Guilty Minds Series Review: This legal show doesn't quite raise the bar
The ten-part drama knows the law of the land but not necessarily of gripping narratives
There is a scene in Amazon Prime Video's new legal drama, Guilty Minds, which portrays two aspects of a lawyer's personality. One of the leads, Deepak Rana, played charmingly by Varun Mitra, is in his cabin at a plush law firm. His colleague and the boss's daughter Shubhangi Khanna (Namrata Sheth) is there too, observing a painting. It is an image of a lawyer, in stereotypical black overalls, holding his head in one hand. The portrait is titled 'The Honest Lawyer'. When Shubhangi asks Deepak about the meaning of the painting, he sermons about the lawyer putting his head on the line for the client. Shubhangi doesn't share his opinion. "I think it is about a lawyer taking off his mask to find nothing," she says. "There is no honest lawyer."
Director: Shefali Bhushan
Cast: Varun Mitra, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Namrata Sheth, Girish Kulkarni, Sugandha Garg
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
The ten-part series tells the story of three lawyers, who are former college mates but now on different sides of the fence. There is Kashaf Quaze, played by Shriya Pilgaonkar, the goody-two-shoes pro-bono lawyer who might give you an earful for not segregating your waste. Kashaf, meanwhile, takes cases for a cause and has indestructible integrity. She is partnered up with Vandana Kathpalia (Sugandha Garg), a character deserving of a spinoff. Albeit the cliche of smoking superslims, she is an able investigator. Finally, there is Deepak (Varun), as the hotshot lawyer with aviophobia, flying too close to the sun. Deepak is also the youngest partner in a family-owned firm, trying to survive as an outsider. His morals are regularly questioned by Kashaf. "Life is not black and white," he tells her.
The cases range too far and wide. Lawyers Deepak and Kashaf often face each other in cases of rape accusations, water rights, and copyright infringements. And then, they meet over coffee for "arbitrations or flirtations". The makers and the lawyers seem to have a soft spot for cases relating to Artificial Intelligence and IVF fraud. 'Development at a cost, boon or bane?' is a running debate across most cases. The lawyers are Delhi-based, but they frequent remote areas all over the country — from the drought-hit villages of Maharashtra to the Naxal areas of Madhya Pradesh. One wonders if they specialise in a particular field… maybe activism?
The giggles in the show mostly come from judges trying to understand expert lingo and millennial woes. The theatrics are aplenty and not limited to courts. The characters converse in legal jargon, even in the comforts of their homes or while having a drink at their regular joint, frequented by a comedian who probably only reads news relating to their cases. Dialogue is infested with search-engine keywords, helpful if one is looking for memes ("He is a director with a national award, how can he do such an anti-national thing?" or "Last night, we were having a pawry" or "Bete mauj kardi").
The series ably shows the legal system of the country. There are no gavels or sudden witnesses. The lawyers settle cases with facts and not emotional outbursts. There is a lot of legwork for just fifteen minutes of argument in the court. The characters, however, seem one-dimensional. Kulbhushan Kharbanda as a law firm patriarch seems underutilised. The show delves deep into the technicalities of the cases, but not so much into the inner lives of the characters. No lawyer wears a mask; there are just minor blemishes on their faces patched up rather too quickly. Only the laws of love and jealousy put characters in motion.
The big problem is that the show pit-stops in various cases but never finishes the race. The drama lacks lustre and comes abruptly. Even the cliffhangers at the end of the episode only have an illusion of urgency. There is a running case of the murder of a child whose reveal is a win even for the cursory viewers. "I would request my learned friend not to waste the time of the court," says one of the defense lawyers. No further argumens about the show, your honour.