Since various OTT platforms have walked into our lives, the Indian audience has been exposed to some decent American shows that have familiarized them with how systems in that country work. It is fascinating to comprehend the fact that there are a lot of similarities in how things are done over there and here in our country. The Good Wife was one of the more popular CBS shows, and thanks to Netflix, many Indians supposedly enjoyed the drama. Banking on the popularity of the original, Disney + Hotstar brings us an Indian remake, The Trial, created and directed by Suparn Varma and written by Hussain Dalal, Abbas Dalal, and Siddharth Kumar. The show, just like the original one, focused on a wife who, after the very public downfall of her husband, must go back to working full-time to keep her life going.
The Trial circles Noyonika Sengupta, wife of Additional Judge Rajiv Sengupta, who is engulfed in a massive corruption and sex scandal that has shaken up her life for good. With her husband in prison awaiting trial, she must find a way to financially stabilize her life, and the only way to do that is to go back to full-time work as a lawyer so that she and her kids would not have to depend on anyone. Vishal, her ex-boyfriend and currently just a friend offers her a job at his firm, but she must prove herself to be deserving of the position offered to her. Since she has been away from practice for more than a decade, many things are new to her. Her struggle to remain steady-headed while vultures in the form of Rajiv’s enemies and the television news channel attack her from every possible side. Will she be able to take the pressures of the job along with her deteriorating personal life?
The show began with a bang when Noyonika slapped her husband for breaking her trust. The scene cements the hatred any woman has ever had towards their partner for crossing the line. It probably brought the core of the show to the forefront, that it was women who would be leading from this point on. Sadly, the narrative fizzles quickly because the entire setup of Noyonika struggling to keep herself standing amidst the turmoil of a dark time does not work out. The emotions that are supposed to be felt for Noyonika can be found neither in the screenplay nor in the performances. This eight-episode-long web series saw one case being handed to the protagonist and the supporting characters, while in the background, there is a main plot running. In this show, that is Rajiv Sengupta’s case and how he intends to win the case and come back home.
Noyonika is supposed to be angry and devastated, but none of these emotions are conveyed the way they were supposed to. There is an over-the-top dramatization, but many scenes lack an inherent feeling. The viewers were given insufficient context about Rajiv’s case, which had led to his arrest and eventual trial. The writers did not make any effort to explain the actual corruption scandal. The entire setup of Rajiv discussing his case with his best friend Ilyas and other lawyers is filled with jargon, which makes the viewing experience quite frustrating.
The show does give credit to the original show by referring to Noyonika as The Good Wife, and this can be considered a good homage to the original show. The oversimplification of the courtroom scenes and the other cases that Noyonika handles with her colleagues makes the narrative banal and does not add any element of intrigue to the overall narrative. Even though the screenplay comes across as flaky, the show keeps you engaged, but only in parts. The show begins by talking about women leading from the front and taking charge of their lives; there is only surface-level talk of how women are looked down upon if they work long hours, and there is no conversation on why working women are treated differently than full-time working male members of the family. It is infuriating because this would have been a great platform to talk about these topics, not elaborate but in a subtle way, to give an insight into how, even in this day and age, a woman being friendly with her boss becomes a topic of gossip. There is no depth or layers given to any of the female characters, be it Malini, Sana, or Noyonika herself. Malini, who is based on Diane Lockhart from the original show, did nothing but walk around being angry at Noyonika. The writers could have invested in helping the audience understand her history and the oldest partner of the firm, Kishore Ahuja.
Noyonika was given a one-toned character, which became repetitive after episode four because she was either allowed to be angry at her husband or mad at people who were making her life hell outside of the office. Her struggles with being a mother and a woman are hardly touched upon, and there is barely any chemistry between Noyonika and Sana as women who stand up for each other in this male-dominated environment. Some characters are introduced in the show, but their arcs have no conclusion.
Aamir Ali Malik is introduced as a police inspector who is Sana’s lover and is present at many crime scenes, but halfway through the show, the man just disappears. There is no definitive ending to his character or understanding of where he stands regarding Sana. Sana was also presented with some layers, but again, the writers did not explore her conflict well. She wanted to be a good person who is living with guilt of many wrong things done in the past. Her redemption arc is not satisfying.
Veteran actor Kiran Kumar is introduced as the charismatic founder of the firm, but he was hardly given anything to work with. The writers could have explained his motives and insecurities to understand why he behaves the way he does. Dheeraj, as a supporting character, was given some layers to work on, but by the end of the show, his arc became highly predictable. The makers could have given him a slightly different story instead of going on a rant about his struggles. The rivalry angle given to Dheeraj felt out of place. His story required a punch that was missing from his graph.
The ‘media is the monster’ route, which is probably the weakest link of this show because the makers spent so much time recreating a real-life case from a few years ago where a certain celebrity girlfriend went through an ordeal. The media in the show tries to bring down this personality, and this subplot partly derails the narrative to a point where there is no coming back for the writers to salvage it. If only the writers had focused on introducing a new case for the firm instead of stretching the subplot out unnecessarily.
The direction of the show comes across as mediocre because, at many points, it seems the actors are not living the role but are just doing what they have been told. Scenarios and situations do not come across as realistic, and the show seems disjointed. Only the last episode adds a sense of excitement, but the narrative was too stretched. There is a scene where Noyonika wakes up with her makeup on and her hair all set and shiny. Aren’t we all at a point where we don’t need to see a picture-perfect version of the female lead, and we can just let them be themselves?
What the show got right was how far into denial mode the men get, even if they are facing the consequences of their mistakes. They are always in this delusional world where they think their female partners will forgive them, and life will go back to how it was. Rajiv here is a typical male who has done some horrendous things in his marriage, and he still thinks he has the right to ask his wife why she is hanging out with male colleagues. It was refreshing to watch the writers try to show this version of reality. Even the scenes between mother and daughters Ananya and Anaira are endearing to watch. Rajiv’s attachment to his daughters come across as genuine.
There are only a few performances that stood out and made the overall viewing experience bearable. Alyy Khan’s as Vishal Chaubey, who was given some material to work around. He is constantly conflicted about the fact that he likes Noyonika, but he is not sure if he should act upon his feelings or stay away because the woman has a family. The young girls who play Rajiv and Noyonika’s daughters are excellently cast as they can evoke all the emotion of being abandoned by their father, and at the same time, they slowly understand they need to stick to each other as family. Shruti Bisht as Ananya and Suhani Juneja as Anaira are great finds. I wish we could say the same about the lead couple performed by Kajol and Jisshu Sengupta, who are fantastic actors, but somewhere their performance got lost because of erratic writing, and their characters were not crafted in the right way. Good writing could have elevated the performances and made their characters stand out.
The Trial overall is a mediocre watch because it does not challenge the viewers to think and analyze. It simplifies the storytelling and spoon-feeds the audience, which makes it seem as if the viewers are ignorant. Give it a watch only if legal dramas in general interest you.