New Delhi: With "Talvar", filmmaker Meghna Gulzar has attempted a retelling of three investigation theories behind the Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj murder case. And its "glaring" parallels with the equally 'scandalous' whodunit Sheena Bora case, has left her mulling over the "extreme degradation of society". She says her movie just may "begin the journey of closure" in the 2008 incident, which continues to haunt citizens.
"The most glaring parallel right now is the unabated public interest, and therefore, the media interest," Meghna told IANS while drawing comparisons between the two cases - one in which 14-year-old Aarushi and her family's 45-year-old servant Hemraj Banjade, were killed, and her parents convicted in November 2013 to life imprisonment, and another, in which Indrani Mukherjea allegedly strangled her daughter Sheena to death.
The formal investigations apart, both cases have attracted media trial and a variety of public opinion. And since the media always reflects what is happening in the society, Meghna says it is currently "reflecting an extreme degradation of society".
"It makes me afraid to think about what children are going through or feeling when they are brought up on the belief that your parents are there for you -- they are your rock, they are there for you unconditionally, no matter what. And then, stories come out of cases where parents are killing their children. For me, this is what sticks out more than anything else when such a story breaks," added the daughter of celebrated writer Gulzar and veteran actress Raakhee.
She says the Aarushi Talwar story - which in popular culture has been revisited for a film titled "Rahasya" and in a book by journalist Avirook Sen - caught her attention as a human being first, and much later, as a filmmaker.
"It first caught my attention just as it caught everyone else's attention. That was the first time perhaps that the institution of family was under the scanner and you could see it getting frayed at the edges," she said, and pointed out that the case only garnered widespread attention when the servant's corpse was found and the spotlight shifted to the father.
For Meghna, a major reason to spin a film on the case was the fact that "there is a lack of sense of closure and there are questions which are unanswered". But she's not answering any questions with "Talvar" -- a title which refers to a sword in the hands of lady justice, and not any surname.
"We are not attempting to answer those questions...we are not in a position to do so. But at least let's try to reflect on those questions, let's begin the journey of closure... that's the intent," the 41-year-old said of the film, which features an impressive ensemble of actors as polished as Irrfan Khan, Neeraj Kabi, Konkona Sen Sharma and Tabu. It will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival later this month.
Was it not challenging as a director to ensure that she was neither judgmental nor sympathetic with her storytelling?
"Right at the script level, Vishal Bhardwaj ji, who has written the script, and I were clear that we want to do something different with this. The easiest way would have been to make it a controversial film or an overly sympathetic film -- and we wanted to do neither. We wanted to be objective, and that is why we have shown all perspectives and theories on this case.
"For me, the fear was of losing my neutrality. So, the additional task other than being a director, was maintaining my neutrality throughout."
Does the film have a conclusion?
"It leaves the audience to make their own conclusion," Meghna said.
Pretty much like the case, isn't it?'
"Well, yes and no! If people had come to their conclusions, there would have been a closure," the "Filhaal" filmmaker rested her case.