Director: Meghna Gulzar Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi, Tabu, Sohum Shah, Atul Kumar, Gajraj Rao By Saibal Chatterjee
It is nearly two years since the parents of Aarushi Talwar were convicted for her murder, but many facets of the sensational case still remain trapped in the realms of wild conjecture. Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar sets out to put those unanswered questions back in the public domain. It does a very good job of it. To begin with, the director, making a comeback after a long hiatus, does not baulk at the sensitive nature of the subject. She treats the complex themes inherent in the tale with mellow confidence and an unwavering sense of balance. Talvar delves into the unresolved issues pertaining to the 2008 Noida double murder case in the light of details drawn from research and the court proceedings. Working with a marvellous screenplay by the film’s co-producer and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj, the director delivers a low-key but hugely effective drama that works at several levels. Talvar is an impressive achievement as much for its consistent restraint as for the riveting quality of the narrative. The film is much more than just a tale of a real-life murder most foul. With deft and insightful touches, the director etches out a social portrait aimed at articulating truths about the kind of society we live in. The film turns the spotlight both on the circumstances surrounding the actual crime as well as on the three separate investigations that were conducted in the case. Talvar goes well beyond the scope of a crime drama to proffer a sharp examination of the many divides and prejudices that define a rapidly changing urban India. The gallery of characters is made up primarily of the parents (Neeraj Kabi and Konkona Sensharma), the principal investigating officer (Irrfan Khan), his assistant (Sohum Shah) and a bunch of incompetent, insensitive Noida policemen. The clash of cultures is most stark in the exchanges between the accused and the Uttar Pradesh policemen entrusted with the initial crime scene investigation. The Tandons that is the name given in the film to the Talwars are an upper-crust family exposed to social mores that the cops can barely grasp, let alone sympathise with. Talvar the title refers to the rarely used and rusting sword in the right hand of the Lady of Justice also places the electronic media in the dock for its unseemly overreach in its reportage of the double murder. The film probes the internal dynamics of India’s premier investigation agency in keeping with other alterations of names, it referred to as Central Department of Investigation (CDI) here and the wild rumour mongering that was fanned by sleaze-obsessed journalists. Talvar is served fantastically well by its entire cast, and not just the principal actors. Irrfan is on the top of his game, as are Neeraj Kabi and Konkona Sensharma. In a brief appearance as the investigating officer’s estranged wife, Tabu makes a deep impression. Gajraj Rao, in the guise of the uncouth, paan-chewing inspector who takes next to no time to declare the murder an open and shut case, and English-language theatre pro Atul Kumar, playing the pure Hindi-speaking officer, are superb. Verdict: Talvar is a compelling piece of cinema. Not to be missed.