Based on the controversial 2008 Noida double murder case, Guilty is a Rashomon-style retelling of the fictionalised case. Slick, well-scripted and surprisingly humorous at times, it is possibly one of the better crime dramas of the year.
One morning, doctors Remesh and Nutan find their fourteen-year-old daughter Shruti dead in her bed. Initially, the murder is pinned on the family’s Nepalese servant and the bumbling police department do nothing to preserve the crime scene or collect evidence. Then, the servant’s body is found on the roof, killed in the same manner as Shruti. The audience is treated to several retellings and re-examinations of the crime, first with the parents as the murderers, as posited by the hastily backtracking police department and second investigator Paul, and then with two other servants, as posited by investigator Ashwin (Irrfan Khan) Quickly, the case becomes a media sensation.
The film has the feel of a true docudrama, gritty, well-researched and well-acted but surprisingly non-exploitative for every time it seems the case has become more of a pissing contest between the two factions the audience’s attention is drawn back to the fact that a young girl lost her life. It also serves as a damning and true criticism of the Indian justice system, from their questionable police methods to great impact the media play, to the classism entrenched so firmly in Indian society.
Though it is clear the filmmaker’s sympathies lie with the parents, giving the film a slightly lopsided feel, the parents’ case is shown from all sides, but there is very little in the way of “against” for the servants. Because of these sympathies Iffran Khan’s character (who rather steals the show with his performance as the sunglasses-wearing, phone obsessed Ashwin) gets the most screentime leaving Paul to be introduced rather hurriedly in the film’s final half hour.
Slight pacing issues aside, Guilty is a Bollywood triumph. With a haunting and achingly beautiful soundtrack and such a gripping and compelling story director, Meghna Gulzar have outdone themselves.
Talvar (Guilty) does not yet have a UK release date.
Watch the trailer for Talvar (Guilty) here: