Guilty movie cast: Kiara Advani, Akansha Ranjan Kapoor
Guilty movie director: Ruchi Narain
Guilty movie rating: 2 stars
A story about the college heart throb being accused of rape by a not-so-popular girl, in the shadow of the recent #metoo movement. This sounds like the perfect launch pad for Dharmatic, the supposed alter ego of Dharma Productions, under the aegis of Karan Johar. Dharmatic presents Guilty, a two-hour film which speaks about rape, consent, privilege, slut-shaming, power dynamics, the he-said, she-said diatribe, etc. The list is endless. Set in an elite Delhi University college, the story is told through the shenanigans of a college band Doobydo, whose lead vocalist is VJ, son of an imminent politician. His girlfriend Nanki (Kiara Advani), in her black nail polish-tattooed-boyfriend jeans-wearing-Virginia-Wolf -goth glory, is the songwriter for the band. Enter Tanu Sharma from Dhanbad, whose chosen pronoun for herself is hum, who is unabashed about her desires – which includes VJ – and not apologetic about the attention she seeks. But as she is a ‘scholarship kid’ and doesn’t fit into the elite, English-medium wala trope, almost everyone in college keeps her at a distance. On a fateful Valentine’s day celebration, things happen and later at a time when the #metoo movement is at its peak, a tweet by Tanu accuses VJ of rape.
What unravels is predictable. Back and forth with lawyers, various versions of the incidents. Phrases like ‘she was asking for it’ ‘consensual, ‘he is a good guy’ are all heard, as the timeline for that night are recreated. The lawyer (Taher Shabbir) who is hired by VJ’s parents, is the proverbial crusader with a heart of gold, as he digs deep and goes beyond the ‘she’s a gold digger’ narrative. Care has been taken to show the complicity of everyone — college administration, police, and in the end even the bleeding heart liberals and women.
The problem with Guilty is not the subject matter or the premise. Rather a mainstream film on the given matter, in a post #metoo world would have helped take the conversation forward. But it’s the other infractions and the rather insipid treatment that lets you down. We get that the writers wished to reflect that strong, independent, expressive women shouldn’t be slut-shamed and that a no is a no but the way they bumble their way through it leaves much to be desired. Not once do we feel any empathy for any of the characters. Kiara Advani is reduced to the ‘tortured-artistic-creative’ types, and Tanu Sharma, in her ill-fitting clothes is a poor caricature of the small- town-girl with big dreams.
Also, Dharmatic, this alter ego of Dharma, inhabits a world, where they are trying hard to counter the ‘it’s all about loving your parents’ brief of the parent company. Here, the ‘youngsters’ are all smoking weed, getting sloshed, and talking in swear words that would not look out of place in an Anurag Kashyap film. But in the end, the big melodramatic moment, which takes place on a stage, is everything Karan Johar, sans the Manish Malhotra lehengas and lavish sets. Just a polite shout out to the writers, not every kid from the north east in DU is called Tashi.
As we now inhabit offices where many accused of the #metoo movement are back and we as a society are trying to deal with it all, Guilty had an opportunity to take forward the conversation but this is certainly no Pink. With the film’s director, writers and dialogue writer all being women, Guilty could have been that film that talked to us. Instead, it became a lost opportunity. One extra star, just for the subject matter. Go watch Pink again.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines