Commercializing Arushi’s death: Talvar is rock ‘n’ rolling, but are we entitled to exploit human tragedies?

Just because the dead can’t stop film makers from abusing their private affairs shouldn’t automatically give Bollywood the right to intrude, even if the details are already part of public domain. The information is revealed for public consumption, for the purpose of transparency, which is a constitutional requirement. Ordinary people, like you and I, don’t financially gain from it. But Bollywood does, because even death is business… Be that as it may, for now.


The Irrfan Khan-Konkana Sen starrer has rekindled the horrific memories of the Arushi double murder case that shook India’s collective conscience in 2008! Nupur and Rajesh Talwar, the incarcerated parents of Arushi, are serving life sentences for allegedly bludgeoning their teenage daughter, and Hemraj the man-servant, to death in May, 2008. It’s a crime they have consistently claimed they did not commit.

The Court’s judgment was based purely on circumstantial evidence – On that fateful night, only Arushi, Hemraj, Nupur and Rajesh were present at home. There was no intrusion, or break-in, to suggest that outsiders could have been involved. The long and short of it is – No one else could have killed Arushi!


As for the movie, Talvar, it is a clean break from the normal Bollywood treatment. There is no song-and-dance sequence, no emotional drama, and every scene, every dialogue has a purpose, leading to its logical conclusion. Talvar very clearly reveals the shoddy manner in which the investigation was conducted, it highlights the professional rivalries between the various investigating agencies, their need for one-upmanship, and it shows the ravenous thirst of the media, their hunger to be the first one to report every breaking news.

But this is not an appraisal of ‘Talvar’. The movie is doing very well, anyway…

Director Meghna, Gulzar’s gifted daughter, attempted a bold dramatization of a morbid event that happened seven years ago, and that’s where it becomes debatable.

Fictional dramatization of true life events is a tricky business. Film-makers cross a critical line when they reproduce murder and rape in the form of a film. Making use of real people as viewpoint characters, whether they have been long dead, or alive, may not be morally righteous.


Film makers are, maybe inadvertently, eroding the moral significance of privacy. There is also a general sense among film makers that they are entitled to exploit the misery-filled lives of the others. They want us to believe that they are only trying to convey a social message through the movie, to highlight the shoddy nature of the case, and how this movie has the potential to bring about changes in the system…but it may all be hogwash.

Social responsibility in Bollywood is not a very common concept. Everything is mostly done to gain mileage in the media, to be in the good books of millions of fans… to earn money, which is perfectly fine. After all, it’s a business. The problem arises when the directors and producers try to give a spin to their intentions by saying they were ‘inspired’. In Bollywood, inspired means compulsion to cheat, to steal ideas. Failure of imagination could be one of the reasons.


The question is, do we want to ban, outlaw such movies? No, of course not, but we must surely be wary of what lies at stake. What we see in such movies is dramatic expansion of truth, the subtle embellishment to make it more shocking and receptive to a society that thrives on everything gory and mysterious.

Fictionalising real life has a single purpose – to profit. Truths are complex, and morally difficult to gauge, especially in the form of movies.

If there is really a sense of concern, and the producers want to make tangible difference, sharing the profit with the bereaved family would be a good place to start.

About the author


Whether it’s women issues, politics or the paranormal, Rubi has an opinion on everything. Art and entertainment interest her, too. Hindu College alumni, she has written for The Hindustan Times and The Financial Express. Every now and then, she loves picking up her camera to capture life and its various shades.

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