Cast: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz, Arjan Bajwa, Esha Gupta
Director: Tinu Suresh Desai
A naval officer kills his wife’s boyfriend and pleads not guilty. The jury weighs its options and declares it an accidental death. The decorated navy commander walks scot-free.
But there’s more to the case than what meets the eyes. The only person who knows what exactly is the missing link is Rustom Pavri, the accused standing in the witness box.
And that is the clincher in the film that spins off on the sensational KM Nanavati case that caught national attention in 1959.
Rustom (Akshay Kumar) can’t keep his hands off his wife Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz), but work commitments send him on a six month trip. The tour finishes before time, and Rustom returns to find Cynthia in the arms of a hot-headed millionaire, Vikram Makhija (Arjan Bajwa).
Rustom’s raging anger knows no bounds, and Vikram is killed. The officer decides to fight his own case, and cleverly places his pawns. The local media shows tremendous interest in his personality. But there’s still a long way before he can present the case as a crime of passion instead of cold-blooded murder.
This case is to be judged by a jury that comprises of local dignitaries. The society’s idea of infidelity and consenting adults are likely to impact the final outcome.
It’s early 1960s and the Indian navy is making its presence felt in the Arabian Sea. Men in uniform command respect, and envy. Added to that, Rustom is from an affluent class in an economically struggling country.
Though part of the story is based on fact, it’s the relationship drama that actually makes this a thriller. It’s a juicy retro story given more panache with a voiceover by Manoj Bajpayee, who introduces us to Mumbai’s Queen’s Necklace in sepia.
The premise is fairly simple. Director Tinu Desai’s characters reveal themselves rather obviously: A heartbroken naval officer, his cheating wife, the Casanova lover, his evil sister, sympathetic cops, an ambitious reporter and an overtly confused jury. But, slowly and surely, the movie grips you.
Now, Akshay Kumar is playing to the gallery here. But, he gives a fine touch to Rustom Pavri. More on the lines of Special 26 than Airlift or Baby, Kumar tones it down to suit the character. Sharp, deceptive and likeable. Most of the scenes are planned around him at the helm, and it’s a wise move, for he knows how to keep the tempo.
What also works is the courtroom drama. Desai takes her time with it — almost the entire second half of the movie. The cross examination is teased into the script, and actors Kumud Mishra, Sachin Khedekar, Pawan Malhotra and Anang Desai keep you hooked through it.
But not everything in Rustom is proportioned right. Lousy special effects and the language of certain characters are a few things that warp the authentic feel of the movie. Yet, somehow Rustom doesn’t falter, except when you realise the movie two and a half hours long.
Akshay Kumar ensures that you root for Rustom Pavri. After Holiday, Baby and Airlift, it’s one more step for his brand of patriotism. It’s an intriguing film for sure.