Director: Prabhakar Meena Bhaskar Pant
Cast: Anjali Patil, Sharib Hashmi, Abhimanyu Singh
Streaming on: ShemarooMe Box Office
My Client’s Wife is a very bad film. For 95 of its 100 minutes, it plays out as a tacky, stagey, 80s-cringe thriller – where a lawyer (Sharib Hashmi) investigates the shady wife (Anjali Patil) of a client (Abhimanyu Singh) who has been jailed for attempting to kill her – and then offers up a final “twist” that is designed solely to justify why the film looked so tacky all along. I can almost imagine the makers claiming to deliberately have made a bad film (“method filmmaking”) to throw the viewer off guard, but then that’s like me saying I put on weight before the pandemic only so that I could lose weight and look cool for nobody during the lockdown. No twist in the world can make up for a Hitchcockian hangover (imagine a Madh Island version of Psycho) that seems to be learning about storytelling while the story is being told.
The same incident is narrated several times over from different perspectives – by the imprisoned husband, the scarred wife, the horny watchman and the sneaky gardener. At any point, one of the characters seems to be lurking around the spacious house, looking behind curtains and walking slowly enough for the film to stretch past the hour mark to qualify as a feature-length production. Everyone in the film looks suspiciously at the lawyer; the camera zooms in on them and the background score acts as if it has spotted who Keyser Soze was in The Usual Suspects. It reaches a point where, even if a stray dog might have accidentally skipped into a frame, the camera would have zoomed in on its innocent eyes to put an element of doubt in our heads.
Then of course there’s the house. This bungalow, where the wife lives to “satisfy her nymphomaniac ways” (husband’s words, not mine), is full of objects and paintings that the camera can symbolically cut to when she begins to seduce a new man in her bedroom. There’s a bust (!) of a statue, an eagle head (!), and so on. But when the watchman ‘arrives’ at her mistress’ space, the camera not so subtly cuts to DVDs of In the Realm of the Senses (a sexually explicit French-Japanese drama where a servant has a torrid affair with her employer) and, naturally, Kamasutra. Even Irving Wallace’s book The Nympho and Other Maniacs features prominently, as the lawyer’s research material, just in case we didn’t already sense the repetitive thrusts of sex metaphors.
None of the actors involved in this dated disaster will be pleased that it has finally seen the light of day. Especially those like Sharib Hashmi and Anjali Patil, who have made a name for themselves since the making of this film. And to think, My Client’s Wife opens with a montage of a screaming ambulance zooming through the midnight streets of a sleepy city – towards the house where we viewers are made to feel like the ones in need of medical intervention for the next 100 minutes.