It’s known as the Noida Double Murder Case. And it’s easily one of the most talked about murder case in recent history. More so, because it happened in a middle class locality in Noida, a city adjoining to India’s capital.
Shazia Iqbal saw the film Talvar, which is based on the same case, and writes about the big picture that concerns all of us as a society, and as part of the system. And why a filmmaker’s bias is completely fine.
23rd May 2008.
‘Its starting now. Quick, come here’, my mother loudly screamed as soon as the press conference was about to start.
The Delhi police was making the big announcement of the perpetrators in the Noida double murder case in which the 14 year old Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj, the house help were brutally murdered a week ago. I almost didn’t hear my mother because of the noises ringing in my ears since two days. That morning when I left home for a meeting, the police van and the media outside the building opposite to mine seemed like the crime scene outside the Talwar society.
A day ago, Maria Susairaj, an aspiring actress had confessed to Malad Police that her fiancé, Emile Jerome had killed Neeraj Grover, a TV executive in a fit of rage when Jerome found Grover in Maria’s bed. Susairaj stayed in the building opposite to my house. On the night of May 7th, and the morning after, I had a party in my house and I was awake the whole night. After Susairaj’s confession and the gory details of cutting the body into 200 pieces and dressing up the crime scene, that story played in my head enough number of times to make me believe that I was there in that house that night and it all happened in front of me, and that I was a dumb mute spectator.
Neeraj Grover was close to the industry I worked in and we had common friends. His face haunted me, I hadn’t slept for a minute for over 48 hours. With all the drama that was happening outside the building, I didn’t want to step out. The media called the Neeraj Grover murder case as the face of changing India, the young India where relationships are fragile, infidelity is part of commitment and casual sex is no more a ‘man’ thing.
A week before this, the Noida double murder case made headlines as the murder involved a young teenage girl from an affluent family and an older servant who worked in the house. This did not happen 200 meters away from my house but the media made sure that it was very much part of my life. Everyone was talking about the murder and that press conference seemed like the episode from a popular TV soap in which the whole country freaked out when the main protagonist dies. Aarushi’s murder was presented like a high TRP whodunit thriller. Everyone wanted to know who killed her.
I went to the living room where my parents and sister were waiting for the press conference to start on the TV. IGP Gurdarshan Singh began the conference by calling Aarushi as Shruti.
‘How will he solve the murder, if he doesn’t even know the name of the kid’ my mother mused. And once wasn’t enough – Singh kept calling Aarushi as Shruti throughout the conference.
But that wasn’t the only eyebrow raising behaviour from him and his department. They claimed Rajesh Talwar killed his daughter in order to save his ‘honour’, gave details of Talwar’s extra marital affair, their involvement in wife swapping and the deplorable character assassination of a child who was murdered.
“Rubbish”, my father responded shocked, “They can’t find the killer and are making up these implausible stories. He is her father!” He couldn’t believe what was happening. Fathers don’t kill their children because of their affairs, he said. He was afraid this revelation could make every girl distrust her father. A silent tear rolled as I went back to my room.
None of what the IGP said made any sense. Last night when I watched Meghna Gulzar’s movie Talvar based on the case, I was glad it resonated with what I thought during that press conference. I just wanted to know the parents didn’t kill her. I wanted to know this young new ruthless India of frivolous relationships that people keep bringing up with every sensational murder case, is a farce. But, apparently, that India is very much prevalent and so is the antiquated patriarchal India where a police officer blames the Internet for ruining the cultural fabric of the country and 14 year olds having a boyfriend and ‘Sleep’-overs.
Lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh became the face of this primitive regressive patriarchal India after the Brit docu India’s Daughter was released by BBC. It featured a man who believes he would gladly burn his daughter if she has premarital sex – how would he react to a society where girls tell their fathers about their boyfriends? People who believe that honor killing is right, they also assume that the society also harbors such beliefs. And the effort that the government took in banning India’s Daughter is not as half as much as the combined effort of the local police, the assigned CBI team and the courts took to convict the Talwars.
So what happens when such men raised with such regressive values try to understand a culture belonging to the modern upper class allegedly corrupted by the internet? Talvar.
What more can you say about a murder case where every minute detail has been public for 7 years now. Talvar, written by Vishal Bhardwaj and directed by Meghna Gulzar presents us those details and engages us, without any melodrama or manipulation, mildly tilting in the favour of Talwars. Of course some might use the latter point to brand the film as being biased. I’d like them to know that a film is a writer/ filmmaker’s point of view/opinion on what disturbs them long enough to get up and say something. And that’s why Talvar happened. And I am glad it did.
What can this movie talk about about that you haven’t already read in the papers, news, from the police, CBI officers, from your parents, next-door uncles? ‘Human reaction’, for one. In the last 20 minutes of the film, in a round table sequence that is a master class in writing, the CBI officer who acquitted the Talwars says no two humans can have a pre-conceived reaction to an incident, specially a ghastly cold blooded murder of their only child. The side that files the charge sheet against the parents questions their unemotional façade post the murder and during the trial. Nupur Talwar appeared on a TV show and didn’t cry while talking about her daughter’s death. What kind of a mother is she? In a society with history of rudaalis, where being loud is part of our culture, melodrama is not just for the TV sets but an inherent way to express our emotions specially when it comes to matter of death, how can a mother not cry? Everyone questioned. Every logical person went against the Talwars with this one question.
‘She looks numb. Seeing your kid’s dead body can do that’, said my mother. It takes empathy and humanity to realize that. No other human can reason or understand inner doings of another’s mind. So how can human reaction be even discussed as a generic emotional response?
Watching a dark and disturbing story can be difficult but watching a dark and disturbing story based on real people’s lives can be very painful, especially with the way most of us are attached to Aarushi’s case. Bhardwaj, however, with his straight-faced dry wit makes it easier for you to watch Talvar.
That way Talvar is more than a movie. It is an important film, about the sword of justice that claimed not two but four lives. One of the slain was a child accused of being involved with a man thrice her age. The men who publicly assassinated her character are the ones who are responsible for the law and judiciary in this country. This movie needs to be seen. For Aarushi. To open our eyes and discover a system that failed a child. And as the movie says, it’s up to you to decide what the truth is.
– Shazia Iqbal
(To read previous posts by the same author, click here)
(Disclaimer – One of our editors is closely associated with ‘Talvar’)