The Trial review: Kajol fronts The Good Wife remake, which takes time to get into its groove, and lacks the inherent drama expected from such show.

The Trial review: Kajol fronts The Good Wife remake, which takes time to get into its groove, and lacks the inherent drama expected from such show.

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The Indian adaptation of the 2009 courtroom drama ‘The Good Wife’, headlined by Kajol, takes all of its big talking points from the original but switches some things around, and includes a few changes. But, despite it being constructed from solid source material, it never really hits the high points which you would expect from stories about conflicted humans and their frailties, and the inherent drama that should be the outcome of such a mix.

The eight-part series, directed by Suparn Verma, begins with the naming-and-shaming of well-known legal eagle Rajeev Sengupta (Jisshu Sengupta): he’s been outed for demanding sexual favours, and his damning sex tapes have gone viral. That leaves his wife Noyonika (Kajol) holding a very leaky can, which includes two young daughters distraught at having to leave their big home and move into a smaller house, and a mother-in-law who is very clearly on the side of her jailed son.

It’s now down to Noyonika to return to the workplace after a long gap, and prove to herself and to her employers, old-friend-who-still-has-feelings-for-her Vishal Chaubey (Alyy Khan) and the firm’s spiky partner Malini Khanna (Sheeba Chadda) that she still has what it takes to wade into the cut-and-thrust atmosphere of the courtroom, and win the case. Or, at least, save the client.

Part of the charm of a legal drama is to have interesting cases unspooling within an episode with a satisfying resolution. A venomous TV anchor (Atul Kumar), modelled on the breed that dominates our air-waves, who runs helpless people through the wringer on his shows, is put on trial. A young boy is accused of murdering a guard. A music director is under suspicion of killing his house help. A pregnant woman demanding that her insurance company pay for a surgery on her unborn foetus, is at the heart of one of the better episodes. The rest feel like they are skimming the surface: the characters feel hurriedly compiled, the courtroom proceedings far from compelling.

The thing with having a big star as a central character is how to make the other characters weigh in equally, and that struggle is real, as you can see here. Kajol takes time to get into her character, who is trying to find her feet in a competitive law firm: fending off initially cold vibes from Malini (the always watchable Chadda’s saris and necklaces are fabulous), facing up to the ultra-warm ones from Vishal (Khan is excellent, possibly the best thing in the series), getting past the tricks of her much-younger, hungry-for-the-job rival Dheeraj (Gaurav Pandey, effective), while trying to figure how she feels about her cheating husband (Sengupta, coming off insipid).

Other characters swim in and out. Kajol’s two daughters trying to adapt to changed circumstances, even though the quite nice new home is never as much of a hovel as it is meant to be. The ma-in-law who throws in a few Bengali phrases while she goes about minding the girls. A trying-to-be-menacing neta-type (Rituraj), a friend-of-the-family perennially dressed in white (Aseem Hattangadi). A deluded senior partner at the law firm who is battling dementia (Kiran Kumar), a street-wise investigator (Kubbra Sait), who has a little thing with a cop (Aamir Ali). They are all capable of more, but are presented in hurried, contrived loops.

By the fifth episode, though, things do start settling down, and Kajol feels much more in her groove. For the second season, can we expect smoother writing, less choppy situations, and please, none of those sonorous voice-overs which feel like they were written as bumper-sticker lines to the wise? Sample this: ‘Khwaab poore karne mein rishtey adhure reh jaate hain’. There are several more in the same vein where this came from.

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