Courtroom dramas can easily pack a lot of punches to make them both thrilling and suspenseful. But that would largely depend on the treatment, acting and perspectives offered within the narrative. A courtroom drama is a genre that focuses on narratives regarding legal practice and the justice system. It follows the lives of fictional attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, wronged convicts etc. One of the best courtroom dramas I have been witness to was ‘Jolly LLB’.

So, how does the OTT series, The Trial – Pyaar, Kanoon, Dhoka, the first featuring Kajol, fit in? In simple words, it does and it does not. Noyonika Sengupta (Kajol) who was once an in-demand lawyer, quit her practice after marriage and motherhood, and does not seem to have any regrets. Until disaster strikes.

Her husband, an additional judge, Rajeev Sengupta (Jisshu Sengupta) is arrested when a sex video goes viral. Rajeev Sengupta apparently took sexual favours as bribes to settle some cases in his court. Noyonika is devastated and in anger, slaps her husband before he is carted off to prison in front of his two growing daughters.

However, he promises that he will set everything right. But, how can he “set everything right” when he himself is not in the right?

Noyonika is compelled to get back to practising law because all assets belonging to the Senguptas are frozen. She moves to a smaller flat and sells off their Mercedes. But the ‘small’ flat is hardly small and looks no different from the one they lived in.

Her mother-in-law (Bina) who believes her son can do no wrong is easily irritated with the odd hours Noyonika is forced to keep after she joins a law firm as an intern on a six-month contract partnered by Vishal (Lucky Ally). Vishal was once her beau but still seems to be holding a candle to her.

The first case she is given reminds us of the long-winded Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case with different consequences. Every time Noyonika is given a case by her superiors which includes Malini (Sheeba Chedda) she wins. This surprises Malini who is convinced that Noyonika was appointed because Vishal was once her boyfriend.

All this leads simply to the tremendous ‘goodness’ and ‘tolerance’ and ‘efficiency’ in Noyonika, and the rest can well go on an imaginary sabbatical. This is not really the mistake of director Suparn Verma because I gave up watching the original American courtroom drama ‘The Good Wife’ (2009) as the “goodness” in the wife was so sweet and syrupy that it made you want to throw up.

Verma simply followed the original, hesitating or rather, scared to bring in improvisations that could have made this less predictable and more thrilling than the fantasy it has turned out to be. She wins every case she fights, and the courtroom dramas are fine except the scene when, in the first case, the ruling judge tells her in the public court that her husband has done a disservice to the judiciary! How can any judge make a personal comment in a public court?

All the same, I, at least, could not give up binge-watching all the eight episodes, because the acting is terrific and the credit does not go to Kajol alone. There is an electric energy in the way Kaajol carries herself in the court, when she answers back to her mother-in-law who lives separately but loves to keep an eye on her and the kids. The way she keeps on spurning Vishal’s moves to suggest a reconciliation just goes to prove what a wonderful performer she is.

The next in the credit line is Sheeba Chedda as Malini Khanna who gives a magnificent performance as the partner in the law firm, who grows to admire Noyonika’s efficiency. Lucky Alyy as Vishal has considerable footage and has put in his best. The kissing scene however, is not only abrupt but misplaced and awkward. Sending signals for a second series?

One more prize is due to Kubbra Sait who plays the interesting character of an independent, no-nonsense young woman. She knows exactly when to give her Hitler-like lover, a cop, the royal ditch.

Jisshu Sengupta is completely misused as the marginalised hubby in many Hindi films and the same applies to him in this series too. It was a pleasant surprise to find Kiran Kumar after many years, playing the ‘absent’ partner Kishore in the law firm. He throws his weight about quite expansively, using it as a shield to cover his increasing dementia, with two young girls following him around.

There are just too many characters stepping out of the wall and by the time you have grasped the purpose of one, a new one suddenly pops out. Take for example, a friend of Rajeev Sengupta who almost lives in their home when they have shifted to a ‘smaller’ flat, even as his friend is in jail. Who is he? We learn only in the climax that he was working towards Rajeev’s move to politics the minute he gets bail.

Strangely however, the ‘truth’ of the sex video of Rajan is never proven convincingly, though his two daughters decide that it is a fake. With his politician friend, Rajeev announces a press conference to declare his decision to join politics, though Noyonika was against this from the beginning. The flashbacks in their “happy past” are add-ons that do not help.

The question raised, rather subtly but strongly, is that does politics offer an ideal escape for a once-important man who has been jailed, later set free even if his innocence remains a grey area, the court’s decision notwithstanding? Or, is this stepping into politics an easy way of legitimising criminal activities?

Or, does it open a secret door to further corrupt practices while gaining immunity through the political field one has stepped into? The media, through its symbolisation by a terrible character, plays the villain in this series. Are television journalists really so inhuman, irresponsible and cruel?

There are no answers to the question: who released the sex tape and why? Are they fake or genuine?

The technical aspects define a major drawback of the series beginning with the completely superfluous and loud background score the series could well have done without. The editing is really quite bad, a scene changes to the next simply by cutting into a row of multi-storied rooftops in the city grazing parts of an azure blue sky.

But do watch it friends. Kajol and company will not allow you to regret your decision. There is no ‘pyar’ in the series, some ‘kanoon’ but a lot of ‘dhoka.’