Though not on OTT platforms, Indian writers and Directors have given us some brilliant courtroom dramas that not only can run shoulders with the best in the world, but also are diverse enough to offer something varied for each mood. Classics as far back as Kanoon, Baat Ek Raat Ki and Waqt to gems from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s like Meri Jung and Damini to recent masterpieces like No One Killed Jessica, OMG, Jolly LLB, Pink and Section 375 have proven that our creators usually know what they're doing when booking their day in court on screen. So, its natural to be excited for the first proper Indian web series on legal tussles, especially with Indian OTT content being on a roll of late. Sadly, the initiation of the digital medium into the courtroom isn't a promising one with first, Hotstar's Criminal Justice (surprising since it was a remake of the terrific The Night Of) and now, Voot's new web show, Illegal — Justice, Out of Order.
Scroll down for my full Illegal review... What's it about
Niharika Singh (
Neha Sharma) can't hold herself back from speaking her mind, regardless the time and place, and can't take on a case that her conscience doesn't permit her to — both traits that aren't good for a lawyer. However, these facets are also why top lawyer Janardhan Jaitley ( Piyush Mishra) employs her in his firm. However, this also puts her on a path where she encounters her long-buried past and gets seeped into a web of lies and deceit, where nothing and nobody is as what they appear to be. (Well, at least that's what the makers were aiming for.)
Well, if you the synopsis sounded interesting, that's because it is and so is Illegal on the surface. The problem is there isn't much depth below the surface. The plot divulges into a handful of interesting ideas that keep you intermittently engrossed till about the half-way stage, and the performances from Neha Sharma, Piyush Mishra and
Deepak Tijori are mostly on point, but try as they may, it's a task to get through the entire show. What's not
Beside lacking in depth, Illegal falls into that most unenviable of pits — caricaturing itself and the genre it belongs to. There are loud screaming matches both in and out of the courtroom, but there's no Sunny Deol here to pull it off. And credit must go to Neha Sharma for making her character bearable despite being saddled with the most annoying back story and arc on display. It's a miracle that she remains employed given the mini-fits she keeps having around the workplace and dozens of times she breaks office decorum. Most of the twists appearing from miles away also do no favours to the show, and the few that you don't pick up on, really don't surprise you.
To compound matters, the editing, cinematography and BGM are all tackily done, adding to the amateurish output. It also doesn't help, that none of the actors other than Neha, Mishra, and Tijori try to rise above the material handed to them, with Akshay Oberoi being the worst of the lot. And what was that about the sub-plot with Kubbra Sait's character that's almost been added as an afterthought?
Illegal had potential, but juvenile writing, unimaginative direction and shoddy technical work make it bearable at best and cringe-worthy at worst. Even at just ten episodes of barely half an hour each, it takes considerable effort to sit through this. I'm going with 2/5 stars.
2 out of 5
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