News
 International
   Global Views
   Asia-Pacific
   America
   Europe
   Middle East & Africa
 National
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Business
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Taekwondo
 Media
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 Cartoons/Comics/Humor
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Life
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Housing
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 Job
 English Teaching
 Translation/Writing
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Business
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Entertainment
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Community
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 PenPal/Friendship
 Volunteers
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
  Asia-Pacific
Someone Killed Jessica, But of Course!
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
"No One Killed Jessica" is a 2011 Hindi film starring Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan, produced by UTV Spotboy and directed by Raj Kumar Gupta, who had earlier directed the acclaimed film Aamir (2008).

It is not always easy to spin a cinematic yarn out of a true story. It gets even more difficult if it had played out like a racy thriller and whose dramatis personae happened to be celebrities and powerful politicians – and still living.

I am talking about the brutal murder of Jessica Lall that rocked New Delhi in 1999, and continued to distress all of us for several years. She was a model who lived in Delhi, and was sort of a rising star. It so happened that one of the steps in her ladder to the skies was a party thrown by socialite Bina Ramani in her club called Tamarind Court.

That night, there were 300 guests, and in barged Manu Sharma, son of a powerful Congress Minister in Haryana, Venod Sharma. Manu wanted a drink, and Jessica who was playing a celebrity barmaid refused him, probably because the stocks had run out or the counter had closed. An inebriated Manu took out his revolver and shot her at point blank range. Jessica had really no chance to live, for the bullet had pierced her skull.

Venod used his cash and clout to coerce witnesses into lying in court. Most of them denied under oath what they had initially admitted to the police, and at the forensic lab, the bullets were swapped. The court was forced to acquit the guilty — Manu and his friends who had been with him when the bullets flew out of his raging hand into the woman’s helpless head.

Jessica’s sister, Sabrina, and the news portal, Tehelka, started a campaign that included a moving candle light vigil in New Delhi and elsewhere. Eventually, the case was reopened, and Manu was sentenced to life, and the others were jailed for shorter terms.

It is this murder that director Rajkumar Gupta scripts into a 130-minute film, and calls it “No One Killed Jessica”. Gupta, who had worked for Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday” and “No Smoking”, has conceived the Jessica plot as a docu-drama, packaged into a fiction. But, it is certainly not in the class of “Black Friday”, a superbly fictionalised documentary on the investigations that followed the 1993 Mumbai riots. A great performance by Kay Kay Menon in that.

“No One Killed Jessica” is narrated by a television anchor, Meera Gaity ( Rani Mukherjee miscast as an Anglicised, venom spewing and cussing woman, who proudly admits she is a “bitch”), the channel here replacing the portal. In fact, Gupta has changed all the names except those of Jessica and Sabrina. For, most of them are still with us. Bina Ramani, the owner of Tamarind Court, her daughter Malini, model-actor Shayan Munshi (a key witness in the case who turned hostile under pressure: “I do not want the Rs one crore that has been offered to me, but I do not want that single bullet either”, he quips.) and defence lawyer Ram Jethmalani live in Delhi/Mumbai.

Apart from this, Gupta has changed details in the story perhaps to protect himself from legal hassles or to infuse greater drama or both. So, what was reportedly a campaign essentially carried by Sabrina in real life turns out to be in the reel world a television crusade or, more appropriately put, a movement that panders mostly to Meera’s ego. Fresh from Kargil, where she appears to be taking credit for excellent news coverage along with the victory of Indian forces, Meera at first dismisses the Jessica case as too insignificant. After all, with 300 witnesses to the ghastly incident, it could only be an open-and-shut case.

It is only later, when killer Manish Bharadwaj (essayed by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) is freed that Meera dashes into the newsroom, bullying her boss into letting her handle the story. I am not sure whether a woman anchor/journalist can sit on the bonnet of her boss’ car to force him into saying yes. But, then, Bollywood thrives on such exaggerated situations.

After this, the movie pretty much becomes Meera’s, and Sabrina (portrayed by Vidya Balan with amazing natural grace and ease, and she is turning into a fine actress) is pushed to the background. Even the investigating police officer (an extraordinary performance by Rajesh Sharma) — whose arresting presence in the first half of the film as a man who would take a bribe of Rs 70 lakhs not to touch the main accused, but would not ultimately let justice suffer — fades out with Meera’s emergence that smacks of intimidating arrogance. Somewhere, the balance is lost in the work.

