Right off, Talvar is the kind of raw gritty uncompromising cinema that you want to send to the Oscars next year from now only.
You never know.
That is not to say it is freed of flaws. Talvar, in hindsight, is just the kind of cinema that we all love to love, and praise. It generates an enormous empathy for the parents of that poor
slain child Arushi Talwar, though for reasons best known to the the film's team, the murder victim's name and the identity of all the primary characters has been altered just enough so that we
Also, there isn't enough of the couple in the film. As the Talwars, Konkona Sen and Neeraj Kabi offer us a vivid insight into the parents' trauma. But finally we know very little of what they feel
beyond the obvious grief.
Talvar is a film that prides itself on research and detailing. And yet if you have a maidservant with plucked eyebrows and in a chicly cut blouse opening a film that purports to tell you the
truth about the Arushi Talvar murder case, you are bound to sniff something suspicious in the air.
In her pre-release interviews, director Meghna Gulzar claimed Talvar was not a film exonerating the murdered girl's parents.
This is film is pointedly designed to pitch the innocence of the Talwars, now languishing in jail for a crime that many, for the want of a better word, referred to as 'honour killing'. In graphic
sometimes, cruelly ironic detail the film wags its sensitive fingers at the law machinery that apparently botched up the case. Everyone connected with the case barring the outgoing CBI investigator
Ashvin Kumar, wanted to pin the blame on the parents. Just why there was so much anxiety in the official circles to make the parents seem culpable is none of the film's concern.
Answers are hard to find in the complex of web of lies, deceptions, conspiracies and vendetta that navigate Meghna's narrative.
In the absence of a motive to pin a motive for the murder on the parents, Talvar seems to be mocking those who went out of their way to see Arushi's parents in jail. (For those came in late,
the Talwars are currently in jail for murdering their only daughter). The laughter at the theory suggesting how and why the Talwars killed Arushi can almost be heard in the film's background score.
Meghna Gulzar holds herself back from laughing out loud at the law enforcers. But the way the initial investigation of the murder is shown to be carried out, you can see the plot mocking the cops
in parodic pleasure. One of them is a pot-bellied pan-chewing cellphone-challenged lout straight out of a 'c' grade crime thriller.
The hero of the show is the CBI, disguised as 'CDI' officer Ashvin Kumar who while questioning the various dramatic personae in the case, likes to keep playing video games. It's an interesting
embellishment designed to create a contrast between the routine world that continues with its trashy preoccupations in the face of individual tragedy. (I am presuming it's an embellishment,
because, we've no way of telling the fact from fiction in this film and if the director and screenwriter Vishal Bhardawaj claim it's all true then we have to take their word for it).
Irrfan's character holds the nebulous strands of Meghna Gulzar's ambivalent investigative narration together. He is in fine form again, especially in the pre-finale where he crosses talvars with
his hostile colleagues in the CB...sorry DI. Soham Shah is excellent as Irrfan's turn-coat associate. And Tabu with her clenched jaws shows up as his unhappy wife only so that Meghna can pay tribute
her father's film Ijaazat.
The centrality of the murder investigation is challenged by Vishal Bharadwaj's multi-optional script. He tells us that the parents could be guilty only if judged by the grotesque investigation
conducted initially by the bumbling cops who declare it's an open and shut case. The plot's sympathies are clearly with the parents who are seen as victims of a media circus fuelled by rumours
gossip and speculation.
However, ambivalence is not a luxury but a necessity in a film examining a real-life case waiting closure. To compare the film's format with Akira Kurosawa's Roshomon is a tad illogical.
Here, the multiplicity of open endings is hardly balanced out into a reasonable gallery of options. The explanation that seems to appeal most to the screenplay is the one that left the law-
enforcing agencies most unconvinced.
To be honest, the tragedy is too enormous to be analyzed in black and white terms. This cinematic adaptation attempts to remain non-judgemental but ends up delivering sharp knocks on the collective
knuckles of the law enforcers who put the Talwars in jail after they lost their only child.
As far as unsolved whodunits go, Talvar delivers a sharply-aimed blow at conventional readings of the real-life crime. Sreekar Prasad's razor-sharp editing brings the colliding perspectives
on the murder into one solidly aligned range of vision. As Meghna Gulzar stares non-judgmentally at the wrecked lives of a well-to-do Delhi couple, we get a glimpse into the terrifying emptiness at
the centre of the human soul.
It's a place we seldom peer into. We have thank Talvar for taking us there.