Suspense in the courtroom: Will justice prevail in Guilty or Not Guilty?

Guilty or not guilty
Photo: Prasun Sangroula

As the judge of the court, Lok Man Tripathi (Sagar Dahal) enters, everyone is asked to rise from their seats. The six jurors on the left side of the stage, who are picked from the audience, are asked to decide whether the defendant, Karina Aire (played by Samapika Gautam), is guilty or not guilty of the murder of business tycoon Radhey Shyam Agrawal.

First, the plaintiff’s attorney, Bal Krishna Prasai (Bijay Ananda Tamrakar), is asked to present his arguments and facts regarding the case. He begins by explaining the condition in which Agrawal’s body was found after he fell from the 19th floor of an apartment. He then describes why Agrawal’s death cannot be considered a suicide but rather was a murder committed by Aire, who was also Agrawal’s secretary.  He then presents some points to prove why Aire murdered Agrawal. Next, he calls the first witness of the case, Dr. Kawan Singh, played by Sadin Luitel.

Guilty or not guilty
Photo: Prasun Sangroula

This is how the play Guilty or Not Guilty, directed by Rajkamal Fakir, currently being staged at Kausi Theatre, Teku, kicks off.  The play is an adaptation of Ayan Rand’s Night of January 16th, originally published in 1934.   

The courtroom drama

Guilty or Not Guilty is a courtroom drama that revolves around the suspicious death of businessman Radhey Shyam Agrawal. How did he die? Was it a murder or a suicide? These are the prime concerns of the entire play.

There are a total of 16 characters in this play. They perform various roles such as judge, judge’s assistant, witness, accused, a family member of Agrawal, and others.  

Apart from the storyline of this play, other aspects need to be discussed. Beginning with its genre, which is based on suspense thrillers—a genre rarely seen in Nepali theatres. 

Guilty or not guilty
Photo: Prasun Sangroula

As a play based on a suspense thriller, it is anticipated that the play would keep the spectators curious the entire time. The play has wonderfully met this expectation. The play is almost two and a half hours long and entirely dialogue-based. Unlike many other plays, it does not include performances like dancing or singing; however, there is not a single moment where the audience feels bored. The evidence presented by both lawyers, testimonials from the witnesses, expressions, dialogue delivery, and body language of the characters are the elements that make the play thrilling and captivating.

In his earlier play, An Inspector Calls, based in the detective genre, director Rajkamal Fakir successfully created a thrilling atmosphere. This time too he has continued that legacy. The makers of the play have made it so natural and realistic that it makes the audience feel like they are actually in the courtroom, desperately waiting for the final verdict. 

The ongoing suspense

There are some scenes where the actors create tension in the audience. One such scene is when Nistha Pandey, played by Basana Timilsina, gets aggressive, faces difficulty breathing, and needs an inhaler, making the audience uneasy. The audience feels as if she needs to rush to the hospital. That is something a good actor should be able to convey. Another character to note in the play is Gita, played by Sushma Niraula. The arrogance of her tone and expression could make the audience angry. Palden Dong, played by Rupesh Lama, is another character who has done a commendable job, of bringing a comical side to the play.

Guilty or not guilty
Photo: Prasun Sangroula

Regarding the setting, lighting, and music of the play, the makers have not done anything significant about it. The setting is entirely based on the courtroom, and except for a couple of instances, the lighting and sound patterns remain the same throughout the show. However, they all fit well within the context of the show.

Till the end of the play, it clears almost all the curiosity regarding the death of Radhey Shyam Agrawal. However, the play does not disclose how Agarwal looks. This is only curiosity that could be stuck in the spectator’s mind.   

By the end of the play, it addresses almost all the curiosity regarding the death of Radhey Shyam Agrawal. However, the play does not disclose how Agrawal looks, which may be the only curiosity that lingers in the spectator’s mind. 

Guilty or Not Guilty is an interesting show. Lawyers and aspiring lawyers are highly recommended to watch it, as they might relate to the play in various ways.

Well to find out whether Karina Aire is guilty or not, you need to watch the play. 

Guilty or Not Guilty will run through June 8 every day except Tuesday at 5:30 pm at Kausi Theatre, Teku. There will be an additional show on Saturday at 1:00 pm.  

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Prasun Sangroula is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, mainly covering arts, society and sports.

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