What about Jessica herself? We do see a fair amount of her. Newcomer Myra Khan (Jessica), whom we see through interesting anecdotal flashbacks, is promising as the bubbly and daring model who refuses to take shit from people. Which, of course, tends to leave the viewer with a little less sympathy for her: I certainly felt that the shootout scene in the movie showed Jessica as quite conceited and provocative. With a totally drunk, gun-toting Manish demanding a drink, it seemed foolish on her part to have challenged him to shoot her. Was that not tempting fate?

We would probably never know what actually happened at Tamarind Court that night, but in “No One Killed Jessica”, Gupta certainly diminished the sympathy I had for Miss Lall, the unlucky woman who paid such a terrible price. Did Gupta consciously do this to show the vulnerability of strong women in such circumstances?

There is another point I wish to raise here. It is bad enough that some Indian television channels have become sensation driven with the halo around some anchors/journalists getting too heavy for their own good. But what is worse is that cinema writers and directors are getting too obsessed by them, losing in the bargain a sense of proportion, and even diluting the main theme. “Peepli (Live)” turned out to be a battle of television channels, rather than a film on the pathetic plight of Indian farmers that it was to have been. In the end, the poor farmer whose plan to commit suicide was all but forgotten, with television stars hogging the screen space.

Similarly, “No One Killed Jessica” appears more like Meera’s crusade than Sabrina’s, more like a victory for the television channel concerned rather than for the victim’s family, which fought and won a modicum of justice after a frustratingly long wait. However, in the end, it was the ordinary man and woman on the streets of India, moved by Jessica’s horrible end and her family’s suffering, who pushed the judiciary to reopen the case and punish the culprits, who had imagined that a life was cheaper than a glass of drink.

Yes, one can say with some certainty that individual murders attract popular attention when they reflect the times we live in. Jessica’s gory end exemplifies the spreading violence against women in Indian society, especially women who have begun to assert themselves.

A half century ago in what was an India steeped in Nehruvian ideology, the Nanavati case caused widespread concern, and caught the attention of the entire nation. It was a moral tale of a patriotic naval commander, a doting father and a loving husband, whose lonely wife strayed, and the other man here was a rich Mumbai playboy. He supposedly provoked Nanavati into shooting him by saying that he could not be expected to marry every woman he slept with.

Russi Karanjia’s “Blitz” sensationalised the story all right, but I do not think the attention ever veered away from Nanavati and his hapless family. Karanjia did not become a celebrity on account of this case, and he did not aspire to be one. The cameras remained on the commander till he and his family left for Canada.

Times have turned. Tenets have gone into a tailspin.



