Rustom is based on the infamous 1959 Nanavati case, which already had given birth to a few early films. Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke (1963) and Achanak (1973) were the earlier ones, although in Achanak, the naval officer kills both the lover and his wife. My father recalls reading the tabloids of that age, and the movies, including this one, do not come close to that real life excitement of the handsome naval officer, his lonely wife, her lover, the murder, and the ensuing trial. Apparently, the jury system in India was abolished after this case. Rustom changes the story loosely but it dilutes the already spicy story, and the film slows down a bit, especially after the Intermission, when the film drags out the court scenes, with very trite performances by the judge, played by Anang Desai and the Public Prosecutor Lakshman Khangani (Sachin Khedekar). Usha Nadkarni as Jamnabai, the elderly maid, provides some comic relief.
Though it is a period drama, and the sets are gorgeous and well designed, it often looks like a stage performance or theatre, not like a film. The characters project their voices, unlike a movie, and often pieces in the sets, like the vintage sports car, for example, appears to just be placed in a scene, just to reinforce the period and setting. The effects are often slightly jarring, though we are left in no doubt of the era of the film.
The costumes work well, as a woman who enjoys fashion, I did enjoy the vampish appeal and clothes of Esha Gupta, her bright red lips, the long cigarette holders… Ileana D’Cruz plays the lonely wife, Cynthia, pretty, but slightly wooden. My favourite cameos were played by Kumud Mishra, playing the opportunist Billimoria, a Parsi newspaper rag owner and Pawan Malhotra as Lobo, the Police Investigating Officer (best known for playing Hari in old Doorsharshan soap, Nukkad).
Neeraj Pandey delivers a period drama, Rustom, with style and melodrama. Akshay Kumar plays Rustom Pavri, the honourable Navy man to perfection, if a little hackneyed. He enters a police station in old Mumbai (Bombay as it was in 1958) and confesses to shooting an industrialist in a simple crime of passion. A true-life society scandal, this tarted up plot delivers an old story in a new guise, though why should we in 2016 judge a cheating wife the way the film portrays, and why don’t we connect with Akshay except for the stray moment when he displays emotion?
Would I suggest you watch this film? Only if you love Akshay, as the film announces his entries with such fanfare, the music is turned up several notches, and it almost feels like those Salman Khan films, when Bhai enters. Or if you want to analyse screenplay and the creative side, as I do. Excessively drawn out court scenes, wooden leading ladies, and a slightly predictable ending, this film fails to impress.
Three stars. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.