Maamla Legal Hai review: Netflix legal satire is one of the best comedies on Indian OTT, Ravi Kishan shows his mettle

Maamla Legal Hai, Netflix's legal comedy starring Ravi Kishan, is a rare show that balances humour and performances.

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Maamla Legal Hai is streaming on Netflix

Director: Rahul Pandey

Cast: Ravi Kishan, Naila Grewal, Nidhi Bisht, Anant Vijay Joshi, Vijay Rajoria, Yashpal Sharma

Where to watch: Netflix

Rating: 4.5 stars

There is a thing that Ravi Kishan has mentioned a few times in his interviews while promoting his new Netflix show Maamla Legal Hai, that he is happy that a fun, comedy is coming on OTT, which is known for its ‘guns and violence’. On the face of it, it may seem like an oversimplification but it is not far from the truth. For years, the Indian OTT scene has come to be oversaturated with crime dramas and whodunits. In this milleu, lighter shows that have no violence or even concept of a ‘bad guy’ are rare. Good shows in this genre are rarer still. Maamla Legal Hai is in the rarest of the rare category, to twist a legal phrase, but in a rather good way. It is a show that makes you laugh and snigger but while also raising some real-life pertinent issues. When combined with flawless writing and some amazing performances, you have a winner on your hands.

Maamla Legal Hai is set in the fictitious Patparganj District Court in East Delhi (Patparganj is a real locality but has no court of its own, the nearest is in Karkardooma). In true Jolly LLB style, the show sets up the ‘atrangi’ nature of a district court in the heartland with quirky lawyers, desi clients, and some small-town problems. VD Tyagi (Ravi Kishan) is the ambitious bar association president who is contesting for the Delhi Bar Association president elections, while Ananya Shroff (Naila Grewal) is a third-generation Harvard-return lawyer who wants to start at the grassroots. Nidhi Bisht’s Sujata, a foyer lawyer, and Anant Joshi’s court manager Vishwas add some tadka to the mix where each episode tells a new story, all plucked from real headlines, mostly crazy, all of them hilarious.

Maamla Legal Hai follows the genre set by shows such as Gullak where humour is mixed with real-world problems. What makes the task of director Rahul Pandey tougher here than the SonyLiv show is that it is set in a world alien to the common man. Not only does he have to make the viewer familiar with the world of a district court but also make it relatable enough for the audience to be engaged. The director, along with his writing team, strike gold by keeping it simple and making sure the base emotion – which is common regardless of a profession – stays on top of the narrative. So we empathise with Tyagi’s ambition, are frustrated at Ananya’s overzealousness, and relate to Sujata wondering if life has passed her by. We may not have met the lawyers of the show but we have met – or been – the people shown here.

Another layer that makes Maamla Legal Hai a delightful watch is the way in which it brings about serious issues like conjugal rights of prisoners, how lawyers’ strikes affect cases, and the realities of legal aid cases. It is a sharp, hilarious satire on the legal system and how the men and women in it are both the victims and the offenders here, in making it so slow and lethargic. But it manages to present lawyers as humans, with their own faults, flaws, as well as frailties. Like the tagline says, ‘coat kale hain, dil nahi’, Maamla Legal Hai is probably the best endorsement for lawyers in India, the way Suits was in the US, but in a more earthy, rooted way.

But the idea alone would have made Maamla Legal Hai just a good show. The execution makes it stand apart. The writing, first of all – from Kunal Aneja and Saurabh Khanna – is sublime. The humour is both in the situations and the words. Some of the lines and jokes are so organically woven into the story that they clinch it in seconds. There is so much ‘Insta-meme’ fodder in the lines that I look forward to the show becoming part of our pop culture in the days and weeks to come.

Then the actors elevate it even further. At the centre of it all is Ravi Kishan, who wins the show both with his impeccable delivery and comic timing as well as his command over the emotional scenes. With each shot and episode in the show, the veteran actor shows just how Bollywood has ever been able to utilise his potential. The other star, for me, is Nidhi Bisht. She matches Ravi Kishan in terms of comic timing and sometimes even surpasses her senior. And like the seasoned pro she is, the actress switches seamlessly when the scene demands some gravitas. Anant Vijay Joshi is the funniest on the show, making an otherwise forgettable character so likable. Naila Grewal is the audience’s substitute and she makes her ‘fish out of the water’ act quite believable. Veterans like Rajendra Gupta, Yashpal Sharma, and Tanvi Azmi are cherries on top of this delicious cake.

Maamla Legal is a show that does not come very often, a throwback to the golden days of comedy on Indian television, in that it is very Office Office or Zabaan Sambhaal Ke in its genre but even finer in execution, which shows it is very much, a show with potential to be timeless.

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