Related Articles
    Tiger Man Mike Pandey
    Egypt's First Edition of El Gouna Film ...
    El Gouna Film Festival Opens with Sheikh ...
    New Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival to Add ...
    India Stands Shamed after Racial Attacks near ...
    The Dashing Pedro Almodovar to Chair Cannes ...
    Korean Cinema Comes to Chennai in India
    The Horror of Custodial Death
    Modi Is the Man We Need in India
    Mumbai’s Child King
    The Cocktail at Cannes
    Cannes Film Fest Begins on a Hollywood Note
    Mumbai Terrorized Again
    Venice Lines Up Impressive Jury
    Cannes Film Fest Begins on a Delightful Note
    No Indian Movie at the Festival
    Meaningless Film Censorship
    This Bloody Life!
    Mumbai and Pusan Film Fest Establish Ties
    On Road, in Rage
    India Picks Wrong Films for Oscars
    Robert De Niro to Head Cannes Film Fest Jury
    Middle Eastern Cinema Hits Hard
    Dubai Film Fest Opener
    Dubai Film Fest to Unravel Diverse Selection
    Indian Police Cut Corners to Tackle Crime
    Goa Festival Not God's Own
    "West Is West" Sets IFFI Sailing
    Fine Cinema at the Coming Dubai Film Festival
    "The King's Speech" to Set the Fest Rolling
    Abu Dhabi Film Festival a Fantastic Mix of ...
    "Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema" ...
    The Venetian Storm
    Frieda's Venice
    Jafar Panahi's Music Soothes Souls
    "Black Swan" Opens Venice Festival
    Festival to Bounce with Youthful Energy
    Shame and Scandal Plague Commonwealth Games
    Child Needs Compassion, Not Cane
    A Beast Called Beauty
    Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema
    Bhopal Gas Tragedy: A Crime Called Bhopal
    Honour Killings Are India's Shame
    Cannes Film Festival And Poetry
    Cannes More Art Than Glamour This Time
    An Indian Pilgrimage to Cannes
    Maoist Rebellion in India
    Asians to Carry the Torch at Cannes
    Cannes Film Festival and Probables
    "Robin Hood" to Open Cannes Film Festival
    Persecution of Artists
    The Only Two Real Races This Year
    Curry Bashing in Australia
    US Director Tim Burton to Lead Cannes Jury
    India's Car Boom Creates Its Own Chaos
    Making Idiots Out of Men
    Indian Girls Find Paris Hilton’s Shoes Too Hot
    Mexican Film Wins Top Prize at Marrakech
    Ben Kingsley Hopes to Be an Envoy for Cinema
    Movie Director Hopes Obama Would Solve the ...
    Nandita Das on Marrakech Jury
    A Decaying Film Festival
    Marrakech Festival a Boon for Local Cinema
    Panorama Selection Questionable
    IFFI to Open on a Note of Visual Lyricism
    South Korea to Be Focus at the Film Fest
    Dalai Lama’s Tawang Visit Vexes Beijing
    Why Mumbai Film Fest Scores over Goa
    Mumbai’s Young Movie Critics Ready to Tear ...
    India Is Still Hungry for Food
    Honor Killing through Lens at Mumbai Festival
    11th Mumbai Film Festival to Open with Matt ...
    Film Festival to Showcase Some Gems
    Can India Host 2010 Commonwealth Games?
    A New Irritant in India-China Ties
    The Venetian Sorrow
    The Tiger War
    Israeli War Film Wins Venice’s Top Golden Lion
    Politicians Livid over Festival Movie
    "Bad Lieutenant" Creates Bad Blood between Two ...
    Clooney and Damon Star Attractions at Venice
    Muslim Bashing Must End
    Mumbai Film Festival Prizes to Be among the ...
    An Indian Juror in De Sica Land
    India's Gays Can Now Love without Fear
    Moore's "Capitalism," 70 Other Films to ...
    An Indian Summer at the Lagoon City
    Festival May Be Strong on European Fare
    A Tamil Film with a Difference
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: But ...
    India Is Racist Too
    Hollywood Bungles in Bollywood
    The Tragic Tale of the Indian Tiger
    Cannes Jury Honors Chilling Tales
    Lars Von Trier’s Sex and Horror
    Gems and the Cannes Film Festival
    Market and the Cannes Film Festival
    Keats Poetry, Campion’s Reading
    Lou Ye’s Controversial Disaster
    Clash of Titans on the Croisette
    Sexy Sirens and Political Propagandists
    Is Sharmila Tagore the Right Choice for Cannes ...
    The Stars in Cannes’ Dark Skies
    Cannes Courts Controversy
    Indian Elections: A Circus of Villains
    Festival Unveils Lineup of Masters
    Beyond Bollywood’s Melodramatic Mishmash
    India's Infrastructure at Breaking Point
    Guessing the Festival Goodies
    Kate Winslet the New Face of Brilliance
    Tarantino’s ‘Basterds’ to Spit Fire at Fest
