Manav Kaul in a still from Nail Polish
  • Platform: Zee5
  • Release Date: 01/01/2021
  • Cast: Manav Kaul, Arjun Rampal, Anand Tiwari, Rajit Kapoor, Madhoo
  • Director: Bugs Bhargava Krishna

Manav Kaul’s spirited performances nearly save Nail Polish from succumbing to its own inadequacies!

Veer Singh (Manav Kaul) is a decorated army officer who has dedicated his life to the upliftment of society and the youth of the nation. He runs an NGO, Udaan that works towards the wholesome development of children and young adults and has also been instrumental in driving financial aids for other similar organizations. He is a hero for the kids and their parents alike and is friends with some of the most powerful people in society. This also endears him to the leaders of the opposition political party who evidently have plans to use him for their electoral benefit.

Things turn bizarre in Veer Singh’s life when he is arrested by the police commissioner of the city who is also his best friend on charges of molesting, murdering, and then desecrating the mortal remains of two children. The case soon metamorphs into a whole new beast when 35 more murders spanned across 5 years is leveled on Veer. While Veer denies all of it, circumstantial evidence points to his hand in the killings. The stage is now set for two competing advocates to face off in a captivating courtroom drama that will not only decide Veer’s fate but would also go down a  long way to either re-instill or devastate our faith in the goodness of humanity.

The biggest positive of Nail Polish is Manav Kaul. Veer is a complex character and it has to constantly play with the audience’s understanding of it in order for it to work and also for the story to make sense and remain intriguing. We start off by not believing the accusations leveled against him as he seems like someone who is incapable of doing anything wrong. Kaul sells this portion with his innocent face and charming demeanor. As the prosecuting lawyer presents one witness after another to paint a  character portrait of the man, we gradually start realizing that he might just not be as good as we thought he was.

Arjun Rampal in a still from Nail Polish

Just when we are beginning to doubt his goodness, something shocking happens that turns his character 360 degrees in terms of its rendering. This is also the portion that made me realize how grounded Manav’s performance was. It was easy for him to go overboard in these parts and destroy the credibility of the character but he remains subtle and there comes a time when he extracts genuine sympathy and emotions for a character that is a far cry from what he started off as.

Anand Tiwari plays the prosecuting lawyer with ferocity. I could see a sense of desperation in his character to somehow prove Veer Singh guilty. This contributed immensely to making his character intriguing and added to the already heightened drama. Arjun Rampal as the defense lawyer Sid Jaisingh who seems to be suffering from “daddy issues” is apt in a role that was right up his alley. The baritone, the cool and composed demeanor, and the attitude of just being a professional doing his work, and nothing more aided in making his character the perfect foil for Anand Tiwari’s prosecuting lawyer. Sid is as calm and composed about the case as Anand is hyperbolic. Somehow he always a card up his sleeves that frustratingly demolishes any and every evidence that Anand presents against Veer. Sid’s uber-coolness and Anand’s frustration leads to some interesting drama that is invariably catalyzed by the difference in their respective attitudes towards the case.

Having said all that, the film does have its share of flaws that I missed in my first viewing owing to the hypnotic performance of Manav Kaul that kept me transfixed to the character and oblivious to the flaws in the script and execution. His character is at the receiving end of most of these issues but Kaul successfully pulls a veil over it all with his performance. The film leaves a lot of questions unanswered and there are multiple instances when the logic goes for a toss.

Anand Tiwari in a still from Nail Polish

There are minor issues too in the execution that stick out like a sore thumb and negatively impact the believability of the plot and the characters. A large part of the film and the fate of major characters depend on a portion that was not strictly speaking believable and I was forced to question the thought process of the makers in envisioning these parts in a way that it was. The matter is made worse in the climax when the story pushes off in a completely different direction than what it was preparing us for.

I hated how the film culminated. For a minute after the verdict is pronounced by the judge, I was truly in awe of the makers for taking a very brave path in terms of how the story concluded and it instantly made me respect them but within seconds, the camera pans on Manav Kaul’s face and we are told everything that we should not have been told. This little pan not only liquidates the entire impact of the climax but also brings the film down a couple of notches in terms of quality and audacity.

Nail Polish has a fascinating concept at its core and deserved better treatment. Manav Kaul and the ensemble cast do exceedingly well to keep our attention transfixed on the individual characters and keep us as far away as possible from asking logical and important questions. The performances are so good that the ploy works to a certain extent. Nail Polish may not be perfect but it is still good enough to merit a view or two. Had the makers only fixed the lingering issues in the screenplay and some poor execution bits, this might just have been a great start to the New Year in terms of OTT content.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)


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