What do you expect from a film based on one of the most written about court cases–1956 case of K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra? A seemingly simple open and close case of a jealous husband seeking revenge for his wife's betrayal by killing her paramour. The husband being a senior officer of the Indian Navy only adds to the public interest.
If you are thinking of checking into the nearest cinema to feast your eyes on Akshay Kumar as a naval officer in a crisp white uniform, you shall not be disappointed. Not at all. That's the only attire you'll see him in most part of the film, say for 120 minutes of the 150 minutes running time. But if your reasons for booking a ticket to the show is to be entertained on a high-drama spin off on a sensational case that 'shook India' in the 1960s, then don't hesitate. Based on facts (in the public domain) from the case, Rustom goes on to build its on version of what actually happened.
While the film does not focus on elevating the Navy officer to a godly pedestal, it does make a big villain out of the man who had an affair with his wife. It also has its own take on why the Navy backed its officer. What remains elusive, just as in the reports pertaining to the real case, is the profile of the lady who triggered the murder.
Rustom Parvi (Akshay Kumar), one of the 'decorated officers' of the Indian Navy, finds his wife Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz) cheating on him with his hot-headed Casanova friend Vikram Makhija (Arjun Bajwa). He confronts her, she confesses, he drives to his office and gets a revolver, heads to Vikram's place and lets go of “the three shots that shook the nation”, killing Vikram instantaneously. Makhija's vengeful sister Preeti (Esha Gupta) takes up the onus to get Rustom punished for his crime. Chief investigating officer Lobo (Pavan Malhotra), convinced that there is more to the case, pursues it relentlessly until he finds the last piece of 'what happened on the day of the murder' puzzle at the Indian Defence Secretary's office. Newspaper man Erach Billimoria (Kumud Mishra) finds an opportunity to make money from the officer's misery, but gradually becomes his staunch supporter who moulds the public opinion in Rustom's favour. The officer fights his own court case and wins it too, with a sympathetic jury declaring him not guilty by a majority of 8-1. He walks out a free man, with his now-loyal wife on one side and supporters, especially women with 'Marry me, Rustom' placards, on the other. And of course, they (Mr and Mrs Rustom) lived happily ever after.
Rustom is not made to convince you of the officer's innocence or move you to core with the wife's guilt. Rather, it seems to be made to fill the gaps in the real case's fact list. Unlike other films–Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke (1963) and Gulzar’s Achanak (1973)–inspired by the case, Rustom attempts to add its own twists and turns to the case. Although unbelievable, but interesting.
Director Tinu Suresh Desai made a wise decision by resting the burden of the film on the capable shoulders of Akshay Kumar who executes his job well, but with enough room for improvement. D’Cruz doesn't have much to do except look pretty in some scenes, and pretty and guilty is most other. Bajwa does his best to convince you of his character's characterlessness, but rather ends up being sidelined and forgotten. Rustom is Akshay's film and he owns it every bit.
Looking beyond the storyline and performances, the idea to bring the 1960s on the screen was a good idea, nostalgic too, but lousy special effects ruin the fun. Music is minimal and offer a pleasant break in the tight script.
Overall, an interesting watch if you can keep the real case out of your mind and are ready to accept it as just another Bollywood masala film. You can also watch it, without expectations, for Akshay.
Director: Tinu Suresh Desai
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz, Arjan Bajwa, Esha Gupta