is too much focus on the court proceedings, especially when they haven’t managed to make the arguments really persuasive and interesting. In fact, the public prosecutor played by Sachin Khedekar comes across as a bumbling fool. He has all the evidence he needs to nail the defendant and, yet, his objections and repartees are just good for comic relief. I would have loved to see an edge-of-the-seat trial where it is impossible to guess who has the upper hand at the end of the day.
Since the filmmakers were inept at handling the trial part of this story, why not concentrate on the individual?
Here is an upright, honest, patriotic officer who has discovered that the wife he loves has cheated on him. He is charged with the murder of his close friend and while he confesses to having fired the shots, he pleads not guilty. There couldn’t have been a better actor to play out the contradictions of this character – a conflicted man, who looks so suave, calm and collected that it is almost impossible to believe that he is capable of murder.
Akshay Kumar as Commander Rustom Pavri is flawless but he is let down by a script that is just not robust enough to support this portrayal.
We have some interesting people in the supporting cast but except Kumud Mishra’s role, it doesn’t seem like too much of thought went into really developing these characters, they’re mere pawns in the bigger scheme of things.
The music doesn’t seamlessly merge with the narrative; the songs in flashback have a very dated feel to it and also slacken the pace of this story. The director needed a tighter grip on the many elements of this fascinating plot.
‘Rustom’ should have either been a taut mystery where the tension is palpable or a love story where the heartbreak and the betrayal are tangible. Sadly, this does neither.