Sunday, November 15, 2015

Talvar

I finally got around to watching Talvar after hearing gushing things about it (not least because I subscribe to TOI, and the movie is produced by its sister concern.
The Aarushi Talwar double murder case has been obsessed over in media and in conversations, and will be for a long time to come. This is not without a reason; it appears to be a perfect crime, a crime of passion, one of alleged honor killing, also because the ineptitude of the Noida police has been well documented.
I went in the movie with great expectations, as names like Vishal Bhardwaj, Gulzar, Irrfan and Konkana Sen Sharma have been associated. Plus, the pre-release hype for the movie promised a Rashomon-like experiment, where no one theory was right, and it was a case of perceptions. Sadly, the final product underwhelmed me.
In tackling the Talwar murder, director Meghna Gulzar takes on a challenge that she does not manage to convincingly win. There are a few expert punches, but overall, the director takes on an emotional and commonly held views: that parents can't kill their children, that the police are inept, that office politics trumps the quest for justice.
Talvar doesn't take it's name from the Talwars, but from the talwar that the statue of blind justice carries, that people often overlook. In fact, the family heres are the Tandons, whose daughter Shruti is murdered. I found this name change confusing, since the director and the producer have said in interviews that the story is based on Aarushi Talvar murder case. Why then did they need to change Talvar to Tandon is perplexing. Last minute jitters about litigation?
Instead of the promised Rashomon-like differing perspectives, we get a linear narrative of what happened. The Aarushi case becomes an excuse to highlight a an inept police, an over inquisitive media, nosy neighbors. Understand that Talvar is less about the double murder and more to do with talvar that the statue of Justice holds in her hands. The actual murder and it's aftermath are rushed through, with more emphasis being on the CBI investigation that followed. This is where the movie starts to come apart. Talvar posits a theory that the CBI actually cracked the mystery of who killed Aarushi, but professional rivalry among the officials was the reason it was unable to present a plausible case before the courts. The theory proposed by the movie rests easily on 'the butler did it' argument, only in this case, it is the butler's friends that did it. This is a very simplistic solution to the murder mystery. Aarushi was killed under mysterious circumstances, and the idea proposed by Talvar, though radical and requiring a leap of faith, may not be entirely wrong. But like I said, it requires a certain leap of faith in the director for the viewer to completely disregard what the newspapers have been saying to their readers as well as how the courts inferred the facts of the case. That would require a solid case against the established facts to be presented, which the film fails in doing.
The reason the movie fails is the character development. The Talvars, or in this case the Tandons, are cardboard characters instead of the fleshed out persons that they needed to be. The viewer must empathize with the characters before they agree with their arguments or justifications, but the movie portrays them one dimensionally. The result is a protagonist that fails to connect.
The film makers may argue that the movie is about the investigation but even the characters that do the investigation come across as one dimensional. It starts with the paan chewing inefficient cop who poses for for photos and is forever on the phone. Looking at him the viewer knows that he will bungle up, which he does. The second person to talk about the investigation, the senior police officer is ready to believe in heresay to make the claim about wife swapping; again by-the-numbers.
The movie is supposed to be anchored by the CBI officer who conducted the investigation, the one who nabbed the actual culprit. He is expected to be a well rounded person that can engage the viewer and make them agree with the film's position. What the viewer gets instead is a protagonist in the classic mould of a weary and beaten cop who has seen the ugly side of life and now lives for the small things in life, like sharing liquor with the Chinese food stall owner. Even his marriage is falling apart, making him a complete nomad in the society. He has no ambition in taking up the case, except to get to the truth. His colleagues, however, have their motives in twisting it to meet their ends, and looking at them it becomes obvious. While the protagonist is a loner, his colleagues hunt in packs. Over simplification anyone? An aside: Irrfan as CBI officer Arun Kumar in glasses is the definitive Gulzar touch. There is no doubt about whom to believe.
In taking up the Aarushi Talvar murder mystery, director Meghna Gulzar has shown that she has the guts to tackle a complex subject. She instead deals with it in a manner that panders to our distrust of those who have less than us, but who we can't do without. We tend to blame those working for us for faults that may not be theirs without a second thought and by taking this line, the movie panders to the majority view. It takes certain faith to think that maybe, just maybe, the parents might have been at fault - after all, honor killings are a reality in our society. The inference drawn by the movie seems to be a way of playing to the gallery, be crowd pleasing. The parents are exonerated of any crime, the blame is on the servants. The viewer who paid good money to watch it in the theater feels vindicated in belief that it is the others, less fortunate ones that commit crime.

