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Guilty ( Netflix) Movie Review: It Is An Important #MeToo Statement!

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Guilty(Netflix)

Starring Kiara Advani, Akansha  Ranjan, Gurfateh Singh Pirzada,Taher Shabbir

Directed  by Ruchi Narain

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars)

 31 years ago in Jonathan Kaplan’s The Accused,  Jodie Foster played a  girl who is gang-raped in  abar because…well…she asked for it.

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Now it’s  debutant Akansha Ranjan, impressively in-character, playing a  campus libertine from Jharkhand who comes  on too strongly  with  our rape-accused hero the popular  Vijay Pratap Singh(Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) during a rock concert  that  rocks the   gender boat  violently. Did the  aggressively in-your-face Tanu   “ask for it”?
Director Ruchi Narain,  returning to  feature –film direction after 2005’s interesting but fractured Kal, Yesterday & Tomorrow, offers no easy solutions, as there are none. That a rape  has  indeed been committed is unclear until the devastating finale where, during a love concert, we  finally get to know the  truth because…well…there was an eyewitness.Luckily it  was  male. Because, as Kiara Advani’s traumatized character  Nanki  points  out, if a woman said she saw  a woman being sexually violated, no  one  would believe her.

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There are   times in this  gripping gritty  whodunit(or rather, anyonedunnit?) when Narain’s grip over  the reality of a  vast assortment  of  characters groping in  the dark, seems to loosen. Perhaps the screenplay  which  Narain co-wrote with Atika Chouhan and Kania Dhillon, needed to focus  more  on the  central conflict rather  than allow so many extraneous perceptions to seep into a septic  situation.

I also felt the quest to simulate  suspense  is slightly self-conscious. Did he  do it? Is she lying?  The viewers are seduced into an investigative  drama with Taher Shabbir as the  accused defence  lawyer Dalip Tahil’s  assistant,  playing almost the  traditional detective’s role.For a film that shows such a  high level of  commitment to a cause, the cinematic embellishments  ought to have been minimized.

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Some from the torrent of characters ,like the rape-accused’s ‘privileged, empowered’ parents, appear to be  stereotypical characters. Ruchi Narain largely avoids predictable options and doesn’t shy away from the  uglier aspects  of  the  situation. Interestingly the  protagonist is  neither the  rape victim nor the alleged rapist but his girlfriend who, by dint of being a  woman and close to the perpetrator,  open up an entire vista of discussions in  the plot.

Kiara Advani is  just about  successful in shouldering the responsibility. But the role needed an actor of Shabana Azmi ‘s stature. 20 years ago Shabana  would have  ripped the screen apart with ger    interpretation of Nanki’s  brutally  imbalanced childhood and life. But then 20 years  ago there would have been  no Nanki, no  film like Guilty. At least something worthwhile has emerged  from the MeToo movement.  Otherwise  , as  the director points at the end, the  accused have  gone back to their work. It’s business as usual for women. Groping in the dark.

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