Illegal captivates you in the first half of the series, says Joginder Tuteja.
When Illegal arrived on Voot Select, it seemed promising, as Indian audiences have been warming up to the courtroom drama genre for a while now.
It was even more promising because Vikram Bhatt is the creator of the show. Among his films, Kasoor, also a courtroom drama, finds special mention.
So when he backed this 10-episode series with a crisp duration of 25 to 30 minutes each, it seemed like Illegal would captivate the audience's attention.
And it actually does, for the first half of the series.
The players are: Rookie lawyer (Neha Sharma), who doesn't mind speaking up for the truth, however harsh it may be, a veteran lawyer (Piyush Mishra) who is running a law firm and looks like a classy version of Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri) from Damini, a rape victim (Aditi Tailang), the molester (Ankit Gupta) and his defender (Akshay Oberoi). Then, there's a tangential story of a murderer (Kubra Sait) on death row.
It all fits in for an engaging thriller.
The first four-five episodes are really interesting, as you seep into the plot.
Is the rape victim telling the truth?
Are those who have been given the responsibility of defending the accused or the accuser playing a fair game?
Is the truth been told, or is there a half truth somewhere?
Is it always the conscience that speaks the loudest or does the power game eventually come into play?
Is the court of law about what's written in letter and spirit or is it about justice?
There are also a lot of philosophical undertones in the narrative built by Director Sahir Raza. There is a strong Vikram Bhatt influence in play too.
Heavy dialogues, soft pauses, high decibel drama, conversations that are left abridged, and you get the feel of a really exciting show in the making, which would explode like a volcano when it reaches the finishing line.
Alas, that doesn't quite happen despite the best efforts by its lead cast, especially Neha Sharma and Piyush Mishra.
Neha, who has been around in Bollywood, is a revelation as a lawyer, who is smart, wears high heels to fit into the system and knows where to draw boundaries even when she comes face-to-face either with her ex-love or her father (Deepak Tijori). Her poise, grace and dialogue delivery compliments her beauty.
Piyush is fun to watch in practically every scene.
He is restrained with his trademark dialogue delivery, and is the cold architect behind many decisions that he takes for himself or his law firm, as he believes it is akin to his 'dharma', even as his relationship with his wife (Kitu Gidwani) comes to a 'dead' end.
Akshay Oberoi shows yet again that he has a good place for himself in the industry though towards the last few episodes, his presence doesn't add much to the narrative.
It's just the opposite though for Satyadeep Misra, the lawyer for the rape victim, who gets some meaty scenes for himself as the show progresses.
Deepak Tijori is good when it comes to dramatic scenes but awkward in his emotional scenes with Neha.
Kubra is average and comes across as a misfit for her part.
Kitu Gidwani is inconsequential to the storyline.
Ankit has a stereotypical characterisation while Aditi is half as impressive as Meera Chopra in Section 375 in a similar set up.
The pre-climax and the climax is a bit puzzling.
While quite a few cinematic liberties are taken, it starts seeming very filmi unlike the beginning, when there was still some realism.
There are several loose ends, as you don't quite comprehend some of the back stories. Some new angles look unconvincing.
There is a lot of scope for a second season and one hopes that the focus will be on the battle between Neha and Piyush.
Now that would make Illegal a show which has potential to be far better than its first season.