Saturday, October 03, 2015


Jagged Edge

The Talvar of the title of Megha Gulzar’s film, is the one the Goddess of Justice holds, that has been rusting for the last sixty years, says a cop on the verge of retirement.

The takeway from the austere, documentary-like police procedural is that very little can be done to shine that sword, as long as the law can be twisted either out of ignorance or to suit an agenda. The film is based on the sensational Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj murder, for which her parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar are serving time in jail. (This was also the subject of Avirook Sen’s book Aarushi and and earlier entirely fictionalized film, Rahasya).

Vishal Bharadwaj’s no-nonsense screenplay presents multiple points of view (like Akira Kurosawa’s classic Rashomon), but does not dither; in fact it strongly supports the Talwars and declares that such a miscarriage of justice took place because of a  major bugling of investigations, inter-departmental rivalry amidst law-enforcing and ego problems between police officials. Just how the cops ‘investigate’ and build up a trial by media is the most disturbing part of the film.

When the 14-year-old Shruti and the family’s servant are found dead, a particularly insensitive and incompetent Noida cop (Gajraj Rao) quickly jumps to the conclusion that it was a case of honour killing. The father, Ramesh Tandon (Neeraj Kabi) found his daughter in a compromising situation with the servant Khempal and killed them, his wife, Nutan (Konkona Sen Sharma) was an accomplice. Otherwise, how is it possible that the couple slept through two murders in their apartment? This theory, formulated in a haste to wrap up the case, coloured everything that came later.

When an efficient Central Department of Investigation (CDI) officer Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan) takes over, he is easily able to punch holes in the police files—including the shocking revelation that a forensics team was not even called immediately. He meticulously comes up with a most probable scenario, but is betrayed by his assistant (Soham Shah) and discredited by the incoming head of the department (Shishir Sharma), who puts his own man, Paul (Atul Kumar), on the job to make sure that Ashwin’s work is rejected.

What makes Talvar superior to the many crime shows on TV, is the detailing, the small brush strokes of characterisations and motives; Bharadwaj and Meghna Gulzar even manage to find space for some wry, bitter humour—like the face-off between the two rival CDI teams in the end.  The casting of theatre actors in the many supporting roles gives the film the touch of realism it needed—that and the deliberate eschewing of anything bright or glamorous in the bleak scenario. The ensemble is near perfect and Irrfan struts tall amidst the flock of talent. The film is not entertaining in the Bollywood-ian sense of the term, but it is a gripping watch.


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