    Animated Film, Up, to Open Festival
    Smoking Screen
    Oscar-Rich Penelope Set to Master English
    Cannes Honours Clint Eastwood
    Renowned French Star to Chair Cannes Jury
    Fable of Mr Benjamin Button: Riveting Cinema
    The Mangalore Molest
    Aamir Khan Film Is a Bad Copy
    It May Well Be the End of Agony in Sri Lanka
    Woody Allen’s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
    International Film Festival of India
    Mumbai Terror
    Marrakech Int'l Film Festival Has Grown
    Marrakech Int'l Film Festival
    Marrakech International Film Festival
    Shambled Secularism
    Benegal’s Sajjanpur
    Birdwatchers
    Venice Festival Blues
    Venice under the Hollywood Spell ?
    A Riveting Movie on Islam's Crisis
    Venice Festival a Haven for World Premieres
    Pakistani Films Come to India, at Last!
    Tamil Super Hero Rises Again
    The Comic Fantasy
    The Smoking Screen!
    Bollywood and Beyond at Stuttgart
    New Film May Spell Hope for Bollywood
    Indian Cinema Feeds Deceit
    An Indian Film on an American Power Plant
    India Not At Cannes
    Cannes Line-Up
    Writer Taslima Nasreen Forced Out of India
    India Inspires World Fashion
    Mills & Boon
    "Jodhaa Akbar" Creates Controversy in India
    Sania Mirza Subject to Ridicule in Native India
    Sarkozy and Bruni Love Causes Moral Outrage
    India and the Oscars
    Marrakech International Film Festival Reviewed
    Paranoid Park
    Cannes 2007: Killings
    The Spy Case
    The Good and the Not So Good
    Bollywood Superman
    First Kashmiri Film in 20 Years
    Chinese Influence Seems Unstoppable
    Cannes Film Festival 2006: Minimalism, Too
    Cannes Fest Prizes
    Cannes Film Festival 2006: Great Delights
    The Da Vinci Code
    Missing Tigers
    The Despair of Tibetans
    Trilateral Stratagem To Slow China's Growth
    Sri Lanka Crisis
    Hollywood Movies Doing Well In India
    Peace Pipe
    Mangal Pandey: The Rising
    Honda Clash
    Bush-Manmohan Singh Pact
    Satyajit Ray, Still India's Most Noted Movie ...
    Ban on Cigarettes in India
    "Match Point" Excoriated by Britons
    Crisis In India’s Hindu Nationalist Party
    Manmohan Singh’s One Year
    58th Cannes International Film Festival Begins
    Indo-Pakistan Cricket Diplomacy
    U.S. Visa Refusal
    The 7th Deauville Asian Film Festival Closes
    Seedy Film Journalism
    Indian Tigers Butchered in Broad Daylight
    No Oscar for Scorsese, Yet Again
    Nepal in Turmoil As King Sacks PM Deuba
    History Repeats in Struggle for Free Press
    India Could Have Prevented Tsunami Deaths
    Argue over Freedom on Internet
    "City of Gold" Dubai Stands like Oasis in ...
    Towards a Solution to the Kashmir Problem
    India & China Rising
    Bush Victory and India
    Indian Robinhood
    After 9/11, World Links Muslim with Violence
    India's Great Heritage Taj Mahal in Danger
    "Kashmir": A Never Ending Thorny Issue
    The Village -- A Silly Joke
    Jakarta Bombing Aimed at Aussie ...
    Millions of Indians Go to Bed Hungry
    Sri Lanka's Ethnic War Knows No End
    Over 600 Tibetan Monks, Nuns Should Be Freed
    India's Schoolgirl Killer Hanged in Controversy
    3 Kidnapped Indians Endure Agonizing Torture
    Musharraf's Sets Deadline on Kashmir
    Usefulness of Nepalese Monarchy in Question
    Temple of Learning Turns into Grave of Death
    AIDS Keeps Threatening the Poor in Asia, Africa
    Fearful of Dowry Parents Kill Newborn Girls
    Hot Discussion on Death Penalty in India
    India's Flag of Democracy Kept Unfurled
    Politics Dominates Cannes Int'l Film Festival
    Intolerance Grows before India General Election
    Fears of Strife Continue in Sri Lanka
    Torture, Rape Occur in Indian Classroom
    World Leaders Must Take Stand against Nukes
    India's Cities Prosper as Country Folk Starve
    India, Pakistan Form Friendly Ties
    Cell Phones Bring Joy, Sorrow World Over

Other Articles by Gautaman Bhaskaran
Tiger Man Mike Pandey
Egypt's First Edition of El Gouna Film ...
El Gouna Film Festival Opens with Sheikh ...
New Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival to Add ...
India Stands Shamed after Racial Attacks ...


Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.

 

back

 

 

 

The Seoul Times Shinheungro 25-gil 2-6 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 02-555-6188 Email:seoultimes@gmail.com
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange