Sometimes, a simple, low-key film minus loud glamour, high-powered romance and electric action can strike you more than a glitz-and-glamour ridden, big budget film. ‘Patna Shuklla’ is a good example.

It is a family-cum-courtroom drama which unfolds a corrupt practice in the University of Vihar where mark sheets are switched to declare backward students failed, and influential candidates passed with high marks even when they failed.

Their original mark sheets are switched and given to the backward candidates who are poor, or from a ‘lower caste’, or girl students, not necessarily in that order. This is done within the closed doors of the university’s mark-sheets office monitored by CCTV and detailed supervision.

Rinki Kumari (Anushka Kaushik), a victim of such a scam, approaches Tanvi Shuklla (Raveena Tandon) who fights minor cases in a lower court, to fight her case. Kumari is the motherless daughter of a rickshaw puller but is confident that her marks in one subject have been tampered with.

When all her attempts to get her paper reexamined according to existing university rules fail, she approaches the small-time lawyer Shuklla because she cannot afford the high fees of a bigger lawyer.

Shuklla comes forward, but is pitted against the university which has engaged the famous lawyer Neelkanth Mishra (Chandan Roy Sanyal) to fight their case. He seems to win it all in the hearings for want of evidence that can support Kumari and prove her challenge. Kumari almost gives up till there is a twist in the story to reveal another shocking exposure that leads to an audience-friendly closure.

The low-key and low-profile Shuklla attracts so much media attention in her case against the university, that she is bestowed with the nickname ‘Patna Shuklla’. She accepts it with some degree of pride.

‘Patna Shuklla’, directed by Vivek Budakoti, is by no means a classic film which will remain in the archives. But it is a happy blend of a family drama and a courtroom thriller. It includes a villain with political ambitions who can go to any length to prove his political acumen through a switch in his mark sheet and much, much more.

Raveena Tandon is convincing as Tanvi Shuklla who is the ideal wife with a growing son, a very much in love husband Siddharth (Manav Vij) and an adoring father (Raju Kher) who is ready to lay down his life for his daughter. It is a happy turn of events to discover that for once, the husband is a sweet, loving person who supports his wife, come what may, except in one scene where he tries to downplay her legal career.

But he explains this by telling his wife later that he did this because he found his friends’ wives' faces fall when they heard that Tanvi Shuklla was a small-time lawyer. The happy camaraderie between the husband and wife is delightful. and for once, one is happy to note that we do not have a jealous husband who despises his wife’s principles because he is scared of her popularity.

He does not bear any grouse even when he is suspended from his government job. Yet, the script never becomes too sweet and syrupy except the ‘ideal-working-wife’ image where her husband cannot find or even recognise his shirt, or she chasing her little boy’s school bus, on her two-wheeler with the tiffin box he has forgotten to pick up!

Satish Kaushik as the judge who is terrified of his dominating wife and has affection for the struggling Shuklla is brilliant and the show belongs to him. Some of the courtroom scenes remind us of the courtroom scenes in ‘Jolly LLB’ where Saurabh Shukla held fort so brilliantly.

The actors have done a swell job right through the film though Raghubir Singh (Jatin Goswami) as the villain is too cliché and predictable. He sticks out like a sore thumb in this otherwise well-written script. Chandan Roy Sanyal adds his zest, energy and a fun-tone to his role of the opposition lawyer eager to see his opponent chased out of her practice. But his mastery over acting is not fully exploited.

The locations of Patna are real and unglamorous, with the shop-lined streets ,crowds in the market, the bulldozer trying to smash down the Shuklla home that is one inch beyond what was legally approved. Shuklla speeds to the court on her two-wheeler everyday and is always dressed in milk-white, black-bordered saris that blend into the middle-class ambience of the narrative, the scenario and the characters.

It is a pleasant change from the over-glamorous and repetitive scenarios of Mumbai or Delhi or Goa. Raveena’s costumes are fitting, and never compromise with glamour in this deceptively ‘simple’ role. The music is low-key and fitting while the editing keeps with the pace of the film which gathers momentum after the interval.

The media hype is overdone because not much attention would be paid to the injustice done to the daughter of a rickshawala. Especially when her past is also pockmarked with failure.

However, the twist in the tale is the spoiler in the script because it renders all that went before, including Shuklla’s legal practice into question. It defies logic in every sense. Viewed from a different angle, it perhaps sheds suspicious light on an education system which has produced a practising lawyer whose graduation degree is fake.

This happened 14 years before Rinku Kumari’s case came to the forefront. Does this not point out that the system has been rotten for many years from now? Look at it any which way you wish to. But do watch this film.