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Pankaj Tripathi on 'Criminal Justice - Adhura Sach': "It provides an insight into what happens when a child is accused of a crime"

Actors Pankaj Tripathi, Shweta Basu Prasad and Aditya Gupta on 'Criminal Justice 3', their process, working with director Rohan Sippy and memorising dialogue for a courtroom drama.

August 27, 2022 / 07:00 AM IST
Pankaj Tripathi as lawyer Madhav Mishra in 'Criminal Justice - Adhura Sach', streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. (Screen grab)

Pankaj Tripathi as lawyer Madhav Mishra in 'Criminal Justice - Adhura Sach', streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. (Screen grab)

Lawyer Madhav Mishra is back in the courtroom in the third season of Criminal Justice - Adhura Sach (Disney+ Hotstar). In this season, directed by Rohan Sippy, the character played by Pankaj Tripathi, is facing a complex murder case where a juvenile is identified as the prime suspect. A number of new actors, including Shweta Basu Prasad, Purab Kohli, Swastika Mukherjee and Aditya Gupta, appear alongside some returning favourites, such as Mishra’s wife Ratna, played by Khushboo Atre.

In the court, Mishra goes head-to-head with formidable newbie public prosecutor Lekha (Shweta Basu Prasad) in a case in which teenager Mukul’s (Aditya Gupta) fate hangs in the balance. Tripathi, Prasad and Gupta shared the following details about the new season:

Pankaj Tripathi, has anything changed for Madhav Mishra in this new season?

The case is new but other than that Madhav Mishra’s character is the same. There are some new characters in his world, though, like his brother-in-law Deep from Patna. We have a very variable equation going on. Ratna from Patna is there too and our family banter and ups and downs are still there. That’s where the humour comes in, which keeps the show light. Then there are new actors like Aditya and his family, and there is their back story.

I go with the written script and only suggest options or improvisation once I am on set. At times the show’s writers said that I have a better understanding of Madhav Mishra than them and that would be right. It is very difficult to describe him or paint an exact picture on paper because many of my own life experiences are mixed into the character now.

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Shweta, what was it like to step into a well-established show with characters the audience knows so well?

It is very exciting to be a part of a very popular show. Even my family is a fan. They were very excited to hear I was part of the show, though my brother is team Madhav. This season is different in that there are some characters with a continuing arc but the case is different and has its own twists and turns. Lekha, too, has her own conflicts and interpersonal relationships. She's very well bred, foreign educated, a South Mumbai lawyer who gives Madhav a tough time and thinks she can finish him off.

Aditya, this is your first acting job. What was the experience like for you?

It was a privilege and honour to share the screen with such an acclaimed and experienced cast. It was intimidating at first, especially when you sit at the table to read with these actors whose work you have seen before, and that too as one of the youngest in age and experience of course. But the writers and Rohan Sippy made the process much easier. It’s such a well written script that as an actor you don't feel confused or stuck. The exchange of energy on set was so amazing that when action was called, my character Mukul would take over and take the scene forward.

In what way is the case at the centre of 'Criminal Justice - Adhura Sach' different from the previous two seasons?

Tripathi: The first part was set in a male jail, the second in a female jail and now we are looking at the juvenile justice system, how it tackles juvenile crime, what happens to the kids, their families, the loopholes in the system, etc. We are not that aware of the juvenile justice system. I had only seen the board ‘Bal Sudhar Griha’ (Juvenile Detention Centre) in various towns across the country. This series is an engaging and interesting story but it also provides an insight into what happens when a child is involved in or accused of a crime.

When arguing cases in court, there is no room for error or improvisation. Did you have a process for memorising the dialogues?

Shweta: I do have a process, which starts with reading the script multiple times. Then I need to create a backstory for the character - who she is, what is her core personality, her likes and dislikes, etc. Since Lekha is a lawyer, she has monologues and uses technical terms. Luckily, I memorise lines very well. I had about three weeks to learn the script, so I would read it every day from 6pm to 8pm. You could say I was marinating. Then once I got the schedule and the order in which the scenes would be shot, then I started doing the revision. I did have to be careful because it had to be specific, and secondly I was pitted against Pankaji ji, so I had to be prepared!. It was a very nice jugalbandi.

Tripathi: Even I used to follow this process of reading the script several times but due to many things keeping me occupied at the time, I could not do it for this show. Anyway learning lines is not my strength and here the criteria is to be precise and specific because you cannot improvise on the law and legal system.

Aditya: This is my first part, ever, but I feel it is important to read the script as much as possible. But it’s also important to understand what the co-actors and director are thinking about the scene. You get a lot of add-ons and that helped me a lot.

What do you think is the appeal of courtroom dramas?

Aditya: I love them. I think what appeals to the audience is the back and forth, the sawaal-jawaab, sawaal-jawaab. It’s exciting for the audience to see two totally opposite characters going at it. The result to see who is the best is amazing.

Shweta: I really enjoy courtroom dramas and stories with lawyers. Besides being entertaining, they are very educational. There are also grey shades to lawyers. Both sides – prosecution and defence – keep you on your toes and as a viewer, you don't know which side to lean towards. Besides being edge-of-the-seat, and thrilling, these shows and films have quality dialogue in the courtroom.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is an independent film critic, lifestyle writer, author and festival curator. She can be found on Twitter @UditaJ and Instagram @Udita_J
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