There’s Something about Sylvia


There’s Something about Sylvia

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré


few years ago, I was commissioned by director Soni Razdan and producer Pooja Bhatt to write the story of a film called (straightforwardly enough) Love Affair.  Like the recently released Rustom, the script of Love Affair is based on what is known today as the Nanavati scandal, an infamous love triangle-cum-murder trial that shocked the nation in 1959.

The facts are public knowledge: On April 27 of that year, Naval Commander Kawas Nanavati came home from months of offshore duty to find his wife Sylvia in the throes of a passionate affair with a local businessman and notorious playboy, Prem Ahuja. Nanavati confronted Ahuja, demanding that the latter marry Sylvia and take responsibility for the Nanavatis’ three young children. When Ahuja scoffed: “I don’t have to marry every woman I sleep with”, Nanavati lost his officer-like cool and shot Ahuja thrice in cold blood. The courtroom drama that followed was nothing short of sensational, with salacious reporting by the tabloid “Blitz”, and a jury that was so swayed by emotion (and the good looks of the dashing Kawas!) that Nanavati found himself acquitted of first-degree murder. Needless to say, this turned out to be the last trial by jury in India.