‘Maamla Legal Hai’ Review: A Humor-filled Legal Drama Filled With Sublime Performances

Most of the legal dramas that have come into the Indian OTT space follow a serious narrative. There are only a handful of movies and shows that promise to offer the hilarity that comes with working in court. Arshad Warsi’s Jolly LLB is one of the prime examples of how a satirical legal drama can be written and translated onto the big screen. Court, Chinmay Tamhane’s Marathi film, is a film about how legal procedures work. The brand-new Netflix Original Maamla Legal Hai is a satirical legal drama that was released on March 1, 2024, and distinctly covers the lives of lawyers working at a district court. There are eight episodes in the show, and all of them have a short runtime of twenty-five to thirty-two minutes. Maamla Legal Hai is about Vishwewar Tyagi, aka V.D. Tyagi, a renowned lawyer at the Patparganj, District Court in Delhi. His only aim was to become the Attorney General of the country, and he had begun the process of working towards achieving his goal. He had a chamber of his own in the court premises and had a few lawyers working for him, with others wanting to be a part of his team.

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As Tyagi’s campaign to become a local bar association candidate begins, he comes across plenty of obstacles, and he chooses to sort matters out wisely. He hopes to gain some brownie points that could help him win the election. Sujata Negi, one of the lawyers who has been working from the court premises for quite a while and has been V.D. Tyagi’s ally for the longest time, expects something in return for her loyalty. Sujata lacked experience in court cases and was known for making out-of-court deals or sending off her cases to her superior lawyers and demanding a portion of the client’s fees. Ananya Shroff is a third-generation lawyer who has just returned from Harvard University and prefers to build her career up from scratch instead of joining a plush law firm. She wants to walk in her grandfather’s footsteps and is willing to take the struggle as it comes. Ananya’s intentions are noble, but she is also idealistic and is surprised at how people play fast and loose with law and order. All these stories combine to give the viewers a hilarious sitcom-style, humorous legal drama with subplots that are inspired by real-life tales.

The premise of the show is as excellent as it comes because the maker does not take much time to establish what the show is all about. Just like any other Hollywood sitcom we have loved watching, there is no spoon-feeding the audience to make them understand the who’s who of the show. Even though the show is simple and easy to follow, it takes its time to establish several characters who are in no hurry to move forward, and this narrative style works in favor of the show. Just like the nature of many characters in Maamla Legal Hai, there is a sense of laid-back attitude to the show, and the writers have made sure to keep the tone consistent. Since the show is based on characters from the Hindi-speaking belt, most from the Delhi region, thankfully there are no overtly generalized characters that reinforce stereotypes of people who hail from the northern region of the country.

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The satirical nature of the show is another feather in the hat. At no point does the satire get out of hand, and the humor works on every level. The screenplay at times is underwhelming, as the impact of the writing is never translated on screen. It is interesting to watch the Hindi writers finally get a hang of how satires are supposed to be presented. The direction by Rahul Pandey is simple because the focus is more on presenting various stories through eight episodes. The subplot about getting rid of monkeys from the court premises has to be the highlight of the show. The amount of time that is spent protesting against the monkeys, while the same could have been used to clear pending cases. The scenarios at court in the wake of the protest are appalling, but it would be naive to believe such incidents never occurred in real life.

Despite some good performances by the ensemble cast, the screenplay and the story come across as something with zero to no impact. Even with the many social messages that were introduced through subplots in the show, the message the writers are trying to convey is genuine, but the effect of these subjects is not as marked as it should be. It was smart of the writers to pick up stories from the newspapers and believably present them. It was essential to bring them up, and it makes us believe in the “truth is stranger than fiction” theory. Social messages, which include caste issues, child marriage, dowry, the condition of women in prison, and many more, are covered extensively through some sharp writing. Even though these subplots work, it is the usage of too much legal jargon that dampens the viewing experience. Writers Kunal Aneja and Saurabh Khanna could have made do with simpler language, as not many viewers are familiar with how the workings of the court proceed. Maamla Legal Hai does a fantastic job of showing how the people of Delhi act and react to situations that do not require a retort.

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The writers have done an excellent job with Ananya Shroff’s character and her constant dilemma regarding idealism and pragmatism. Even though she is well versed in the law, she finds herself at junctures where reality sets in and her desire to offer justice takes a step back. She is seen quoting the law to her colleagues as well, but every lawyer is stuck in their mundane lives, wanting to win cases. The writer does not shy away from pointing out that Ananya comes from a life of privilege, and she is very much aware of it. This kind of self-aware writing makes Maamla Legal Hai a good watch. Every episode has a different story, but an underlying theme remains constant. The weakest point of the show could be the writer’s inability to establish the complicated relationship shared by VD Tyagi with his father, who was a former judge. We wish the writers could have held onto that subplot and given us more context on why Tyagi and his father are different and have distinct worldviews. There was some sensitivity with which this subplot was introduced, but this somehow fizzled out.

The ensemble cast is another positive element of the show, and the makers have done a great job of bringing out the complex layers with subtle performances. Ravi Kishan as VD Tyagi is a revelation as he goes from being a shrewd man to someone who begins to understand the power bestowed on him. VD Tyagi, as a character, is a chameleon who would transform in an instant to benefit himself in the long run. Ravi Kishan is excellent, and we hope to see more of him.

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Anant Joshi as Vishwas Pandey is a surprise package who charms his way with just his smile and his willingness to find a solution to every problem he comes across. There is a simplicity and effortlessness with which he performs in the show, and it stands out. Naila Grewal, as Harvard returnee Ananya is brilliant whose idealism does not come to her rescue as she plans to work as a legal assistant. There is also sincerity in her ideals, and she begins her setbacks with a chin up. A character named Munshiji is the most learned man on the court premises and offers the right advice to everyone. The Malayalee audience will be reminded of Munshi, a political satirical show all of us have grown up watching on Asianet. Vivek Mushran, in his cameo as celebrity lawyer Jaitley, will surprise you. 

Maamla Legal Hai is that slice-of-life comedy show that you would not regret watching, as it does not try to toy with your mind but enlightens it through subtle storytelling. The show has a lot of humor to share, and we would want you to give it a watch.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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