By Shyam VS
Gargi is cinematic craft at its best. But that’s not all.
For starters, Gargi is a creative crafting. Everything in the movie, from acting, music to sound design was realistic, thanks to the live-recorded sound of the film, which plays a huge role in passing on the movie’s emotions to the audience. There were tons of story details conveyed through shot angles, colours, and set pieces. Even the colour of the title has an eerie relation with Gargi’s childhood. The hard-hitting dialogues were continuously gaining applause. What escalates this movie is the attachment audience feel towards Gargi’s personality. We feel the exact same emotions that the people in the movie feel. The intelligent use of silence, songs with spoken lyrics, the heartbeat sounds in the climax were icings on the cake. But that’s not all. The movie has deeper meanings and perspectives to be explored.
Let me compare Gargi with another strong and recent courtroom drama, Jana Gana Mana. Both speak about victims, attackers and the role of media in twisting the truth. Even the crux of the two cases remain the same, i.e, sexual assault. Both the movies show the real culprit initially in a good light, dropping little clues all through the movie before revealing the twist at the end. The latter would have shown how media tries to bloat sensational, instead of true news, and how the advocate uncovers the truth at the end. This movie left us a message that just because public opinion is biased towards a side, it doesn’t mean that justice lies towards that side. But in Gargi, the director goes one step ahead and argues that maybe instincts are not always wrong, and how the truth can be twisted, and how much difficult it gets to uncover it when we let our emotions to play in.
The director provides us two lenses to look through the case: one which applies logic and law, and another which applies emotion and history. Gargi has had a bit of a dark past, and that leads us to naturally believe that she’ll be right in her decisions and instinct when she encounters the same problem again but this time in a different situation. Her father shown to save her from the trauma also adds to the reinforcement. As they say multiple times in the movie, it is what any father would have done, and the same applies here also. The lens which finally leads us to the tragic truth is that of logic and law, now with an absence of emotion. Gargi could have saved her father if she wished to. But now her tragic past helps her in a more rational and good way, in the sense that she has felt how it is to be assaulted. She still remembers the ugliness and we can sense it from her hatred towards her sister wearing yellow dresses. The larger public(including even the journalist, and obviously the audience) view the case through the first lens, while unfortunately Gargi gets deceived by it. It cannot be concluded here that Gargi’s investigation and struggle went in vain. She feels the same pain at the end as she felt in the beginning. What has changed in her is the real knowledge that she has gained about her surroundings, and not just information. Here’s another beautiful detail when we talk about knowledge, both the names Gargi and Akshara (her sister) signify knowledge.
A man is not always shown as a man. In the sense that except Indhrans and Palani, almost all men don two roles, a male and a father. Trailing the judge’s words, a man’s arrogance is seen when’s he’s a male. But when daughters appear before them or in their minds, they seem to completely reverse their roles. And the love towards them is not fake either. Sometimes the love is shown by daughters, and many a times by fathers. Irrespective of the source, the power of affection to change one’s self is shown to be all-powerful.
I felt that the mathematical dialogue “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove” was not only applicable to court proceedings, but also to the movie audience. The movie keeps providing instances of knowledge, such as Gargi’s past, the relationship with her father, the journalist’s instincts, the other security’s relationship with her daughter, etc. But none of them is evidently conclusive towards the assailant. There’s an occasional dialogue bit that claims how seemingly obvious facts against the conviction of Gargi’s father cannot be taken as substitutes for proofs. I very well remember the dismay I had when these facts failed to turn into proofs. The audience, mostly only after the movie would have been thankful for their wishes not turning true. The most interesting and distinct aspect about the movie is that unlike most of the courtroom dramas, there’s no person who emerges victorious in the end. Gargi’s father is acquitted, Gargi learns her lessons, and Indhrans loses his case! Yet there is a feeling of totality primarily because it’s the law which has eventually triumphed, and we know that we have been rooting for justice though along with Gargi’s victory since the start.
The problem I faced with the movie was a dilemma of whether to treat it as a pure fiction or as a message-oriented movie. I felt the last stretch of dialogue could have been avoided and the ending left to audience’s interpretations. The reason is that when a movie remains a pure fiction, different interpretations are possible and none of them can be compared or judged against one another. The moment a message is flashed or spoken, the final goal of the movie becomes unidimensional. I accept that there were many good messages like “the power of a small yet bold decision in changing the world”, “the riskiness of finding one’s own way through womanhood” that were spoken at the end. But what if some people take away the message of suspecting one’s own parents and believing less in people? They have chances of creating familial tensions and social anxiety. For an already dense movie, I felt the messaging could have well been avoided, and left to multiple viewpoints, so that it becomes a floodgate for more discussions and debates. Nevertheless, with its excellent craft and social commentary, I’m sure it’ll inspire many more to come, including me.