Sabrina Lall absolutely loved Rajkumar Gupta's No One Killed Jessica, a film based on the murder of her sister model Jessica Lall. Having fought a long legal battle for bringing her sister's killer to book, Sabrina says the film immortalises Jessica and hopes murdered teenager Aarushi Talwar too gets justice.
"It was eerie...and very moving. We were all deeply relieved by how true to life the film has turned out," Sabrina said after watching a special screening for her in Delhi.
"When we agreed to let them make the movie, me and and family had been warned about the 'Bollywood types'. We were told, 'You don't know what you are getting into. Why have you given the NOC? Now they'll just do anything they like.' But watching the film I feel vindicated. It will make Jessica a kind of immortal," she said.
Admiring the director for his re-creation of the harrowing time after Jessica's murder in 1999 when Sabrina and her family knocked on doors for justice, she said: "Rajkumar Gupta has replicated almost every detail of the events after Jessica's death. Even the conversations in the film are what I've gone through. All my cousins were like, 'My god how did the director know all this?'."
Gupta had got the script approved by Sabrina. "Rajkumar had sat with me for almost a week. We discussed everything about the case. And it's all there now. I've moved on, moved away from even the house where Jessica and I lived. I haven't held on to any of her possessions except the photographs. Ironically, the film will now be there to remind us of her all the time."
Jessica, a model who also worked as a bartender, was shot dead April 29, 1999, by Manu Sharma, son of former union minister Vinod Sharma, after she refused to serve him a drink at a party in the capital. But, for want of evidence, Manu and eight other accused were acquitted by the trial court in February 2006.
In March 2006, Delhi Police filed an appeal in the high court and in December Manu, Vikas Yadav and Amardeep were convicted. In April 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and life term of Manu.
For 11 years Sabrina fought for justice for her sister and she admits it's a good feeling to see it all.
"After the tragedy when we were all devastated by the sheer randomness of it, my mother had said, 'There has to be a reason for it'. Now I feel Jessica didn't die for nothing. Her death made people question the whole legal system where an influential and rich politician's son could walk free after a murder...He (Manu Sharma) thought he had gotten away with it. There was this whole awakening of the country's conscience after Jessica. We suffered. But I feel it wasn't in vain. And now there's the film. It does Jessica justice in an unexpected way."
Though Sabrina is thrilled by the uncanny likeness of actress Myra Karn, who plays Jessica, to her sister, she doesn't think Vidya resembles her in any way.
"Vidya is brilliant. But I don't think she was trying to replicate my personality in any way...we aren't similar at all. But the girl playing Jessica is so much like Jessica in her vivacity...there's a sequence of a candle-light vigil where Myra's picture looks so much like Jessica in that picture we've seen of her in all newspapers," Sabrina said.
Speaking of justice denied, Sabrina hopes teenager Aarushi Talwar, who was murdered in May 2008, too gets justice. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) now seeks to close the case citing lack of evidence.
"That poor girl. How can they just close her case like this? I hope the girl finds justice, just like Jessica did."