Director: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen, Neeraj Kabi
Aarushi Talwar double murder case was one of the most talked-about and followed cases in recent times, both in the media and the public. Can one pick a real life story for a movie and yet manage to make it gripping enough? Meghna Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj certainly can. A tightly written narrative and mostly rational view of the investigations ensure Talvar is an edge-of-the-seat, engaging thriller that seeks to shock its audience.
Neeraj Kabi and Konkona Sen essay the roles of Ramesh and Nutan Tandon, parents of 14-year-old Shruti (Ayesha Parveen) who was found dead in her own bedroom. Their servant Khempal’s body was also found the same day. Irrfan Khan plays CDI (Central Department of Investigation, the film’s version of Central Bureau of Investigation) officer Ashwin Kumar who steps into the scene when the double murder case is handed over to the agency.
A beautiful aspect of Talvar is the way Meghna and Vishal chose to weave sly wit into the intense narrative. Meghna, who returns to direction with Talvar after a long gap of eight years, deals with it in a very witty manner and ensures the narrative is tense, yet the tension is understated. CDI officer Ashwin Kumar and Noida police officer Dhaniram (essayed by Gajraj Rao) are Meghna’s weapons in this quest and she uses them deftly. With Irrfan’s ever-effortless acting prowess and Gajraj’s amazing performance, none of the jokes cracked at the cost of those involved in the murder case seem insensitive.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s narrative is an insightful commentary on a voyeuristic media’s tendency to jump to instant conclusions and the prejudices and limitations of our judicial and investigating systems.
Vishal also highlights several socio-political issues which are woven seamlessly in his narrative. The uninterested police officer who is more inclined toward getting his next promotion than examining a crime scene; investigation officers who are eager to get their friends on board for a new case on their hands; the gossip-hungry neighbours and the voyeuristic indulgences of police officers - the writer mixes a lot more than just the murder case and investigations at hand, and does so brilliantly.
The portrayal of media’s sensationalism and desperation for eyeballs is to the point. There is even a scene where a reporter is at ‘ground zero’, Shruti’s house, and a man keeps hitting the bed in the background in an effort to recreate the crime scene.
There is a side story that runs through the investigations, Irrfan’s personal life. Tabu, who makes a guest appearance as his wife impresses with ease. Gulzar’s directorial venture Ijaazat (the Rekha-Naseeruddin-Anuradha-starrer 1987 film) and the famous song Mera Kuch Saamaan are swiftly dropped into the conversations the husband-wife have and it only draws smiles on the audiences’ faces.
Interestingly, the movie even has its whistle-worthy moments. In a long sequence towards the end, two investigating teams sit across a table and take digs at different investigations and pieces of evidence. One of the officers while explaining how Ramesh Tandon might have killed his daughter, says, “Ramesh Tandon ne apni beti aur naukar ko dharm-pracharak awastha me dekha and unhein gussa aa gaya.” When Irrfan translates that for his senior as “missionary position” and questions, “Khempal ki laash ke saath chappal mili thi. Woh kya chappal pehen ke dharm ka prachar kar raha tha?”, there were whistles all over the theatre and by the time the onscreen discussion ended, there was a thunderous clapping from the audience!
As for the performances, Konkona and Neeraj are as detached as their characters demand and Gajraj and other cops and investigating officers are impressive and identifiable. Irrfan Khan, expectedly, towers tall over everyone else in the film.
Talvar is a pro-Talwar film. There is a very subtle undertone to the narrative that paints Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, parents of Aarushi who have been convicted in the double murder case, as victims of insensitive investigators and the judicial system in our country. Talvar uses the ‘Rashomon effect’, named after the Japanese movie Akira Kurosawa employed by filmmakers to highlight how unreliable and subjective human perception can be, to cast doubts over the conviction of Talwars. The movie shows three different versions of the incident: those of the cops’, the CDI’s and the parents’.
Watch: Talvar review
This concept aims at sending the message that whatever we know, whatever details there are in the public domain are different perspectives of what happened and are not fact-based; which in turn means the Talwars might have been wrongly convicted for the murder of their own daughter. Meghna even uses the camera to highlight this effect: The versions that pin the blame are shot from outside the house of Tandons but the for one that put them in the victim’s slot, the camera takes you in, an inside view, stressing on its reliability.
Hemraj is Khempal; Nupur and Rajesh are Nutan and Ramesh; CBI is CDI: Despite promoting their film as one based on Aarushi Talwar double murder case, why did they have to fictionalise the names? But what’s in a name, said Shakespeare.
Talvar is an intriguing and gripping thriller and boasts of brilliant performances, witty dialogues and much more. You should definitely not miss this one.