Talvar: Double-edged

October 02, 2015 03:34 pm | Updated 05:30 pm IST



A well-crafted audio-visual appeal in favour of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, who are serving life term for the murder of their 14-year-old daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj, Talvar is more of a crime docu-drama than a piece of fiction. From the title, which is a word play on the surnames of the dentist couple, to the material, writer Vishal Bhardwaj and director Meghna Gulzar stick close to the details of 2008 Noida twin-murder case that shook the society in more ways than one. The difference is only as much replacing the B of CBI with a D. Talwars become Tandons and Arushi and Hemraj become Shruti and Khempal.

Coming close to the release of journalist Avirook Sen’s book, it is an interesting, if not a unique, case of cinematic intervention in a matter which is sub-judice. Be it the sound of sarangi in the background when the couple is convicted or treating one investigating officer as the hero despite using discredited measures, the bias of the makers is pretty much there on the surface.

But beyond the pale of integrity and intentions, Talvar is a razor sharp piece of cinema. Meghna doesn’t plead in melodramatic tones. She rather constructs a cogent case devoid of syrupy sentiments. From highlighting shoddy investigation to underlining salacious media coverage, Meghna, returning to action after almost a decade, goes after the case with surgical precision and Bhardwaj cuts through the legal cobwebs to create a persuasive script. After Haider he once again takes out his anguish towards an indifferent system. He stops just short of taking on the judiciary perhaps because the case is still being heard.

Genre: Crime drama Director: Meghna Gulzar Cast: Irrfan Khan, Neeraj Kabi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Tabu, Sohum Shah, Atul Kumar, Gajraj Rao Bottomline: Its intentions might be blunt but as a piece of cinema Talvar is a sharp procedural.

Like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon , there are contradictory interpretations of the same event. The case has been so widely covered that most of us believe that we know everything about the murder mystery but after a point the lines get blurred. Bhardwaj manages to keep them distinct and imparts flesh and blood to characters which are ironically reduced to filmy caricatures by a section of the news media. Interestingly, the film is backed by a media house, whose coverage of Sheena Bora murder case has come under scrutiny.

Bhardwaj tries to include different points of view but the discerning could decipher where he stands. After Uttar Pradesh police summarily declares it as a case of honour killing implicating the father in the case, enters Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan), the CDI officer. The case doesn’t suit his level but pushed by his boss he digs the details, clears the dust from the evidence and discovers that there were more than four people in the house on the fateful night. But even as the needle of suspicion shifts towards the other servants who were drinking with Khempal, Ashwin becomes a victim of intra-department rivalry. His methods of interrogation are questioned and a new team is constituted under CDI officer Paul (Atul Kumar) which comes to the same conclusion as the UP police, only the modus operandi changes.

Bhardwaj clearly sees the dark humour in the shoddy investigation and exploits it subtly. It prevents the procedural from turning dry. It is beautifully captured in a scene where the colleague of Ashwin arrives at a critical conclusion and the officer remarks oh! Only the background sound of a Sherlock Holmes movie is missing. Sreekar Prasad brings his sharp sword to the editing table and Pankaj Kumar ensures that the gripping tale remains compelling on screen. Meghna quietly captures how the Tandons could be victims of prejudice for the local policemen could not understand subtle expression of grief and the meaning of common practices in modern urban society like sleep overs. Above all the film fills you with fear and anguish. It makes us question ourselves as to how as a society we are turning increasingly voyeuristic. Even as the system bends over backwards to prove Tandons as maniacs, people not like you and me, you wonder that it can happen to any of us.

Irrfan once again captures the contours of the character making us feel the frustration and fury of a police officer who feels that ends justify the means. Be it Sohum Shah as his subordinate or Gajraj Rao as the slimy and incompetent police officer, he is surrounded by an equally competent support cast. Kabi and Konkona have the most difficult parts because they have to mould their expressions according to each theory and then at the same time justify the larger narrative arc envisioned by the director.

There is a redundant or rather indulgent side track that captures the personal crises of Ashwini. It seems like an excuse to use Tabu in the film. It seems like a pretext to doff the hat at Gulzar’s Ijaazat . Both ways the gratification doesn’t hurt.

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