Earlier this year, just after St. Valentine’s birth anniversary was celebrated all over the world, we were heralded with the trailer of Guilty. However, it was much further from the celebration of love. In fact, it is quite the opposite – and the crux of the movie is to raise some very important issues that are being talked about throughout the world, especially with the Harvey Weinstein conviction.
India recently underwent one of the biggest MeToo movements in the world. While the resolution of those revelations are still an ongoing process, in many cases non-existent. Netflix and Dharma Productions’ Guilty starts off as a run of the mill college drama, but much more awaits as the plot grips you in its clutches and takes you down the deep and twisted narrative that unfolds. Starring Kiara Advani as the female lead Nanki Dutta, it is the story of her boyfriend Vijay Pratap Singh (played by Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) going through allegations of rape by Tanu (Akansha Ranjan). The events that unfold as we realize whether these allegations are true or are they just that – allegations. Guilty is directed by Ruchi Narain and written by Narain, Kanika Dhillon and Atika Chohan.
Coming to the plot of Guilty, it is raw and is brilliantly paced. It is hard to look away from the screen as we’re taken through this wild ride of did he or did he not. It is quite compelling to watch as not a single moment is spared. The characters are also very well designed with several characters the very manifestations of stereotypes, but at the very time very well portrayed on screen. From the way the characters look, their costume choices, their mannerisms and ideologies, every aspect of Guilty feels well thought out and coherent. Most of the major characters get a well balanced foregrounding. The attention to detail is quite stellar. Kiara Advani’s character Nanki is the highlight, with her tattoos and choice of clothing often commented upon within the film. Guilty is set within a posh Delhi college with a large majority of its students hailing from an extremely privileged background which is also an essential component of the plot. Tanu is an exemption to this norm, and anything that challenges the perspective of the norm is ostracised. That said, Tanu’s faults are also made very clear.
The plot is pieced together by the Solicitor Danish, played by Taher Shabbir. His investigation of the events forms much of the plot and he is also the major catalyst to much of the plot. Stuck within the moral quandary of protecting his client versus the passage of truth, his ideals and his Superego, we see a very conflicted character looking for answers and that forms an intense connection with the audience. It is also a very interesting choice, as we are shown the story from the lens of a very biased lens, one that has the job and an ethical obligation towards taking his clients side.
The actors have all done justice to their characters, especially Kiara Advani. Nanki’s character has a lot to say and the intellectual bandwidth to say so, but is usually marred down by the forces of patriarchy making her a victim of the prejudice drilled into her psyche from a very young age. Akansha Ranjan and Taher Habbir pull off their characters very well. While the apparent narrative is heavily biased against Tanu, I still experienced pathos for the character, thanks to the brilliant narration and acting. Shabbir on the other hand is convincingly conflicted about a lot of the actions going on in the film, with him being one of the few characters with an actual and well functioning moral compass. The lighting is usually quite dim, with the color palette having a very heavy inclination towards black, as is the theme of the film. The Music Score is relaxing and is well placed within the right intervals so as to feel plush with the story, given that Nanki’s character is a songwriter. The dialogues are also quite well written, several of which are very inflammatory so as to rouse a sense of discomfort. There is also a sense of poetic justice in the way the story ends.
There is also a fair bit of social commentary. The central theme of Consent and women’s issues are of course well explored, but another issue brought forward is the very apparent class struggle. Vijay is the son of a very influential politician and a supermodel. Systematic oppression is also a element of the exploitation, with the privileged receiving a lot of leeway and room for movement.
Overall, Guilty is a very engaging watch but at the same time brings up a lot of issues that need to be talked about.