Blaring sirens are heard as you fade in to an overhead shot of an inmate bleeding out onto the ground.
Bugs Bhargava Krishna’s 2021 ZEE5 original is a courtroom drama and psychological thriller partly based on the real-life disappearance and killing of migrant children in Uttar Pradesh over the last half-decade. Nail Polish “explores the uncertainty of the human mind” through the character of Veer Singh (played by Manav Kaul). When the rape and murder of two more such children come to light, Singh is arrested for the act and Siddharth Jaisingh (played by Arjun Rampal) takes on his case pro bono to further his own agenda of getting a seat at the Rajya Sabha. What progresses as a trial with nothing but the hard proof and evidence convicting Singh comes to a standstill after he gets beaten up in jail and hospitalized.
Nail Polish narrates a linear timeline of events except for the opening scene which is a flash-forward to Singh bleeding out onto the ground and waking up in the hospital not remembering his name. While in theory, this foreshadowing does a good job setting a suspense-filled precedent to the entire film, the audience already goes in knowing that this is when Singh’s split personality comes to the fore. Following the opening scene, an ominous voice-over breaks the fourth wall and asks the viewer to decide for themselves if Veer Singh actually is innocent, taking away from the “wait, what?” moment that usually comes with suspense films.
Alongside Kaul and Rampal, the ensemble cast consisting of Anand Tiwari as public prosecutor Amit Kumar and Rajit Kapur as Judge Kishore Bhushan work in tandem with each other. However, their stories fail to work parallel to the trial and contribute to the main plot as they should in any good courtroom drama. Rampal plays the confident cutthroat defense attorney, Siddharth Jaisingh who has borderline alcoholism and commitment issues and seems to be driven by the goal of being bigger and better than his late father. On the other hand, as the perfect contrast to Rampal, Tiwari exhibits the role of a token middle-class family man with persistent asthma and jittery nerves. As for Judge Bhushan played by Kapur, when he is not moderating arguments in the courtroom, he is moderating his wife’s drinking. Finally, Kaul showcases a huge chunk of his acting talent while playing the role of a convicted felon who holds his ground as an innocent man, eventually transitioning to a single second of psychotic rage that lands him in the hospital before being taken over by split personality— or so he claims. Among the roster, the side characters do their work just right and nothing comes off as jarring, however, the only scene that sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of acting would be the one where two extras discover the children’s dead bodies.
In terms of the technicalities, Nail Polish plays around with the saturation levels of the scenes which work well in terms of immersing the viewer and establishing the same atmosphere as the story narrates. For example, the time Singh spends in the hospital, trying to remember his name, the colors are very de-saturated, giving viewers a cold, morbid chill throughout. The movie also sees the excessive use of camera movements in the scenes of the trial when Jaisingh and Kumar are going back and forth. The camera spins around the character in the frame, follows them while they are walking around in the courtroom, in addition to noticeable panning and zoom-ins which make the scenes feel more chaotic and disturbed than they perhaps needed to be. However, Veer’s spiral into hypnosis while seeing flashes of his past is visualized with quality editing, albeit jarring for viewers, ultimately delivering its intended impact.
What Nail Polish does best is creating a theatrical representation of a mental disorder without any semblance of assumption, as already established by the opening narration. When Judge Bhushan announces his verdict keeping in mind Veer’s mental state, the judgment seems to be in a very gray area and might just throw off the viewer until the end credits roll in and one hits the pause button to take a minute to assess the progression of events. In this way, Nail Polish wins in terms of offering and accepting subjectivity. Therefore, in the end, it’s for the viewer to decide whether the body commits the crime or the mind.
Watch Nail Polish here.
Featured Image Via ZEE5 Premium