Toronto: Meghna Gulzar’s ‘Guilty’ Centers on Real-Life Crime

Helmer Meghna Gulzar’s “Talvar” (Guilty) premieres in Toronto Film Festival’s Special Presentations on Sept. 14. The daughter of Oscar-winning songwriter Gulzar and actress Raakhee, Meghna Gulzar started as a journo and segued into documentary filmmaking before entering Bollywood with 2002’s “Filhaal.”

With “Guilty,” she’s taken a real-life story, centering around a 2000s serial killing case involving missing kids, child porn and abuse and police incompetence that caused a sensation in India in the past few years. “It’s a story that needs to be known,” she said via email.

“The decision to make a film on the case happened quite spontaneously during discussions with Vishal (Bhardwaj, screenwriter) on my next film. Having taken time out to raise my son, we would often talk about what film I should make next, now that my son was almost 5 now. When this case came up, I jumped at it immediately because I had been following it, like the rest of the nation, since it first broke. The intention to make a film about it came about two years ago. In spite of multiple investigations, unanswered questions remain. Even after a trial and verdict, a sense of closure is lacking. That’s what drew me to this subject. It is a fictional dramatization of true events around the Noida double-murder case.”

Discussing her choices in making this movie, Gulzar said she drew on her documentary background. “I think somewhere subconsciously, that did come into play — during the research, the detailing, and most importantly, in maintaining an objectivity, and a certain aesthetic sense during filming. The crime is violent and I was sure I didn’t want my film to be voyeuristic or sensationalistic.”

Gulzar credited her collaborator Bhardwaj, known in the Mumbai film scene for his movies based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (“Haider”), “Macbeth” (“Maqbool”) and “Othello” (“Omkara”). “He transformed mounds of research into a powerful script and gave me his complete faith and freedom as a director. An extremely supportive producer, along with Junglee Pictures — which is so crucial to a film like this.”

He also composed the soundtrack for “Guilty,” which is not a typical Bollywood movie with song-and-dance routines.

“The subject and content of ‘Talvar’ does not lend itself to having its characters break into song,” Gulzar said. “There are songs in ‘Talvar,’ but used in the background. ‘Filhaal,’ as a film, lent itself to songs and music. It is kind of organic to treat a film according to its subject, like the choice of subject was also a spontaneous one. No meticulous planning as such.”

Gulzar is pleased her film is getting a TIFF premiere. IM Global is repping the film’s sales.

“ ‘Talvar’ is a story that I and everyone in the film believe, must be known. For it to premiere at TIFF is a wonderful opportunity as it raises the film to a platform of higher visibility. We submitted the film for consideration and were thrilled when we got selected!”

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