A female star accuses a popular director of rape, a founder of a fertility clinic fights dismissal from her own company and an IVF clinic which conducts illegal sex determination tests under the cover of genetic testing. I recently watched Guilty Minds a 10 part series on Amazon Prime and loved it as it brings refreshing realism to courtroom dramas. I had often wondered if we in India will ever have a desi version of ‘The Practice’, and the ‘Law and Order’. Well, this series comes quite close.
The series shows the personal lives of lawyers entwined with courtroom cases. I even loved the cases that were dealt with in each episode. They deal with sensitive subjects like consent, gaming addiction, sex determination, single motherhood and even the pros and cons of self-driving cars. And not to forget the issue of lesbianism that has been dealt with through the relationship of one of the lawyers. It is too late for a review but I want to write about topics that have been highlighted in three of the episodes. These episodes deal with women’s issues and are close to my heart.
So, we have the immensely watchable actor Shriya Pilgaonkar who plays Kashaf Quaze, who with her partner Vandana Kathpalia (Sugandha Garg), takes up cases on behalf of the underdogs. Up against them is Deepak Rana (Varun Mitra). He has made a mark for himself in a reputed family-run law firm, headed by the formidable L N Khanna (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). The Gen X Khannas comprise of brother-sister duo Shubhrat and Shubhangi (Pranay Pachauri and Namrata Sheth) are determined to create a niche for themselves. Satish Kaushik is a loud self-made businessman who runs a liquor business, while Deepak Kalra plays his son and a close friend of Deepak.
Mala Kumari (Karishma Tanna), a top-tier star in the Hindi film industry accuses reputed filmmaker Divendu Khurana, of sexually assaulting her. As the court battle uncovers areas that are not all black and white, Kashaf attempts to find justice for Mala while Deepak defends Divendu Khurana in his plea for innocence.
This episode brings the #MeToo movement and consent to the forefront. How lack of evidence and witnesses weaken such cases. The woman is usually left fighting this battle alone. This episode talks of all the usual questions asked of the woman “why now after so many years?”, “how could she indulge in an intimate relation if is she had not consented?” etc.
As the title suggests the episode is about a fertility clinic. One of the founders Lata Jha (Niya Kumar) of this fertility clinic, a rebel with a cause, has approached Kashaf and Vandana when she is dismissed by the very company she has founded on grounds as flimsy as “misconduct and behavioural issues”. As the episode progresses we learn that this fiery woman although from a small town has decided to become a mother through sperm donation at her clinic. And now she faces dismissal. We also see her confronting her mother who is horrified that her daughter has decided to become an unwed mother. Later we get to know that the other two founders – men (of course this has to be) have found out about her pregnancy and are not ready to give her maternity benefits and so were trying to get her dismissed on grounds that she misbehaves with their clients and has temper issues which is not good for business.
What I realised is that corporates and companies whose heads are usually men do not accept the maternity benefits that women employees are entitled to. They would rather not have women on board than serve maternity benefits to women. As a result due to a hostile work environment, a lot of women bow out of the workforce post-maternity leave. At 21% India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the workforce in the world, so I am happy that this episode brought up this very valid issue for discussion.
Plan Your Baby
A couple accuses an IVF clinic of giving them a damaged embryo, resulting in their son being born with a disability and they have come to Kashaf and Vandana to fight their case. While watching this episode the parents of this disabled child garner all the sympathy. Yet as out of court settlement progresses we get to know that the clinic in the guise of genetic testing (of male embryos) conducts illegal sex determination tests and gives hints to its clients. Who then leave it to their clients to choose between male and female embryo.
It is shocking how such clinics find gaps in the legal procedures and uses it for sex determination in a country which already has skewered male-female sex ratio (948 females per 1000 males). But what is even more surprising is that couples, families and even women are ready to choose boys over girls. When will this mindset change?
I applaud such series which brings up issues that affect women and does not judge or accuse them of their choices. This is a huge plus for the makers of the series and I cannot wait for season 2 as they deep dive into the topics they have just scratched upon.
The views expressed are the author’s own.