There is a certain gravity, and even a responsibility that comes with a film that is based on true events. However, such is the burden of such films that often, films can either be as tense and compelling as Greengrass’ United 93, or as irresponsible and reprehensible as RGV’s Attacks of 26/11. And this burden is especially heavy on the writers and makers of the film when the audiences are already in the know about what happened. Thankfully Talvar, written by auteur Vishal Bhardwaj and directed by Meghna Gulzar carries this responsibility with aplomb, and gives us an often discomforting and always-compelling work to boot.
Needless to say Talvar, which releases on Friday, the 2nd of October, is clearly inspired by the 2008 Noida Double-Murder Case (Perhaps, ‘inspired’ is too loose a word to throw around. The clever character-names are proof of that). It follows the immediate days and months succeeding the night of the murder, and the investigation that follows ably led by Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan).
WOOS: As I noted before, the success of a film based on true events is measured by how successfully it keeps its audience hooked to their seats. The audience in this case is very much aware about the case, which is why it is great to see the film succeed on the aforementioned barometer of success. Written sharply by the man behind Maqbool and Omkara, Talvar moves at a brisk, even furious pace as the story moves on from the night of the murder to the investigation that follows. The characters, especially the secondary cast are a real asset to the film and add a genuine feel and flavour to compliment the dry, dark humour that courses through this film’s proceedings (Reminiscent of Bhardwaj’s Kaminey).
Another merit of this film lies in the objectivity of its story and premise (Great editing, by the way). By using the Rashomon Effect to great advantage, Meghna Gulzar’s film does its best to lend its objective credence to all parties involved. In a way, it asks us to be empathetic about these characters, without actually asking us to judge them. In an age of sensationalism and jury trials, this is very heartening to see in mainstream cinema.
The performances are understandably first-rate. Irffan Khan is great as usual, as the no-nonsense, Tetris-playing I.O of the case. The parents, Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi give believable performances too. A shout out once again, for the secondary cast though, right from a bumbling U.P policeman to Ashwin’s immediate senior who has difficulty with Hindi.
MEHS: As objective as Talvar is, sometimes, for no specific fault of the makers, it does come across as being just a hint more sympathetic towards the parents. This, especially when most of the servants and drivers in here are painted broadly. I just wished they had a bit more grey to them.
As luminous as Tabu is, I can’t see why that brief background story on Ashwin was important to make the final cut. True, it adds to the characterization but, with a Tetris-playing I.O played by Irffan Khan at the head, do you really need it? And yes, it doesn’t impede the momentum of the film but, it doesn’t add much either. Perhaps, ten to fifteen minutes off this film wouldn’t have done it any harm.
VERDICT: Bollywood has rarely done justice to legal thrillers. Fortunately, Talvar finds its place besides Shahid and the more recent, Court as one of the best legal thrillers till date. Don’t get me wrong. This film is much beyond a genre. In fact, it is a much better procedural, its screenplay and its aesthetics often mimicking those of Fincher’s classic ‘Zodiac.’ Watch Talvar when it releases this Friday. Not only for its story or its performances, but for the realization that the film industry still has stories to tell us. And, tell them well.
I give it a 3.5/5 and recommend that you watch it.
Author’s Note: Justice is often a tricky fundamental of law to define. Justice for one may not be Justice for another. Which is why, none of us have any right over another to interpret or even dispense justice. Not even the courts, for their role is to interpret the law. The least that can be done however is to make sure that the truth finds its day in court. After all, what idea is closer to justice, than the idea of truth? The Noida Double-Murder Case, whoever its perpetrators may be, is an indictment of not only the miscarriage of justice but, also a scathing indictment of the local police and its investigation procedures. “This was a case that should have been closed within the first few days,” Irrfan Khan’s character says to another. I doubt any of us will dispute the cruel truth in that.