Some Ramblings - Talvar (2015) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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It wasn't the actual murder that was the shocking part. People had been killed a lot many times for far more flimsy reasons. It was the response to the murder that was the infuriating issue, more when it came from the most reputed investigative agencies of the country. Everything around the fact finding exercise reeked of negligence, gross oversight, incompetence and willful dereliction of established protocols. And then started the blame game and finger pointing - this department by the other, this person at the other. Crazy theories started floating around in the absence of a clear motive. Illicit affairs, sexual misconduct, personal vendettas, all had their day in the sun and yet the real truth remained just as elusive. Years later, when one looks back at the botched investigation and rues at all the wrong turns, missed chances and lost opportunities, it becomes quite clear that this was one of those cases where the killer could be caught in the first couple of days or never at all. And this is the President of United States in question here. Even to this day, enthusiasts (crime and investigative) gather at Dallas on the day of the murder of JFK (22nd Nov '63) and pour over the evidence, data, reports, transcripts and statements all over again in the hope of catching a break in what is probably the complex, conspiratorial and convoluted murder mysteries of all time. The most powerful man in the world shot down like a street dog and the most reputed investigative organizations in the world (CIA, FBI, US Military intelligence, not to mention, other foreign intelligence and investigative agencies lending a helping hand) with the best of the thinking caps the nursery rhyme goes, all the king's men and all his horses couldn't put Humpty together again. Could that serve as a consolatory pat on the back here, that if the CIA and FBI put together couldn't crack the President's murder, what chance had the U.P. Police and CBI had in solving the Talwar double murder case? Probably, as the movie notes, sometimes justice is indeed blind and that sword in her hand truly rusted.

'Talvar' is a faithful (and a very frustrating) reconstruction of the real life Talwar murder mystery. As the movie keeps repeating, there were 4 people in the house the night before, and 2 alive and 2 dead the morning after, and all the locks and doors show no signs of any forced entry. There were a handful of other household staff who could potentially be the persons of interest. This was not a random, house break-in murder case. Everything about it was right in front of the eyes, and all that the sleuths had to do was put the pieces together. The plotting of the movie follows the investigation reports quite religiously, without any exaggeration or obfuscation of facts. And there in lies the nastiest rub. 'How could they', 'How could they not', 'Why would they', 'Can't they just' - these questions keep popping up in every other scene as the movie hurtles towards its tragic end. Though the presentation of the movie in a faux-documentary style helps keep its objective standpoint, there seems to be an implicit tilt and subtle bias towards the Talwars for being unjustly implicated, wrongly convicted and unbelievably sentenced (for life) in what should routinely have been an obvious mistrial. The movie doesn't just stop at pointing the fingers at the helper staff for the murders, but opens up the playing field to include the bureaucratic tug of wars, the inter-departmental rivalries and even personal incompatibilities at the highest levels to show how a case could slip through the cracks of misconceptions, miscommunications and misdirections to forcefully turn away from the obvious and stare right in the face of the oblivious. Like the final courtroom scene in 'JFK', 'Talvar' has a similar powerful, poignant and yet tragically funny recap of the entire investigation, when rival teams face each other and trade barbs, poking holes at each others' theories, all the while, coming no closer to the actual truth than when they started. This one climax scene is an exercise of masterful writing. All the participants are passionately dispassionate, detachedly attached and coldly emotional. At the end of it all, they all laugh it off and agree to close down the case for want of evidence or motive. Now that is some serious professionalism, if not during the investigation, at least while introspection.

A snapshot of the vehicular traffic at a busy intersection is quite symbolic of everyday life in the country. There are rules, yet no one obeys them, everyone tries to get ahead, almost always, at the expense of the other, and the margin of error is near infinitesimal. Most of the times, for no reason other than dumb luck of the stars, everyone gets their way and moves about miraculously. And in that (inevitable) unfortunate moment of fatality, the traffic stops around with a morbid interest and in the next instant, chaos resumes its normal operations. Life in India survives amid course corrections, and 'Talvar' is one such course correction in the life of an investigative agency.




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