Before watching TALVAR, you need to be very clear that what exactly you wish to see in a film based on the famous Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case of 2008 in which the parents were convicted as the murderers after five years.
Making it more clear,
Do you wish to see an exciting murder mystery with an investigating officer reaching the culprit through many shocking twists and turns coming at regular intervals keeping you guessing?
You wish to the see a realistic (or rather artistic) documentary kind of drama that actually focuses more on real investigations held by different officers, deliberately hinting towards the wrong decision taken by the honorable court.
Now for friends in favour of the first, there is not much thrilling stuff in store since the film is not exactly made like a twisted murder mystery case solved by a clever detective. But for the viewers more interested in the documentary kind of narration giving an artistic account of the entire investigation process raising many questionable issues, TALVAR does become a decent watch revealing a lot about our Police, CBI and their inner workings.
However I don’t think masses would be really interested in watching such docu-drama kind of product ending on an introspective note. And as a fan of this particular genre of ‘whodunit’ movies, I personally also couldn’t find the content I was looking for putting it honestly. In other words, when its publicized that this is a film made on the famous rare case full of some shocking proceedings, then all I expect is to watch an engrossing murder mystery bringing me on to the edge of my seat but not any documentary, purposefully indicating towards a doubtful verdict.
Having said that, TALVAR does manage to make a decent impact as a whole due to its overall artistic texture, an appreciable (but one sided) detailed case-study and the final 20 minutes of discussion between the two teams executed brilliantly.
Describing the experience of watching it in the theater, the film begins straight from the case itself and then keeps progressing well with some interesting revelations about the UP police followed by introduction of the girl’s parents, all ‘next door’ realistic characters and Irrfan Khan as the newly appointed sharp investigating officer. The first half follows an interesting style of narration offering a unique kind of experience to the viewers. But the pace drops as soon the second half begins with the ROSHOMON inspired execution focusing on various versions of the murder narrated by different persons. Thankfully just when the viewers are about to feel some kind of impatience, there comes a long finale ‘meeting sequence’ between the two investigative teams, that turns out to be a clear winner (with many hilarious moments) ending the film on an open note that might not appeal to many.
So as the major plus points of the film, you have the shocking display of careless handling of evidence by the UP Police (the first investigating party), the blunt revelation of how the official protocol can even be twisted in CBI influenced by friendly relationships, professional greed or ego problems, an exceptional narrative in technical terms and Irrfan Khan saving the film from becoming a complete documentary without any engaging moments. In short, the four key characters that score the maximum in TALVAR remain of Irrfan Khan, Atul Kumar (the second investigator with the kid), Sohum Shah (the betraying officer) and Prakash Belwadi (the retired head) despite having a few other renowned names in the cast.
As the major downers in this particular department of performances, I found both Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi as wooden characters performing only in a one dimensional state missing the human touch. May be that is the reason they are not able to make any kind of emotional connect with the viewers right till the end. On the other hand, Tabu enacts the most irrelevant and forcibly added character of the film that has nothing to do whatsoever with its basic theme. Here I would also like to mention the strange vision of the art director too, who chooses to show the servant’s room so filthy as if it was situated somewhere on the terrace and not right on the entrance of an otherwise clean and well maintained flat. I frankly found it quite weird both on the part of director and her set designer together.
(*Spoilers from here on)
Moving ahead, I didn’t find TALVAR close to any real or intelligently written film made around two mysterious murders too, basically because it leaves many important aspects of the case simply untouched and ignored as mentioned below.
A. There is no logical justification given to the sudden change of murder weapon and confusion regarding the time of murder, when that has to be the first thing mentioned in the post-mortem report only submitted officially.
B. It’s never revealed that what was exactly the reason behind the second team strongly opposing the theory presented by the first. (And if the director wished to convey that it was only ego issues and professional rivalry and nothing to do with any pressure or corruption within the department itself then I would simply like to salute the vision humbly.)
C. Most importantly, in a highly unusual and bizarre manner, there is not even a single person in the film shown as the corrupt one (asking money from the parents to save them), neither in the Police, CBI or the Govt. officials, as if we are living in some kind of RAM RAJYA where these department are far away from getting involved in such big scandals.
As a matter of fact, even the first police officers reaching the crime-scene (foolishly destroying the evidences) are never shown to be corrupt or taking bribe (because the bribe could be actually given by the wealthy parents only). Instead they are all projected as some silly, untrained officers not knowing how to do their job professionally in a very insulting and superficial manner.
Here addressing the writer/director specifically, I would like to convey that in the real world we are living in, this ugly demon of corruption and mandatory bribes actually becomes the first thing you have to face when it comes to such high profile and rare cases having the reputation of the family on stake. Interestingly the officials in the film do become corrupt for their own promotion & image creation but they never ask any kind of bribe from the accused or suspects ever as if coming from a different world altogether. Now if that is realistic than I am surely living on some other planet full of all contrasting reality.
