In Remy Kohli’s Kuldip Patwal: I Didn’t Do It!, a neighbourhood grocer has to defend himself against the charge of murdering the state’s chief minister. Kuldip Patwal (Deepak Dobriyal) insists that he is innocent even though he was at the crime scene and was standing at the spot from where the murder weapon was fired. Kuldip says that he remembers nothing, and he maintains his innocence when the case reaches court.

Kuldip is represented by do-gooder advocate Praduman (Gulshan Devaiah) and is opposed by Simrat (Raima Sen), who happens to the chief minister’s widow. (A state that allows this to happen deserves to slide into ruin.) Kuldip’s sorry life unfolds through numerous and never-ending flashbacks – his inability to get a job because of reservations for the backward classes; his runs-in with corrupt government officials; his frustration at the general state of affairs.

The chief minister (Parveen Dabbas) turns out to be a Rajiv Gandhi-type reformer who is arm-twisted by electoral compulsions into compromising his ideals. Is there a greater conspiracy at work here? Could the head of the all-powerful Reliable corporation (a dig presumably at Reliance) be involved? Remy Kohli does not work hard enough to ensure that we care about whether Kuldip hangs or walks free.

Kohli’s amateurish handling of the subject and inability to ensure a smoothly paced narrative ensure that the movie is a trudge from start to finish. The murder investigation and trial become an inchoate rant about the “systematic politics to eliminate the poor” – a grand claim made by Pradhuman that isn’t backed up by solid or plausible explanations. The courtroom scenes are particularly egregious, in no small measure because of Raima Sen’s hamminess and Gulshan Devaiah’s severely distracting false moustache. Deepak Dobriyal tries to breathe life into his frustrated common man, but his efforts are as successful as the movie itself.

Kuldip Patwal: I Didn’t Do It!