Even though it is common knowledge that the legal system in India chugs along at snail’s pace, courtroom dramas make for absorbing viewing; perhaps giving some measure of reassurance to the viewers that good lawyers can make things move faster. (They can’t, or won’t, because it’s in their interest to extend cases, but it’s only fiction, so anything passes in the name of creative licence.)
The first season of Illegal (also on Voot Select), set in swanky New Delhi, pitted idealistic newbie Niharika Singh (Neha Sharma) against her powerful mentor Janardhan Jaitley (Piyush Mishra), whose son Akshay (Akshay Oberoi) is her ex and remains an uncomfortable presence in her life. Niharika ends up sending her half brother Neeraj (Ankit Gupta) to jail for rape, while also defending a woman accused of multiple murders.
In Season 2 (on Voot Select), directed by Ashwini Chaudhary, Niharika turns down a job offer to set up her own law firm with Puneet Tandon (Satyadeep Mishra), who was the public prosecutor in the last series. Jaitley is now a Rajya Sabha member, conniving to unseat the chief minister (Achint Kaur). He is also smarting at his courtroom defeat and goes all out to destroy Niharika—professionally and personally. Sensing Akshay’s lingering soft corner for Niharika, Jaitley pushes his estranged wife Devika (Parul Gulati) as his competitor in the company.
Jaitley makes sure to snatch all Niharika’s potential clients, sics the bar council on to her for unprofessional conduct in getting a conviction for Neeraj. An attempt to murder Niharika sends her mother Mira (Sheeba Chadha) to hospital in a coma. (Niharika has the baffling habit of jogging in the middle of the road, even when speeding cars deliberately swerve to knock her down!)
As Akshay plots to get his buddy Neeraj’s conviction overturned, a goldmine of a bank fraud case falls into Niharika’s lap. Inspired by real life cases of major defaulters skipping off with crores, leaving their employees in the lurch. There is also the murder of an influencer and the underage suspect needs legal help.
There’s a lot of scheming and plotting and political subterfuge going on, in the first few episodes there is not much legal drama. Akshay keeps shooting smouldering looks at Niharika, while she acquires a hunky love interest, Raghav (Tanuj Virwani).
Piyush Mishra, as the unapologetic slimeball dominates the cast, and, as his opponent, Sharma still does not have that level of skill. Plus, her styling is sloppy—too much make-up, unflattering wardrobe. Achint Kaur looks far more elegant in saris and trendy hairstyle.
Chaudhary keeps the plot — convoluted though it is — moving at a quick trot and has a hook each time to keep the audience interested in watching to the end. The underdog taking on the powerful always makes for satisfying viewing, and this one ends at a point where Season 3 is clearly in the offing.
(This piece first appeared in seniorstoday.in on November 27, 2021)