It was a day before that I stumbled upon this Youtube thumbnail. It stood out as I opened the app, beaming at me, perhaps waiting for my fingers, hoping to swing itself to play. That’s what I love about Youtube and its uncanny algorithm, it seems to know exactly what I yearn to watch and every time it promptly pushes a content vying for my attention; it reads me like an open book.
The thumbnail belonged to a movie review channel that I always banked on, since the host of this show had a matter-of-fact, straightforward and simple approach in his presentation. He never ventured to over-stylise his narrative, and once past the customary “please subscribe” request, he usually meant business. And here was his thumbnail, which besides holding his smiling picture and the name of the movie, had ‘Finest Investigative Thriller’ written in bold. That got me hooked. If he recommends it, chances are good that it’s worth spending your two hours on. Besides, I always loved investigative movies, well who doesn’t?
I believe it’s in movies like these where an opportunity seeks me, letting me adorn myself with my thinking cap, imagine myself to be a Sherlock Holmes sitting beside a fire and unravel the mysteries with my made-up friend Watson. I took pride in solving the crime before the climax unfolded it eventually and picking up on the logic loop holes that the director’s keen eyes missed. It did not take much time before I found the streaming platform that played this movie for free and I jumped on to my bed with my iPad and headphones.
The movie am talking about is called Talwar(Means ‘sword’ in Hindi). It’s a Bollywood (Hindi) movie that came out in 2015.
For those of you who think Indian movies mean Bollywood (Hindi movies), it really isn’t. India has officially 22 languages and while not every one of these languages possess a regional film industry of their own, a good number of them have. I come from the southern part of India where Hindi is not intuitively understood, and I only watched the Bollywood films that really made a lot of noise. It was apparent how Talwar had slipped under my radar. It came out 5 years ago, It was not quite a blockbuster that set the cash registers ringing and apart from Irfan Khan and Tabu, didn’t possess a stellar cast.
(Spoilers from here, but since most people on Medium are from the West, I don’t think you will watch Talwar anyway)
The movie wasted no time in getting into the thick of the plot. A 14-year-old girl is murdered in her bedroom while her parents (both doctors) were sleeping in the adjacent room. Someone had slit her throat. The 50-year-old servant, who lived in a small partition in the same apartment, was missing. So as the cops came in the morning, the circumstantial evidences were all suggestive of a theory where the servant had killed her and fled. But minutes later, it was revealed, much to the shock of everyone, that the servant was in fact lying in a pool of blood on the terrace. His death too, from a cut on his neck, similar to the girl’s fatal injury. So, in a house of 4 members, two were killed and the other two had apparently no idea of it.
The Police arrives but impresses no one with their shoddy investigation bereft of any seriousness. They inadvertently let the crime scene contaminated as people move in and out of the scene with freedom that you normally see in a fish market. The media could have held newshour debates on the crime scene. It was that bad and open to anyone! Further aggravating the plight, they didn’t get the forensics in time to gather all the scientific evidences available and remained insensitive towards the parents who were still mourning.
Their investigation,(if you could call it so)mainly with the help of an assistant of the girl’s father, helped them reach a conclusion: The father of the girl found his daughter in a compromising position with the servant and immediately killed them both in rage. It was an honour killing. He and his wife then carried the corpse of the servant to the terrace.
This pathetic version of the police did not amuse anyone, and the case was soon referred to CDI (the movie version of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), a premier investigative agency under the Central Government of India).
Enter CDI officer Ashwin (played by Irfan Khan). Ashwin soon realises that the case would have been a cake walk had the police been a little more alert in the first phase of the investigation. The DNA samples, blood stains, other crucial clues were all gone now, and even a palm print soaked in blood found on the wall of the terrace was washed off by rain. This print, in all probability might have belonged to the killer, but besides noting it in the First Information Report, it was not examined by the Forensics. What a miss! The CDI had nothing much to rely on.
Ashwin verified the claim of parents that they could hear no sound from outside as the air conditioner in the room made a lot of noise to drown anything. Further, on interrogating the first investigative officer, Ashwin understood that the Police’s tale was largely buoyed by the details furnished by the assistant of the dead girl’s father.
From the father engaging in wife-swapping with others, to the servant nursing a romantic interest on the girl, this assistant had presented several colourful stories that caught the police officer’s imagination. Ashwin smelled a foul play from the part of the assistant. He ordered a search in the assistant’s house and recovered a sharp big knife and a pillow cover with blood. On forensic analysis, it was confirmed that it was the dead servant’s blood. The assistant is then made to undergo a narco-analysis ,and he spells out the truth one by one in his half-awake state.
