In the last 7 months, I have watched exactly 7 shows that the Hindi Film Industry has produced. I am sure there are many more out there, but the ones that I dared to tackle were Farzi, The Night Manager, The Romantics, Saas Bahu aur Flamingo, Dahaad, School of Lies, Adhura, and the topic of today’s discussion, The Trial. Farzi was excruciating to watch. It had a great cast but insanely boring storytelling. The Night Manager also had a great cast, but it was mind-numbingly dull. The Romantics had a good concept and featured the biggest actors in the industry, yet it fell short due to its myopic view of India and cinema. Saas Bahu aur Flamingo had a good cast, a great story, and decent enough action, but I don’t even remember watching it. Dahaad was perfect from start to finish. The School of Lies and Adhura should be shot into the Sun due to their queerphobic themes. So, the tally already doesn’t look good. Does The Trial have any chance of making things even, at least? Spoiler alert: no, it does not.
Based on The Good Wife (which is name-dropped several times in the Disney+ Hotstar show), The Trial follows the married couple, Noyonika and Rajeev, and their children, Ananya and Anaira. Rajeev, an eminent lawyer, is accused of taking sexual favors as bribes and is jailed. Therefore, Noyonika is forced to resume her career as an intern at her former lover’s firm, Khanna (Malini Khanna) and Chaubey (Vishal Chaubey), with Vishal being the former lover. But it’s not an easy transition because Noyonika not only has to learn how to wield the law almost from scratch, but she also has to tackle the personal attacks coming her way due to Rajeev’s actions. Amidst all this, she has to focus on the fact that she’ll be out of a job after six months, thereby becoming broke, if she doesn’t outperform the young lawyer, Dhiraj, who’s vying for the same position that she is. So, while Rajeev’s case takes its course, Noyonika fights several cases to prove that she’s more than the wife of a disgraced lawyer, sometimes all on her own and other times with the help of Vishal, Dhiraj, and Sana (another employee at Khanna and Chaubey).
If I had the option of saying, “There’s nothing remotely good about The Trial, and hence, there’s nothing to talk about,” and concluding the review, I would’ve done that because there’s nothing to talk about. Everything about it is bad. I don’t even want to come up with synonyms for the word “bad” to describe this show; that’s how bad it is. I am aware of the fact that legal counselors were involved in the writing and directing process. Did Suparn Varma and writers Hussain Dalal, Abbas Dalal, and Siddharth Kumar take all that knowledge and decide to do nothing with it? I know that court cases and proceedings in a courtroom aren’t as dramatic as movies and shows have depicted them in the past. But those cases have some weight. They have some kind of relevance. They say something about the people involved in it. They say something about the judiciary system. They shine a light on the political atmosphere. They expose the inherent classism in our society. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg because there’s so much to explore via legal cases without making them sensational. So, if somebody tells me that the whole point of this show is to prove that “actual” court cases aren’t interesting, they’re going to get it.
If I have to watch realism, I will watch a documentary, or I’ll sit down in a courtroom day in and day out and understand the ins and outs of the world of justice and injustice. I’m here to watch a bloody show with actors that I like. The least that showrunners can do is present them in a memorable fashion. I’ve stopped using the words “likable” and “relatable” because they are misinterpreted as a request to make these actors feel less like characters and more like the stars they are. No, I don’t want that. I want them to have scenes and moments that stay with me long after the credits have rolled. Does The Trial have anything like that? No, it doesn’t. There’s one scene where they use a split diopter lens so horribly that, despite being a fan of that particular visual sorcery, I wished that they didn’t. If I had made a list of the top 10 worst uses of the split diopter lens, it would’ve been up there. The dialogues are mostly expository in nature, and when they are not, it’s basically a compilation of life quotes. They keep alternating between English and Hindi quotes, so there’s that. If you think this is a joke, it’s not. It’s infuriating and cringeworthy.
That said, the reason why I’ll prefer watching wet paint dry on a wall to watching The Trial is that wet paint drying on a wall won’t have a background score. At most, it’ll have the ambient sound of life unfolding around that wall and that paint. But at least it won’t have Sangeet and Siddharth Haldipur’s annoying background score! It plays throughout every pain-inducing second of each episode. And it never matches the tone of the scene. Never! Not even a single time. It’s always in a triumphant mood. I don’t know if you watch a lot of TV. However, if you do and if you are aware of mainstream news channels, you’ll hear their signature theme music playing over every bit of news as the anchor reads out the headlines. So, regardless of whether the news is about somebody’s death or the discovery of a new planet, it’s always upbeat. That’s how it is in The Trial. By the way, even the news channels have the decency to sometimes switch off that music during panel discussions and whatnot. The Haldipur soundtrack never switches off, and it made me want to call up John Wick and drive a pencil through my ears. I don’t know what their directive was or if they made that nonsense out of their own volition, but it single handedly worsened the viewing experience.
The actors did nothing to make The Trial watchable. I know these hyperbolic sentences can seem like an attempt to seem comedic, but I am being very serious. The lack of commitment to the roles was upsetting to watch. I genuinely want to know how many takes were done per scene because, from where I was sitting, it looked like they didn’t do more than one take. And it’s not like the take they used was so fantastic and amazing that they didn’t need to do another take. It was the exact opposite of that. They were so atrocious that the overall product felt amateurish as hell. Kajol has a massive and diverse filmography but as Noyonika, it looked like she was acting for the first time. Accomplished actors such as Sheeba Chaddha and Alyy Khan appeared incredibly disinterested. Kubbra Sait, Aamir Ali, and Gaurav Pandey didn’t have any life or sense of energy in them. I have no clue what Kiran Kumar was doing. He was horribly miscast, that’s for sure. Jisshu Sengupta and Aseem Hattangadi were good. Everyone else was horrendous, especially all the judges who showed up in the episodes. In addition to that, were the actors not worried about how they sounded in the final mix and how they looked in the opening title sequence? All of it was off, and they didn’t even care. Well, good for them.
In conclusion, there’s no need to watch The Trial. Also, please consider this review as a plea to all the Bollywood studios to stop making shows altogether. You can’t even make movies properly. So, stop wasting your time on shows. The rare, exceptional examples aren’t strong enough to keep trying. Just stop and focus on films because, in that scenario, we’ll be wasting around three hours of our precious lives instead of nearly eight hours.