Talvar

Talvar-Poster

Talvar
Release date: October 2, 2015
Directed by: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sensharma, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Shishir Sharma, Prakash Belawadi, Gajraj Rao, Tabu, Atul Kumar, Sumit Gulati

In the summer of 2008, a juggernaut hit the Indian TV waves. It was the Indian Premier League (IPL) and as one of the many theories suggested, the domestic helps in the Arushi-Hemraj double murders were bonding over a cricket match, on the night the mysterious killings took place. There was another theory which suggested that Arushi wanted to get back at her parents for something real bad. All of these theories, some debunked, some not, were polar opposites of the other.

The selection of the right theory is perhaps the part where a case is said to be solved. That selection is corroborated with some testimonies, and/or material evidence. Some cases are “easy” to crack, either by force or by a criminal confession. When proven right, the entire process is a treat to watch at the cinema halls and a great read in the papers. When the investigation goes awry, it’s a disturbing fact to consume that someone innocent could be punished for someone else’s transgressions, or “justice will be denied” forever.

Names of the characters are tweaked by a letter or two, and Talvar takes an outsider view at the whole murder mystery. There are several vantage points, and none from the inside. There’s the Kanhaiya (Krishna in the actual story, played by Sumit Gulati) angle, then there’s the local police’s bumbling perspective, ‘CDI’ investigator Ashwin Kumar (Arun Kumar from CBI, enacted by Irrfan Khan) piecing together the puzzle with his own story, and the chaste Hindi speaking CDI officer Paul (Atul Kumar).

Every perspective plays out in Rashomon fashion, always adding layers to what’s known to the world. Every time the story is retold, the order of events is changed, the agenda is changed, and even the killer. The film does take a stand, after making its point in an eight minute long debate between the two separate teams of investigators; both of them biased towards their own findings and prejudiced towards the other’s methods and observations. The stellar performances of all the cast members keep the proceedings engaging, even with the grim content at hand.

The state of affairs is only alleviated, with Vishal Bharadwaj at the helm of the writing department. In the midst of horrid allegations and depictions, there are sardonic lines from our lives that lighten the tone of events. Gajraj Rao, Sumit Gulati and Atul Kumar are vital bit players that hold the film well with their respective performances. Khan is at the center of the film, not just in terms of current star power, but also in terms of his character’s positioning. He’s shown to be the beacon of light, no matter how realistically fallible.

Ship of Theseus actors Neeraj Kabi as Ramesh and Sohum Shah as Ashwin Kumar’s junior have their hands full and they deliver well. Konkona Sensharma blends in with every shade that is given to her character, in the way of different ‘flashbacks’.

Talvar reiterates symbolically, that solving crime is just another job for some. At the same time, it’s a job with an inevitable but disallowed margin of error. How an actual murder mystery unveils in ‘real life’. Definitely not like an episode from Sherlock. 

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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