On the day where the tragedy occurred, this guy, along with another friend(let’s call him friend) and the servant of the house, were drinking alcohol in the apartment, while everyone else were asleep. The assistant, during the narco test, made it crystal clear that the servant considered the girl like her own daughter, held no romantic feelings for her and it was this friend of his who pursued a sexual interest towards the girl.
When the alcohol bottle ran out, the assistant insisted that the servant should grab a bottle his master had kept for his personal use. They all sneaked out into the main area of the apartment, found the door of the girl’s bedroom open, and the friend and the assistant rushed to do the nasty. The servant tried to stop them, but he couldn’t. The assistant and the friend killed them both. One in the bedroom and the other on the terrace.
After getting this statement from him, Ashwin puts the friend of the assistant, mentioned in his admission, for another narco-test. He too, like the assistant under the medication, substantiated the incidents earlier narrated by the assistant. That’s two people presenting a similar story under the influence of medicines. Enough evidence to prosecute? Just one problem. The Indian court doesn’t take narco analysis result as a solid evidence. But then what about the knife recovered from the assistant’s residence and the blood stains on the pillow cover? Will that do?
It would have sufficed, but the forensics did a stark U turn on the matter when they revealed that they made a typographical error while marking the samples. The pillow cover which they admitted having the servant’s blood was not the ones recovered from the assistant’s room, but it came from the servant’s room. Samples were all sent in bundles and got mixed up.
At this juncture,Ashwin quarrels with his superior and gets ousted from the team. In fact, he resigns from his job. Another CDI officer takes charge, and his version of the crime dials the clock back to the original version of the Police. With scanty evidence, he seemed determined to pin the charges on the parents of the girl. He reintroduces the servant-girl love affair tale, which was in cold storage for months.
While watching the movie up to this point, I had no idea where it was going. It was not what I had expected. I paused the movie and saw that there were twenty minutes to go and wondered what surprise it held to throw at me in the next few minutes. I had a firm belief that the director was going to pull out some O Henry twist in the last moment. I kept guessing.
In the movie’s climax, the Home department summoned both the CDI investigative officers ( Ashwin and the guy who took charge after him) for a meeting. They sat around a desk and were asked to challenge each other’s version of the crime. Ashwin’s questions toward’s the second team carried more sense and punch. The new version of CDI which strived to prove that the father killed both in the bedroom with a golf stick, failed to account for one key anomaly. The absence of even a single drop of the blood of the servant in the bedroom.
According to the second CDI team, the killing was propelled by a sudden rage. It was a spur-of-the-moment reaction. Both were killed inside the bedroom. Yet there was no trace of servant’s blood in the room! The officer explained this bizarre loop hole with an idiotic idea- that the servant’s blood was cleaned by the parents. But that made no sense since nobody could make out the blood of each individual. It’s all red! How is it possible to clean the blood of servant alone?
The head of the Home department asked the CDI officer if he had enough evidence to prosecute the parents. He said he doesn’t and that they should file for a closure of the case. But the court had rejected the request for closure and asked them to go for the trial. Guess what, during the trial, the parents couldn’t prove their innocence and they went to jail!
On watching the scene where they went to jail and knowing there is not enough time in the movie for a turn around, I literally threw my iPad away and wondered what the hell that was. How could my reviewer call it a fine investigation story? What was the brilliance in it! It was an abject torture. The story was just aimless. I felt dejected. Justice was not served. I felt cheated..
It was then that I remembered one of my favourite investigative movies, which ended without finding the culprit.
Now Zodiac was a real story, could this one also be a real story?
A google search revealed that the movie was in fact based on a real incident occurred in Noida in 2008. The parents of the girl spent years in jail! I couldn’t believe what I read. I sat up and ran through several news pieces and analysis of different individuals, literally everyone of them substantiated the idea that the parents were innocent. I discovered some real life Sherlocks in those materials who had some clinching observations and analysis, much better than what the Police and CDI had done. There was no way the parents could end up in jail, and yet they are. Our judiciary stresses on the importance of not punishing an innocent even If thousand culprits escapes the law, and yet…
So what really happened there? With all the evidences supporting the parents, how could they possibly bring this upon themselves. Now are they really the culprits? Am I overlooking something? I couldn’t sleep. I had rushed to watch the movie after seeing the thumbnail. I didn’t even watch the review as I wanted absolutely no spoilers. Perhaps I should have watched it before I watched the movie… It’s been hours since I watched the movie and the air of discomfort is still around. I have promised myself not to google the details of this case anymore and accentuate my depression.
A girl and an old man was killed. I feel the culprits are still out there while her parents remained behind closed bars for many years(They were released in 2017)