When someone who only watches orthodox movies logs into the digital world of Netflix in this corona-included forced break from theaters, the surprises they encounter can be innumerable. It’s a free world of creativity where masala film formulas are tossed out of the window. No wonder countless actors, writers, directors and producers from mainstream cinema have camped to the digital world to showcase their true potential.
“Guilty”—a Netflix original—is one such film that breaks the boundaries of industrial production and brings a fresh narrative that would not fit into a commercial Bollywood cinema. It is a crime thriller that questions the notion of ‘privilege’—the specific socio-economic advantage each of us enjoys thanks to our unique circumstances and upbringings.
Guilty builds an alleged crime in a college, and how the police, courts, media and society treats the case depending on whether they are included towards the accuser or the accused. Tanu Kumar (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor), a scholarship student accuses college heartthrob Vijay Pratap Singh (Gurfateh Pirzada) of rape. The accused, his girlfriend Nanki Dutta (Kiara Advani) and Vijay’s friends in turn claim that it was consensual and that Tanu was an “easy woman” whom Vijay did not have to force into anything.
This allegation is at the root of the story, as both the accuser and the accused strive to be heard. Vijay is the son of a wealthy politician and Tanu a low-middle class student. But despite the vast difference in their economic and social backgrounds, the power struggle between them intense. The story, with ample plot twists and turns to qualify as an intriguing thriller, is a complex interweaving of the harsh realities of the society.
Director Ruchi Narain (also the cowriter) does a commendable job of putting together this highly relatable movie. It is a fight between the rich and the poor; the popular and the unpopular; the oppressor and the oppressed—with each side having their supporters who in turn are influenced by their own agendas. Vijay’s girlfriend Nanki, a ‘problem child’ struggling from a mental disorder, takes it upon herself to investigate her cheating boyfriend.
We see the change in power dynamics through Nanki’s eyes and there are revelations that surprise, shock and unsettle us.
Bollywood actress Kiara Advani as Nanki steals the show. Appearing with a host of other actors, some of whom have also appeared in Bollywood movies, Kiara is a fun-loving college student turned protective girlfriend and informal crime investigator, and she convinces in each role. With her own skeletons to hide, Nanki is the most layered character in the film and the most important as her character shadows every other. She takes the audience deep into her mind and repeatedly shocks them.
Who should watch it?
Guilty has moments that make us all question our privileges. Yes, you will be entertained. But Guilty also gives you life lessons and changes how you look at and evaluate others.