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Sumeet Vyas to play Ram Jethmalani in web-series based on KM Nanavati case

Produced by Alt Balaji, the series, titled The Verdict, is written by Subhash Kapoor and directed by Shashant Shah.

Mayur Lookhar

Actor Sumeet Vyas, who enjoyed success with Veere Di Wedding (2018) this year, will step into the shoes of noted defence lawyer Ram Jethmalani in a web-series, titled The Verdict.

The series will be produced by Alt Balaji and will be based on the famous KM Nanavati case of 1959.  Interestingly, in this particular case, Jethmalani led the prosecution.

Speaking about playing Jethmalani, Vyas told Cinestaan.com, “We are not trying to imitate him. The video references available have Jethmalani beyond 70 years of age. There are no real references from his 30s or 40s, which is when he fought with this case.

"A man would behave very differently when he is of that age as opposed to now when he’s crossed well over 70. I’m not trying to imitate him, I’m trying to interpret him. This is not a straight character to play for Jethmalani is said to be a complex character too. I was fascinated by this character for it’s far away from the one that I have played before.”

While Vyas hasn’t met Jethmalani, he has been reading a lot about the famed lawyer. In 2016, director Tinu Suresh Desai made Rustom, with Akshay Kumar playing the accused. The film was more of a  fictionalized account of the criminal case. In the past, Sunil Dutt's Yeh Rastey Hai Pyar Ke (1963) and Gulzar’s Achanak (1973) were inspired by the infamous case.

With audiences having seen Rustom, will The Verdict have a similar appeal?

"This [web-series] is a far more researched. This was the case which shot him [Ram Jethmalani] to the limelight. This case had sort of become a Sindhi v/s Parsi case, and it was also a very politically driven case. Prem Ahuja was murdered but there was a lot of politics happening around this case. This web-series is trying to explore that," Vyas replied.

In 1959, navy commander Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati surrendered to the police after killing businessman Prem Ahuja. Ahuja was allegedly in a relatinship with Nanavati's wife, Sylvia. Nanavati reportedly confronted Ahuja, asking him whether he would marry Sylvia and when he refused, Nanavati allegedly shot him dead.

The case shocked the nation not just because of the allegations of adultery and murder, but for the intriguing relationship between the parties involved. Ahuja had been Nanavati's friend for 15 years, while Sylvia, despite confessing to the extra-marital affair, stood by her husband during the murder trial.

The Verdict is penned by director Subhash Kapoor and will be helmed by Shashant Shah. This 10-episode courtroom drama will be based on the public records, newspaper articles of the time and  interviews of those who have knowledge of the case. Actor Angad Bedi will be pitted against Vyas as the defence lawyer Karl Jamshed Khandalavala.