REEL AND REAL LIFE #RASHOMONS

THE RECENTLY RELEASED FILM #”TALVAR” is doing well at the box office. By all accounts it whets our natural appetite for enjoying a scandal non-stop for over two hours.  We are all voyeurs anyway.  The essence of film entertainment is nothing but vicarious enjoyment and there should be no guilt attached to it.

THERE ARE A FEW THINGS HOWEVER THAT #”TALVAR “ draws our attention to.  Firstly, it is based on a crime that actually occurred and where the final verdict has yet to be pronounced : the appeal of the real life Talwars, currently languishing in jail, has yet to be heard and disposed of.  Will the film #”Talvar” have any influence on the verdict ? Your guess is as good as mine.  In essence, what we have are alternative, self-serving, and contradictory versions of the same incident.  Every scandal that breaks out carries with it these possibilities. We can set aside the meaningless debates about “the subjectivity of truth” or “the uncertainty of factual accuracy” because, whether we like it or not, facts are sacred – only their interpretations are free and herein lies the gold mine for lawyers battling the justice system on behalf of their clients whom they represent.

WHEN A CRIME OCCURS, IT IS THE OBLIGATION of the State to bring the guilty to book. But in India, by and large, from day one, and in particular if the persons involved are high profile,  there are huge lapses in investigation leaving the field open to the guilty to construct a #Rashomon like spectacle. In the real life #Aarushi #Talwar case, I kept asking myself this question : who amongst the suspects had the financial muscle (beside the motive) to tamper with evidence or influence the investigation ?  The police or the investigating agency would ordinarily have no axe to grind in any crime because the real life process of investigation is a boring routine of ticking all the boxes and following  all leads. Coming to think of it, we would have actually had no #Talvar if the investigation of the #Aarushi#Talwar case was done honestly and without any undue influence.

THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT #TALVAR is that it is co-produced by the owner of India’s largest newspaper group. The TRPs of the group’s channel Times Now is said to have reached dizzy heights in the wake of the #Sheena#Bora murder investigation where the #Rashomon effect is in full play. (The makers of #Talvar have acknowledged their debt to Akira Kurosawa’s  celebrated film #Rashomon where the viewer is dazzled by several interpretations of the murder of a samurai – we have a wife’s story, the bandit’s story, the woodcutter’s story and even the dead samurai’s story speaking through a medium!). For the first time, Times of Indiadid something unusual and questionable for #Talvar’s  publicity : it splashed across the pages of its Bombay Times supplement audience reactions (largely those of late #Arushi#Talwar’s friends, classmates, neighbours and acquaintances) that only contributed to additional theories surrounding the crime.  Was it then a trial by media, after all ?

SELF-INTEREST IS AT THE CORE OF EVERYTHING that we do and believe in. Our own self-interest – without our realising it – is what others take advantage of. Truth then becomes the biggest casualty. Kurosawa’s #Rashomon will not just remain a cult film as long as films are made: we will continue to have real life Rashomons as long as our investigating agencies allow themselves to be influenced by the players in crime: be it, for example,  the #Godhra incident or poor #Akhlaq’s death in Dadri.  Filmmakers need to be good spin doctors for effective entertainment : #Meghna Gulzaar and #Vishal Bharadwaj  acquitted themselves very creditably in #Talvar But  Akira Kurosawa must be spinning with envy at the interpretations unleashed  to the country at large by our own Culture Minister #Mahesh #Sharma and his party ideologue #Tarun Vijay on the unfortunate and shameful #Dadri incident.

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