Director – Ruchi Narain
Cast – Ciara Adwani, Gurfateh Singh Pirzada, Akansha Ranjan Kapoor, Taher Shabbir
MeToo’s joke turns into Guilty, the new Indian original on Netflix in five minutes; the woman is ashamed for 10 years. Ruchi Naran’s film challenges you at the premiere. It is like an attack on an awakened culture, and in some scenes he poses as the insensitive nephew of Section 375, terribly deaf and blatantly complacent.
But if you stay – and you have to – you will be treated until the end of a two-year experience. Guilty is the kind of film Netflix has been trying to improve since his Bollywood debut; a perfect blend of Western values and desiplomatic drama. Like Kapoor & Sons, this is a retrospective attempt by producer Karan Johar to atone for some of his past sins – of which Netflix, the latter, is guilty of complicity.
Look at Guilty’s trailer here.
Johar, for example, is the only one who seems to have noticed Chiara Adwani’s acting talent. After largely confining herself to playing movements, Kiara delivers an absolutely electric performance like the unreliable Nanky, a spirited student who loves Faiz.
Nanky writes lyrics for a band in which her boyfriend is the lead singer. Nanke and VJ together inspire the jealousy and admiration of a group of mostly virgin children who swarm around them like bees. Among the many VJ fans is a girl from a small town called Thana, played by newcomer Akansha Ranjan Kapoor on Achilles’ heel. After a Valentine’s Day party where several students saw her come to the VJs, Thane accused her of rape.
The prosecution sends shock waves through the college and exposes systemic injustice and corruption. For fear of a media trial, the authorities try to silence Tana; her colleagues wonder whether her claims are credible. The court is supported by his scandalous sense of style; his pursuit of VJ is seen as an indication of hidden motifs.
Among the many problems of the film, the most acute being the insistence on hitting the head with a large class gap between VJ and Tanu, is Kapoor’s performance as a young woman. In the film, which is characterized by impressive restraint in acting, his typical urban accent and predilection for hysteria goes at the expense of Narain and his script partner Kanika Dhillon, who reacts to the script with surprising sensitivity. For those who keep the score at home, this is the second original version of Netflix India this year, in which the same speech has been revised by Shakespeare.
But after a brief immersion in the quality of the game, Guilty feels truly authentic in his portrayal of life at the University of Delhi, an academic institution of which I am proud. When the news of Tanu’s accusation is first known, one of the characters bursts in and announces the scene Apne bhai ke saath hogaya bro in a field of perfect Delhi jargon.
Narain gives the film the Rashomon effect and the Riverdale sound. It plays with perspective and perception. An honest lawyer interviews everyone who was present at the Valentine’s Day celebration where the incident allegedly took place. His research reveals many narrative and contrasting viewpoints and encourages viewers to draw their own conclusions and develop their own theories about who to believe.
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Narain complemented a lawyer played by the very confident Taher Shabbir in a cool and clinical office environment that reflects his personality. Meanwhile, Kunal Vijaykar is immersed in a scene in his comfort zone, a fork and knife in his hand and a plate of food on the table in front of him. But Chiara is a true revelation. She plays the role of Nanky, a character with her own wounds hidden under the ink of tattoos and torn t-shirts, like the person we have all met many times in our lives. She’s scary, but inviting, she’s waving, but she’s weird.
And the guilt is constantly watched, up to the glorious sequence of credits and the title tag falling openly into the lion’s den where it ends. It may not be as perfectly written as Pink, but it certainly wants to be as progressive.
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