Which is a cop out.  

3 comments:

Swati Bajpai said...

The movie though doesn't give the minutes i ahree but then it does not give minuted of many manu things infavour of talwars as well.. the movie can never let anyone know the depth if what happened over 7yrs. .! !

But it can for sure help gage people the ouer lines so tht they can get to know more of the subject willingly and jniw the facts for self...

The movie did not show

1. tht the water in cooler was of red colour and the police gets back saying tht the forensic was not sensitice to tell if it was blood or not!!
2. Tht the palm and footprints were both larger than the size of rajesh talwar
3 tht the couple themselves have been saying to the cbi team2 for going for touch dba whixh was never done
4. Tht the police report itself confirmed tht rajesh talwar was not found guilty!! And the report was hand written xould not have typo errors tooo!!
4. That the police person who first gave the crap story of honour killing during the press conference did not even know the deceased's name!!
5. Tht the cbi team2 head and the initial police officer were best of friends and this theiry back could gage the police officer bak his image which was damaged by facts coming out!
6 Tht the verdict was so baised tht even a common man can refute almost evey line of it..
And many more....

Swati Bajpai said...

The movie though doesn't give the minutes i ahree but then it does not give minuted of many manu things infavour of talwars as well.. the movie can never let anyone know the depth if what happened over 7yrs. .! !

But it can for sure help gage people the ouer lines so tht they can get to know more of the subject willingly and jniw the facts for self...

The movie did not show

1. tht the water in cooler was of red colour and the police gets back saying tht the forensic was not sensitice to tell if it was blood or not!!
2. Tht the palm and footprints were both larger than the size of rajesh talwar
3 tht the couple themselves have been saying to the cbi team2 for going for touch dba whixh was never done
4. Tht the police report itself confirmed tht rajesh talwar was not found guilty!! And the report was hand written xould not have typo errors tooo!!
4. That the police person who first gave the crap story of honour killing during the press conference did not even know the deceased's name!!
5. Tht the cbi team2 head and the initial police officer were best of friends and this theiry back could gage the police officer bak his image which was damaged by facts coming out!
6 Tht the verdict was so baised tht even a common man can refute almost evey line of it..
And many more....

Rajesh said...

I am not sure if you read my blogpost - I said that the movie Talvar makes an unconvincing attempt to prove that the Talvars are innocent, to the extent that everyone except Irrfan is either incompetent, or has ulterior motives in laying the blame on Talvars. The Aarushi double murder case is, charitably speaking, and unsolved one largely due to the incompetence of the Noida police. Surprisingly, the Talvars have been the biggest beneficiaries of this incompetence, as they get a lot of benefit of doubt.
My issue with the movie was that it took a very simplistic approach to the entire episode, largely playing to the gallery by implying that the servants did it. There is something disturbing in the notion that parents may have killed their child, but it is not completely unthinkable. The movie simply doesn't examine this possibility. Look at how the TOI carried out statements by 'ordinary' people, all saying they couldn't believe that the domestic help was the killer, having bought the film's simplistic argument. Had the film explored the idea of parents being the killers, it might not have gone well with the audiences and it may have not been so successful at the box office.
Were the discrepancies that you describe not pointed out by the defense team? if not, then the Talvars also suffered due to building a weak team to defend themselves. Where does the police or the CBI come in this?
Talvar the movie could have been much more than what it was, had it taken a neutral stand. Instead, it chooses to align itself on one side and completely run down the other.
There are some who believe the Talvars are innocent and there are others who don't. I am in the other group, but I was willing to have my beliefs tested. Alas, the movie fails (Avirook Sen's book is in my to-read-list, so theres still hope for me).
As regards the judgment, as the court pointed out, it has been established that there were four persons in the flat that fateful night, of which, only two were alive the next morning. The circumstantial evidence certainly points towards the parents, unless some new evidence emerges.
Time plays tricks with our memories and over time, the most dastardly people are looked at with a human lens; look at how people looked at Bal Thakeray when he died. Our judgment about Doctors Rajesh and Nupur Talwar may change and they may get a bigger benefit of doubt, but it should not be at the cost of the hard facts that are available.