Wednesday, 12 January 2011

No One Killed Jessica

Watching ‘No One Killed Jessica’, the Bollywood film based on the murder of Jessica Lall by Manu Sharma, brought back memories. Manu passing his .38 police special around a drunken party in Chandigarh. Him screaming at me. I wouldn’t have been so rudely dismissive of him if I had a real understanding how truly murderous his nature was. But I did understand that he was yet another feudal prince who, even at seventeen, had a bewildering amount of power.

The film powerfully narrates the story of this battle between the incomprehensibly powerful and the rest of us. With an important theme being the tough choices ordinary citizens have to face when confronted by gangster politicians. Take the money or take a bullet. How many of us would choose the noble option and testify?

Many of the witnesses were impoverished. The chowkidhar with young children. The servant. Offered quarter of a million dollars for 10 minutes of catastrophic memory loss.

But there were another 298 witnesses! Witnesses to Jessica Lall being shot point blank in the head in a crowded nightclub. A great deal of whom would have got along with Manu swimmingly.

I would imagine nephews and brothers in laws of Ministers and industrialists. Mahindras killing themselves to look like Mercedes. Surrounded by fixers, wearing gold chains that Houdini wouldn’t have freed himself from. Throwing back single malt Scotch Patialas between 10 percent deals, shouted above blaring bhangra.

But they are not the real villains of the piece. They have a steel strong sense of self. These social climbers never have and never will lay claim to a smidgen of ethics. They wouldn’t recognize a moral dilemma if it walked up to them and presented photo identification.

Are the real villains Delhi’s high society that ran the club and made up a great deal of the patrons? Highly educated. Highly wealthy. Highly confused.

It also seems the class has an inherent disease. For the vast majority effectively claimed to be legally blind and deaf when interrogated by police. It must be hard running India when you have so little control over your faculties.

They are hugely reliant on the grace of politicians. Manu’s father Venod Sharma, not only is reportedly a billionaire but also was a senior Congress politician. Running a business in India with the Government lobbied against you is fiscal suicide.

Is this an excuse to deny justice for the sister of a woman slaughtered for not serving a drink?

But again how many of us would testify? If I stepped out for a walk in Gurgaon and found myself facing a country pistol I might very well be persuaded to do just about anything. Giving false testimony is less painful than having a Jat goonda use you head for soccer practice.

For ‘No One Killed Jessica’ could well paraphrase the tragedy of contemporary politics. No one is to blame.

Heavenly, the film tells a history that proves me a jaded man. English medium types rose up in a glorious roar. They demanded justice in what is now a proud milestone of modern India.

Manu killed Jessica.


  1. Very good read.
    Perhaps, we have ceased our right to blame anyone.

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  3. Thank you very much Shiv. I was all moral outrage after the film. After calming down I wondered if I could stand up to them. The 'safety in numbers' approach with the 'mass' protest is less frightening and hopefully keeps alive our right to blame?