STORY: Teenager Shruti Tandon and domestic help Khempal are murdered – but who did it? And while the truth unravels, what else gets slashed?
MOVIE REVIEW: Straight away, Talvar is super-sharp, a sword swipe at Bollywood’s song-and-dance, mehendi-fuelled escapism. Inspired by 2008’s Aarushi Talwar double murder case, for which Aarushi’s parents are serving a life-term, Talvar takes reality head on – and turns it on its head.
In neatly separated segments, Talvar presents contrasting views on who killed Shruti Tandon and Khempal. Was it Shruti’s outraged parents? Khempal’s outrageous friends? Or did botched investigations butcher Shruti and Khempal, even after they were slain?
Talvar gets your mind ticking along the murders’ mysteries while it moves your heart at two lives – and one truth – lost.
The acting is superb. Irrfan absolutely smashes it as Central Department of Investigation (CDI) officer Ashwin Kumar, whose sharp intelligence, dark humour and melting tenderness towards his wife Reema (luminous Tabu) light up every frame. Irrfan displays whiplash-like control, casually drawling to a dim-witted cop, “Agli baar koi khoon bhara haath chor jaye, toh dhyan dijiyega…” As bumbling Inspector Dhaniram, whose laziness extends to overlooking a rotting corpse, Gajraj Rao presents a perfect paan-chewing foil, dismissing a blood-stained sheet with, “Tumhari chadar hai, locker mein daal do, hamein kya?”
While the screen crackles between Irrfan and Gajraj, Konkona and Neeraj play the Tandons as a muted pair – whose acting changes subtly as murderers, then victims. Neeraj’s eyes speak while with flashing malevolence, Konkona hisses to her husband, “Chalo, rona shuru karna hai!” The acting’s further enlivened by creepy Kanhaiya (Sumit Gulati), whose slyness adds shades of grey to this hair-raising tale.
With layers of truth and lies, TV reporters shrieking, “Yahi hai woh ghar!”, hazy narco-tests and back-stabbing office politics, Talvar’s frames are relentless, edgy portraits. Pankaj Kumar captures dusty suburbia and the tension of a tight little flat, intercut with heart-rending shots – the cheery sparklers of a Delhi baraat – that emphasise the grimness of the Tandons’ lives. Taut editing (Sreekar Prasad) is excellent while Vishal Bhardwaj’s writing haunts, cluttered with facts, buzzing with theories – yet, strangely stark.
Talvar’s compared to Rashomon but while that wandered through forests of fantasy, Talvar boldly tackles reality. It offers totally different takes on two murders. But it is unambiguous about a third – fairness, slashed to pieces by incompetence and callous crassness.