With the CBI coming in, the whole thing turned and it blew me away. There was an entirely new scenario and a new set of suspects. When that team was disbanded just when they were ready to file a chargesheet, that's when I began to suspect that everything is not what it seems. After that, the reporting on the case went silent.
I had taken a break from films because I was raising my son. In casual conversations with Vishal Bhardwaj about coming back to making films, and what that film should be, came this idea. He said "Let's do something different. How about something like the Aarushi Talwar case?" I said "No, not something like this. This!"
Two years of research for the film followed and the first draft was ready. By then we were clear that we can't possibly put forward only one perspective on this case because there are so many conflicting narratives, and they're all equally compelling. It was Vishal ji's idea to tell the story the way we did. We were sure we didn't want to emotionally tilt the film in any direction. Because of which we didn't want to meet the parents. That would be a very emotional encounter. But we did meet the investigators of both CBI teams. Because an investigative procedural is what we wanted Talvar to be.
I met Aarushi's parents after I finished shooting the film. It was just the moral thing to do - it was their life I was talking about. I haven't interacted with them since Talvar released. I don't know if they have seen it. I didn't have the strength to ask if they have seen it - the film that will make them relive the worst day of their lives.
Nupur Talwar's cousin is a journalist at The Toronto Star. She saw Talvar at the Toronto International Film Festival and reached out to me. That's how I know what the family thought of it. They thought it was very fair and a balanced telling of the incident.
To remain clinical, I had to treat an unfortunate incident only like a screenplay. And think of the characters as just characters, not real people. That's how I tried to maintain my objectivity while filming Talvar.
Once, for a recce, I was standing outside Dasna Jail because we had to recreate the prison on a set. That day it hit me like a bullet in my head - that this is a real story, those characters in the script are actually behind this wall. There were several moments like this when the reality of this tragedy hits you and then you shake yourself off and start all over. It was exhausting and emotionally draining.
This case got the attention it did because of the perception that an abhorrent thing like honour-killing was happening in a very unusual milieu - in the home of an educated, middle-class family of doctors. They could very well have been my neighbours... or your neighbours.
When we were releasing the trailer of Talvar, the Sheena Bora case happened, and there was no ambiguity about who killed her. It made me question where we are going as a society.
I know people whose kids questioned them after the Noida double-murder case first broke. Everyone was feeding off this case. The media was frenetic. You could not keep this case out of your drawing room. Children got affected because this was "Mummy" and "Papa" killing their child!
When the Allahabad High Court's verdict came out, I was in Delhi shooting my next film. All of a sudden, I started getting calls and messages about the verdict.
Somewhere, subconsciously, it has remained with me, that I made this film and it was successful. It got critical acclaim. Talvar was appreciated internationally and it was a commercial success in India. I told the world their story but it didn't change anything for them. I was living with this on my shoulders for the last 2 years. All of that changed on October 12, 2017. The film may or may not have played a part in their acquittal. But the verdict gave me a huge sense of relief.
There was redemption.
(Meghna Gulzar is a writer and filmmaker.)
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