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We Can’t Let Aarushi Talwar Rest In Peace


We cannot let go of her. Of her parents. Or their tragedy. Or the speculations about what could have happened on the night of 15-16 May, 2008 in an upper-middle class Noida home. And so (they changed the ‘w’ in the title to ‘v,’ just in case) a film about her death will hit the theatres some time soon.

The trailer of the film begins with shots of the deceased girl’s parents on the ghats of Banaras (Aarushi’s name has been changed to Shruti, again just in case), immersing her ashes. There is a shot of her cold and bloody body in that bedroom which by now has been recreated in news reports, in shows and in a recent bestseller written by Avirook Sen. That room with an all seeing teddy, blood spattered walls and a horror that cannot be articulated. Talvar directed by Meghna Gulzar has a screenplay written by Vishal Bhardwaj who said in an interview that he had not obtained the consent of the parents before writing his version. When questioned if the parents would be ‘distressed” after the release of the movie, he reportedly said that since they are in jail, they already are distressed.

And that, I suppose, somehow makes it okay to film this story. The film stars Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen, Neeraj Kabi and Avika Gor and replays the tragedy from different points-of-view. The makers are citing Roshomon as a reference point.

The point of the film supposedly is to show what went wrong during the investigation and it is based on the “parents’ account of the events. The film attempts to “build a defence case for them” but at the end of the day, it is a ‘hot’ commercial proposal, doing what thousands of news bytes and television shows have done before.

Sell a story that just happens to be about a bright young girl who was murdered mysteriously in her room just before her birthday.  The film is already being called a “mystery thriller” though who it will thrill except the makers if it does well, remains to be seen. The film’s premiere is scheduled at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in September. So no, as a nation, we don’t let things be. We are not very sensitive to emotional space once it has been opened to us.

Post September 11, any references that could be presumed to be insensitive were removed from films and under production TV shows in the US as a gesture of respect to the sentiments of the survivors and the bereaved. But just like the scene of murder in Aarushi’s home that was violated by intrusive strangers and investigators with no protocol, her life, her memory too has been defiled by all of us. For those who knew her, Aarushi was a gentle soul, a teenager like any other but also exceptional in the way she applied herself to her studies, her passion for dancing. She was loved and protected and cherished. For those who did not know her, she is now a murder mystery with no past or future.

Get this. You are a family for about 14 years. Living a normal life. And then one night, two murders take place in the confines of your home. And the world troops in with hundreds of cameras and most of all, insatiable curiosity.

Everything is public now. Your tears. Your lack of tears. Your personal life. Your email records. You are a victim one day. An accused the next. Everyone has a question. Everyone has an answer. Your life as you know it is over. Even though you are still alive. And you are no longer a living person. But a character in a story, a film. You are a story the whole world knows. So is your daughter.Even though she is dead. You can’t hide. You can’t escape. You  can’t disappear. You can’t start over. Ever. Because the world won’t let you. No one knows what happened that night and if the Talwars are guilty or not. But that is not even the point now. The point is whether, we as consumers of the Aarushi Talwar story should now let her be. And not replay her in cinema halls, in our minds, in our curiosity again and again.

images (4) with The New Indian Express    

Reema Moudgil works for The New Indian Express, is the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of  Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, a  translator who recently interpreted  Dominican poet Josefina Baez’s book Comrade Bliss Ain’t Playing in Hindi, an artist, a former Urdu RJ and a mother. She won an award for her writing/book from the Public Relations Council of India in association with Bangalore University, has written for a host of national and international magazines since 1994 on cinema, theatre, music, art, architecture and more, has exhibited her art in India and the US…and hopes to travel more and to grow more dimensions as a person. And to be restful, and alive in equal measure.

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