Friday, October 2, 2015

Review of Talvar

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Cast: Irrfan Khan (Ashwin Kumar, Investigation officer of CBI), Tabu (Reema Kumar, wife of Ashwin Kumar), Ayesha Parveen (Shruti Tandon), Neeraj Kabi (Ramesh Tandon, Shruti’s father), Konkana Sen Sharma (Nutan Tandon, Shruti’s mother), Sohum Shah (ACP Vedant Mishra), Gajraj Rao (Inspector Dhaniram), Atul Kumar (Paul), Sumit Gulati (Kanhaiya)
Direction: Meghna Gulzar
Producers: Vineet Jain, Vishal Bhardwaj
Production Company: Junglee Pictures / VB Pictures
Written by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Screenplay: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cinematography: Pankaj Kumar
Music by:  Vishal Bhardwaj
Edited by: A Sreekar Prasad
Release Date: 2nd October, 2015 (Showcased in Toronto International Film Festival on 14th September, 2015)
Duration: 2 hours 12 minutes
Language: Hindi, English (titled as Guilty)

Talvar, a film by Meghna Gulzar, is based on 2008 Noida double murder case of a teenage girl and her domestic help – Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj. This case had caught the attention of whole nation. For almost a month, it was the top news in every News Channel and captured the headlines of every newspaper. One of the most talked about and intriguing murder mystery case. The tragedy with this case is that the mystery is still unresolved. Parents were convicted for this murder in 2013 and still in prison after getting sentenced for life imprisonment. Many questions remain unanswered. Even the parents’ imprisonment does not give any closure to this case. Although the circumstantial evidence worked against them, somehow, the nation still remains divided as far as the parents’ convicting is concerned. People are not able to accept that well educated and civilized doctor couple could murder their only daughter. Many felt that it could be a case of honour killing. A few others felt that there could be more to the whole episode than what is being talked in the media. Meghna’s Talvar is fictional dramatization of the events revolving around Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. Early this year (30th January, 2015), we had seen ‘Rahasya’ by Manish Gupta. This film was also inspired by the same case, but the plot completely deviated from the facts apart from that in some initial shots. Meghna has definitely done justice as far as recording the facts are concerned. The plot, characters are very closely etched out. Even the names of the characters sound very close (Khempal for Hemraj; Ramesh for Rajesh; Nutan for Nupur etc.), or synonyms (Kanhaiya for Krishna).

Nutan (Konkana Sen Sharma) finds her 14 year old daughter Shruti Tandon dead in her bedroom (Sameer Vihar, Noida). Family’s domestic help Khempal is found missing and by default, he is sought after by the police as a prime suspect of Shruti’s murder. But the next day, his partially decomposed body is recovered from the terrace of the building. It is being said that police officers had not carefully gathered the evidence from the crime scene and the very same facts are shown in the film too. The film takes a dig at how media and investigation officers goofed up the whole case. Rather, the media was abstained from covering the case details and making judgmental / not yet proven allegations against the victim’s family. The senior police officer is shown to be very very casual even during gathering of evidence, who is more busy with his phone. He botched the whole initial crime-scene investigation. These initial investigation by police officers bring the doctor couple under radar of doubt which further leads to the arrest of Shruti’s father Ramesh Tandon (Neeraj Kabi). The case is given to CDI agency (an elite investigation agency) for further investigation. Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan) enters into the scene as an investigation officer, who has been asked to resolve the mystery behind this double murder case. Ashwin believed that the parents didn’t do the crime and he focuses his investigation towards Ashwin’s compounder Kanhaiya (Sumit Gulati), and two other accomplices. Narco test was done on them to figure out the facts and build up the case methodically. Ashwin was almost there to prove that Kanhaiya and his accomplices committed the murders, but some goof-up happens with the evidence. The case is handed over to another probe team who refocuses on parents as the suspects.

How the investigation moves further? How, once exonerated doctor couple, get sentenced for life imprisonment for killing their daughter? Two teams of the same agency come up with different hypotheses? Which one is actually valid?  

The film highlights the way how investigation and judicial system works in our country. It also talks about the kind of journalism today. The media is so judgmental at times, rather decides the course of investigation and verdict even when the case is under trial. The stories are sensationalized by the media. This case could have had a proper closure, provided the case was handled responsibly by concerned officers right from the beginning. 

Irrfan is definitely very good as CDI officer. Less screen time is there for Neeraj Kabi and Konkana Sen as Shruti’s parents. Neeraj is good. Konkana is definitely a great actress, but I felt that her character of Nutan was a bit away from the real Nupur. Tabu has a special appearance in the film, as Irrfan’s wife – Reema Kumar. Their relationship issues are shown in the film, which was just a filler, since did not add to the plot. Tabu, a great actress, was very much underutilized in the film. Sumit Gulati who plays Kanhaiya is noticeable in his role. Rest of the cast have very well justified their roles.

This piece of my writing is hardly any review of the movie as such. Since I feel that the movie is very much factual and I could only document what has been covered. It is challenging to review such a film. Almost most of the details viz. the events, tampering of the evidence, doubt with the postmortem reports etc. are covered. It is focused on the three different courses of action / investigation results which finally convicted the parents. The first one was by the local police, who officially issued the statement it to be honour-killing by father, also raised fingers on the victim’s and parents’ characters. The second perspective was of Ashwin Kumar, whose investigation was on Dr. Ramesh’s compunder Kanhaiya and his accomplices. And the third perspective was from probe team who took the case from Ashwin and disregarded his findings and held the parents culpable.

Does the movie take any sides? The movie is definitely unbiased but it is more in the format of documenting the story. For those, who have followed the case closely, no new elements are there. So, one wonders at the end of the film, what new is being showcased in this film and conveyed. It may disappoint you, if you want the answers to the still unresolved murder mystery. It may appeal to you, if you just want to understand the most intriguing murder mystery and the events which led to the victim’s parents’ imprisonment.     

Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar is very very close to the real happenings of Noida Double Murder Mystery case. It documents the facts. Definitely a decent watch.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good+)