This Republic Day I was pleasantly surprised to see some sensible movies on TV, rather than the usual jingoistic nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism these days.
Instead, there were two thoughtful critical movies that reflect on India these days and made me feel sad about the judicial system in India.
Kudos to STAR Gold HD for telecasting these movies – Talvar, which talks about the real-life Aarushi Talwar murder, and is open and honest about the sad hash of an investigation and the trial that followed. The next movie that followed was No one Killed Jessica – which is about how Manu Sharma was able to get away with the murder of Jessica Lal shooting her in front of several witnesses, all because of his father’s political clout.
The movie starts brutally with the discovery of the dead body of a 14-year old girl in her bedroom by her parents, soon followed by the discovery of the servant Khempal’s body on the terrace.
What follows next is a ludicrous story of inept investigations, and crackpot theories. Soon enough the girl’s parents (played by Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi) are charged with the murder.
The apparent motive is that the parents discovered their daughter in bed with their servant Khempal, and in a fit of anger killed them both.
After a huge outcry by the public at the seemingly botched up investigation, the big guns are called in. Inspector Ashwin from the CDI (Irrfan Khan in the performance of a lifetime) then goes about trying to figure out all the missing links. His investigation reveal loopholes in the case and he comes up with a fresh list of suspects.
Unfortunately a lot of internal politics within the CDI derail this investigation as well.
In the end, everything is left in the air. Who dunnit? The parents, the disgruntled ex-employee, no one can tell.
If I could describe this movie in a couple of words, it would be muted, intense, thought-provoking.
I watched this movie at home with my knitting in one hand, and cross-checking Snubnose’s maths homework answers on the other, and very quickly I realized this is not one of those Bollywood movies – the ones that I can see with half a brain.
I really needed to concentrate hard to catch all the subtleties in the movie.
Once I stopped fiddling with all the rest of my stuff, I relaxed and sank into the story, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s smart, intelligent, well-scripted (by Vishal Bharadwaj) and well-directed (by Meghna Gulzar).
What surprised me was the loads of black humor thrown into the movie that works fabulously to lighten the tone. In spite of all the joking around though, this is on the whole a very disturbing movie that stays true to real-life events.
The ending is a bit of a mixed bag without providing any resolution to the plot. I came out of this movie not knowing which version of events to believe. I went into the movie with a strong conviction that this was an honor killing by the parents (it was just too impossible for me to believe that they slept through their daughter’s murder happening right in the next room). I wanted to believe otherwise, but the movie presented evidence that could be taken any way.
Finally, I guess only the culprit(s) can know for sure what happened that night 🙁 .
Still despite the inconclusive ending, I loved this movie. Probably the best movie that came out in 2015.
No one Killed Jessica
This movie stars two acting powerhouses Vidya Balan and Rani Mukherjee, two of my favorite actors on top of their game.
In brief, the story is about a model cum bartender Jessica Lal who was shot dead at a party when she refused to serve drinks to a misbehaving guy. Bad decision. He shoots her in front of several eye witnesses and runs away from the party with his friends.
Because he is the son of a politician, justice is hard to get for Jessica’s family, and it is up to Sabrina, Jessica’s sister played by Vidya Balan to run from court to police station but her efforts turn out to be in vain when all the witnesses back out from their original testimony (after death threats from the politician’s goons), and tampering of ballistics evidence.
In the end, it is journalist Meera (Rani Mukherjee) who takes on the battle and galvanizes the entire nation to fight for justice for Jessica Lal.
I thought this was a fantastic movie. The story was fast-moving, engrossing, and gripping. There wasn’t a dull moment. In some places, the movie felt a bit overly dramatic and simplistic. But I guess that was because the case itself was an open and shut case, and the miscarriage of justice was so evident that the movie didn’t really have to present anything complex.
But simple aside, the movie was well-directed and edited. I also thought the background score (by Amit Trivedi) was simply too marvelous, and just perfect for the movie. In particular, the first song Dilli was really energetic and set the tone for the rest of the movie.
Overall, two thumbs-up to this one as well.
One thing I really like about both movies is the strong focus on the murders – no silly songs, or irrelevant romances. OK, there is a little side-story about Irrfan and his wife in Talvar, but it was just a couple of scenes in the movie, and the romance (or not) was note-perfect in tune with the rest of the story.
I also like that both movies tried to stay true as much as possible to real-life events, and were respectful to the victims in the story. Both Jessica and Aarushi were treated with respect and dignity, without trying to blame or victim shame them.
In short, all I can say is that both movies are a must-watch and I enjoyed them very much 🙂 .