And in case the writer-director really don’t know how it happens on the ground level, then I would ask them to smell the coffee again……….or on second thoughts I would like to pray that they never get to smell that distasteful coffee ever sitting in a police station.
D. Talking about the evidences, there comes a reference of letters/mails of SORRY written by the daughter to her father repeatedly. But neither the first nor the second team of investigators find it important enough to investigate, what was the SORRY really all about?
E. Also there happen to be some gossiping whispers of the parents practicing WIFE SWAPPING and EXTRA MARITAL AFFAIRS in the case investigations. But again neither the first nor the second team picks it up as a crucial clue. Whereas in real life, this angle would have been lapped up immediately by any first grade detective or investigative officer sensing some deep secrets involved.
Now if you look at the above mentioned points and think again then you would easily come to the conclusion that this was all purposefully done as the makers of TALVAR were never interested in pointing any kind of fingers towards the father or the mother even once, putting a big question mark on the actual purpose of making this particular movie.
In other words, watching the unexpected open climax clearly questioning the court’s verdict boldly, the viewer is bound to feel a major confusion that,
Whether this film was made as a realistic, visual documentation of the contradicting investigations done by the various authorities?
Was this purposefully made to put the ‘convicted parents’ in a favourable light, winning the emotional sympathy of the viewers for some specific motive?
The above statement has been specifically made here because no-where in the film the director is interested in showing the parents as some negative or grey characters, not even in a single sequence. In fact the one scene where they are shown getting prepared to cry artificially finding the girl’s dead body is the visual description of the sarcastic argument given by Irrfan in support of the mother-father only.
Continuing with the same angle, one also clearly gets the justification that why nobody is shown as corrupt or taking bribe in the film at all. That’s because the bribe could only be given by the ‘rich parents’ alone among the entire scenario. And since the director didn’t wish to portray them in any kind of suspicion or negative shades (defying the basic purpose of the film), so there is not even a single reference of bribe, corrupt system or social influence used, taking TALVAR miles and miles away from the actual ground reality.
Adding another strong perspective to the theory, the film is also solely based on the analyses, findings and conclusions of just the investigating officers and never shows any actual TRIALS IN THE COURT since the court proceedings in reality had few significant changes in ‘the given statements’ too raising many serious doubts.
Hence looking at the entire attempt from this particular angle, it seems that neither TALVAR was conceived to win over the common viewers, nor it had any intentions to present an unbiased, balanced view of this rarest of rare case surprising one and all. If truth be told, all the film and its makers seem to be interested in was to question the court’s verdict given against the parents, making a clearly visible effort to evoke sympathy for them among the viewers. And for that purpose, even the title of film was cleverly kept as TALVAR (referred as the Sword of Law), also straight away pointing towards the parents with actual names of Nupur and Rajesh Talwar.
Coming to the conclusion, TALVAR didn’t really work for me since it kept on imposing its own one-sided verdict acting as some kind of judge of a self-appointed court quite forcefully. It didn’t work as it failed to present a balanced view of the case and tried to take sides of the already convicted parents ………. intentionally.
In short you can surely praise the attempt in terms of filmmaking with reference to its frames, background score, music-lyrics, style of narration and cinematography successfully building a superlative aura around its virtual existence. But thinking about the case and its presentation realistically, the film simply crashes down and isn’t able to impress as anything great or real at all.
(In comparison to RAHASYA directed by Manish Gupta)
In comparative terms, though Manish Gupta’s RAHASYA was only loosely inspired or influenced by this famous case, it was a far better film from TALVAR if you take the particular genre of ‘whodunit movies’ in consideration. The crime thriller had got that excitement and suspense factor working perfectly as expected from a murder mystery and it even had Kay Kay Menon giving a superior performance in comparison to Irrfan Khan.
Besides, revealing the inside story behind the film, RAHASYA released in January 2015 got completed long time back but couldn’t reach the theaters as a legal case was filed against it by the parents Nupur and Rajesh Talwar themselves. The case was in court for about 11 months and then it received the green signal by the judge in favour of the director in January itself, giving Manish & his producers only few days to run their publicity campaign.
So now the question arises that if Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had filed a legal complaint against RAHASYA for using their personal case without any written consent, then why didn’t they file a similar court case against TALVAR too which is more specifically made on their real life event only?
Was it because TALVAR is a film made with their mutual consent?
If yes then it’s pretty clear why it isn’t also interested in putting the parents in any bad light too.
Anyway ending on a positive note, do watch TALVAR if you are more keen in noticing the technical nuances of film-making (especially for its last 20 minutes). But do watch RAHASYA as a must as its indeed one of the best murder mysteries coming from Hindi film industry in the recent decades.
Rating : 2.5 / 5
(Note : After watching TALVAR I would like to revise my rating of RAHASYA from 3 to 3.5 admitting my earlier mistake of rating it lower than it truly deserved.)