Talvar (Hindi, 2015)
Murder cases that attract national attention and intense media coverage is rare. Fewer cases linger with us for years. The Noida teen Aarushi- Hemraj double murder case is not that easy to forget. Written and produced by Vishal Bhardwaj , and directed by Meghna Gulzar, ‘Talvar’ reopens the case back in the celluloid. This tightly knitted gripping investigative drama varies in many ways than usual murder mysteries. Since the entire film is based on true events, it chooses a docudrama style treatment throughout and it fits the work on its entirety very positively.
The film should at the first hand be appreciated for its genuinity in reenacting the true events interwoven in the screenplay so much that to the viewer who has followed the actual case watching this is like rewinding years of progress in case in just over a couple of hours. The pain Vishal has taken in embedding every miniscule detail into the storyline is laudable. Meghna on her part has chosen a Roshomonesque treatment in visual presentation of the story, which gives a multidimensional facet to the plot.
The story opens with the revelation of the murder of the teen daughter of the Tandon’s- both doctors. The film closely follows the primary investigations and the inaccuracies and recklessness of the first investigation team is flawlessly showcased. What begins as an easily solvable murder case grows bitterly complex just mirroring the reality.
Critics have widely observed the inclination of the film towards the parents. Why not the maker sympathize the parents for a case where the truth was never completely out, to this date? The film faithfully follows the case throughout. Nonetheless its primary intention lies in showing the bureaucratic failure in pursuing justice, besides showcasing the professional ego clashes of the officials inside the agency. The film attempts to enumerate the power of the agencies to make or break a story and segregating the truth from fabricated truths becomes hardly possible.
On the other side the film presents the lighter side of investigators, a super cool Ashwin Kumar, portrayed beautifully by Irrfan Khan as always, who keeps challenging the stereotypic serious figures of such officers that we’ve in our minds. What the film grazes shallowly is the media intervention in the case. Though the entire case lies in the deliberate attempts of the CBI (fictionalized in the film as CDI) to reclaim its repute at the cost of jeopardizing a family’s social dignity, it is the media circus on the case that ruthlessly character assassinated the parents of the teen. This part seems to have been altogether left out in the film. It is worth remembering that the media poked its nose too much into the personal lives of the couple, already grieving from the loss of their daughter, cooking up stories of all kind dirty stories, many of which were proved wrong as the investigation progressed. And the media was completely unapologetic about that. The Talwar’s (fictionalized as Tandon’s in the film) is one of the best examples of the worst and unethical media intervention in private lives.
During the film I was wondering about the intricate detailing of the actual case documented on screen, no matter how trivial or miniscule the details is, at the same time I couldn’t avoid comparing the ways true stories are dealt in Hollywood or the west in general and the freedom they enjoy in doing so. The film besides detailing everything has also fictionalized all the names of the characters and the agency in particular. Perhaps the serious filmmaking community in India, though slim in size, if ever have considerable creative freedom might hopefully bring better films.
Talvar is not racy, edge-of-the-seat thriller but a thriller with a heart. The making style of Meghna Gulzar reveals the sensibilities of a woman in seeing a emotionally delicate plot like this one and her visual approach of the story is decent. Just before the interval during a conversation, the soon to retire director of CDI tells Ashwin Kumar, “Have you seen the statue of justice? She remains blindfolded, a balance in a hand. People often don’t notice the sword she is holding in the other hand. That sword is us, the cops. Over the years, the sword has become rusty. Until the rust is cleaned off, it will be like this… it will stay”. The soul of the film lies here.