This week’s release Rustom, directed by Tinu Suresh Desai, and starring Akshay Kumar in the title role, is reported to be based on the sensational murder case that shocked the country in the late fifties.
Naval Commander Commander Kawas M Nanavati shot dead his English wife Sylvia’s lover Prem Ahuja. Strangely, in a crime of passion, not only did the wife back her husband at the trial, the public and themedia also supported him.Hewas found not guilty by a jury in the Greater Bombay sessions court, but the judge referred the case to the Bombay high court, which found Nanavati guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. But he was granted a pardon and left the country to settle in Canada. This was the last case to be tried by a jury in India, after which this systemwas abolished by the government.
Soon after the case, RK Nayyar made Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke (1963) based on the true life story. However, he altered it to suit the tastes of the Indian audience, who in that period, would not have been able to stomach the plot about an unfaithful wife. In the film, starring Sunil Dutt (who also produced it), Leela Naidu, Rehman and Shashikala, the wife, Neena is lonely after her husband Anil, a pilot, goes out of the country on workand befriends his pal Ashok, not knowing that he is a playboy. His jilted girlfriend cautions Ashok against trying to seduce a decent married woman, but one day at a party, he spikes her drink and rapes her.
She is so shocked and ashamed that she spends most of the film after the incident dressed in a white sari looking mournful. Anil ends up shooting Ashok, and the case goes into a high-profile trial with defence lawyer Byomkesh Mukherjee (Ashok Kumar) and prosecutor Ali Khan (Motilal) matching wits in court. There is a very filmi twist towards the end, and then a melodramatic climax.
Leela Naidu was gorgeous to look at, but a bland actress. Rehman carried the film with his suave charm. The film carried a disclaimer stating that it was a work on fiction, but in spite of the alterations, it was clear where the idea came from. It was a moderate hit then, and considered ahead if its times, but seen today after the gap of over half a century, it seems corny and full of compromises.