Monday, October 19, 2015

Talvar: Where does humour end and perversity begin?

By Karan Rajpal

Editor's note: There are no spoilers in this post if you know the basic tenets of the Aarushi murder case, which the film Talvar fictionalised.

Talvar is perhaps one of the finest Hindi films ever made. That proclamation is bold, outsized and prone to challenge by every one of this blog's readers.

But, as folks who appreciate good humour, it is important to examine this film. About the saddest incident that could ever occur, the film leavens discussions of the most macabre scenarios, without poking fun at them, and still makes you laugh, often without preamble, or the usual set-up of a joke.

Sardonic, satirical, slapstick, black- all these 'brands' of humor are appreciated - as we enjoy 90s Govinda's films to Kapil Sharma, to the masterpieces of world cinema. But Talvar, in its many scenes, makes you examine yourself later. 

I laughed, along with the audience, but was horrified at myself, my moral fibre strumming comedic notes, while it should have been wailing, howling notes of deep helplessness, outrage and despair - a little girl was murdered, possibly abused. And here are these idiots sitting around making a hash of the investigation over and over again. Hmm, let's examine this:

The masterpiece in the film is an 'across the table' examination of the case's facts by two opposing factions of the CBI, both antagonised with each other - but importantly, one searching for the truth, while the other fumbling to shoehorn the solution. You know whose side you're on. Who you want to cheer to the finish line. With that set, you expect the villain to fumble, the hero to show how wrong he is, and for you to witness the 'pyrrhic' victory (I promise I have now closed the Thesaurus). 

Now, with the stakes out, and both teams trading blows, Vishal Bhardwaj stages and Meghna Gulzar projects, perhaps, the best/worst comedy scenes of all times. I can put what happens into words, but that'll rob you of the experience I've so far explained. This is what you're shown - two sets of people trading barbs, and softening their blows with humour. There are senior government officers present, so they can't just say 'Tu saala ch**** hai' or shout 'ye galat hai, tum galat ho'. The film so far has constructed a realised space, one that not just reflects reality, by this deep into the film, it is reality.

They must tread with caution, this team of retired head of CBI and an officer who took an early retirement, to guide the numbnuts on the other side to understand the Jupiter-sized holes in their investigations. They do so, and then the writer gives the numbnuts a variety of language transitions - the main numbnut, while describing the Missionary position, calls it the Dharm Pradarshak Aasan. Just as you start scratching your head, the hero(es) do too. Then, as realisation dawns, you guffaw, hard and without pause - giving nary a moment to the thought that the term itself is used in context of a theory which describes a 14-year old girl in the missionary position with her 60 year old servant, the most reviling situation ever if there can be one. Your wife tries to shut you down, and you kind of, do. 

In the next moment, the numbnuts come up with another theory so bizarre, you have to laugh at their astounding stupidity again. This time, before you can open your mouth and flex your jaw, your wife, considerate so far, breaks into giggles herself. So now, you are not only examining your morality, you have a possible psychopath with you for the rest of the evening, and the rest of your life. 

The scene goes on for a good twenty minutes, but peels, boils, braises and, in general, cooks food for thought of the highest quality, you can chew on for the rest of your life. Talvar isn't a film, it is an examination of the human condition, if you give it that chance. It is still in theatres, so go and laugh - I want to stop feeling horrible about myself.

Karan Rajpal is a marketing professional with deep love for cinema and the written word. He writes brand stories by the day and dreams about Bryan Cranston and Christoph Waltz doing a film together by night. He tweets at @ironymeter and writes at

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