Nanavati case: A tale of love, betrayal that has inspired many adaptations

  • Henna Rakheja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 15, 2016 13:12 IST
The story of Rustom is inspired from the Indian court case of Commander KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra.

Three Shots That Shook the Nation – is probably an apt line and headline (as given by Blitz magazine) to take everyone back to 1959 when the Indian court case of Commander KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra made headlines.

Since facts can‘t be kept from fiction for long, the case seemed to have inspired not just the upcoming Akshay Kumar-starrer film Rustom, but also quite a few plays and even books.

Here’s a look at the Nanavati-inspired tales:

Still from the film Yeh Rastey Hain Pyaar Ke starring Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu.

1. Cinema

When Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet (2015) was about to be released, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap admitted that a song, Sylvia, in the film is inspired by the 1959 Nanavati case. The director was also quoted saying then that the song is inspired by the tabloid perception of the story.

Even the 1963 film Yeh Rastey Hain Pyaar Ke starring Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu, was based on the same case and used elements of adultery and murder in right proportions. The film marked Dutt’s debut production and was said to be too bold for its time.

Similarities of the case with Gulzar’s 1973 direction Achanak, starring Vinod Khanna, can’t be missed either.

A scene from the rehearsals of Feisal Alkazi’s play The Kambatta Case.

2. Theatre

When thespian Feisal Alkazi’s production The Kambatta Case was staged last year, it was the racy content of the real tale that attracted many a theatre-goers towards it. The two hour performance didn’t need the director to advertise much, as people themselves were keen to view the performance.

Read: Woman having an extra martial affair is the USP of Rustom:Akshay Kumar

Other references in theatre include the Kannada play Naavilladaaga, written by Ramachandra Churya. It was reportedly based on the real-life story of the late Commander KM Nanavati of the Indian Navy. The play’s translated version in Konkani was regularly staged by theatre groups, even in Mangalore.

Cover of the book The Death of Mr Love by Indra Sinha.

3. Literature

Author Indra Sinha’s book The Death of Mr Love (2002) has also sought its inspiration from the Nanvati case. The British writer of Indian and English descent, was born to an Indian naval officer. His book is said to be a fictional account based on the infamous murder. It spans four decades between the 1950s and 1990s, and tells the story of Mrs S, the second woman besides Sylvia, with whom Prem had a physical relationship. The name Mr Love used in the title, is the literal translation of Prem – Ahuja’s first name.

Read: Meet devil’s advocate, Jethmalani

A character of Nanavati even makes a cameo as ‘Commander Sabarmati’ in author Salman Rushdie’s popular novel Midnight’s Children.

Fact and Fiction

1. The then young lawyer Ram Jethmalani, first came to spotlight with his appearance in the case KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra, who appealed to the Bombay High Court.

2. It is said that long before Nanavati went for trial, the case had even inspired vendors to sell ‘Nanavati pistols’ and ‘Ahuja towels’ on the streets of Mumbai, then Bombay.

3. The system of cases being heard in presence of juries was abolished in India after this, since it is assumed that the excessive media reports and public consensus impacted the juries’ decision.

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