The teenaged daughter of a pair of doctors is found murdered in her room one morning, her throat slit with surgical precision. Not long after, the bloodied corpse of the family servant is discovered in their home too. Evidence seems to point to the girl’s father, who is promptly arrested, even as a subsequent CBI enquiry reveals new suspects.
Those events, of arguably the most puzzling double murder in recent memory, are at the core of writer-director Manish Gupta’s Rahasya. Despite moving the action from Noida to Mumbai, never uttering the name Arushi, and liberally mixing fiction with real facts, this engaging whodunit trades in many familiar theories, while safely covering its ass with the standard “any-resemblance-to-real-people-is-coincidental” disclaimer.
The film’s clunky opening scenes notwithstanding, Gupta gives us a labyrinthine maze of secrets and lies, populating the plot with a small army of characters who each appear to be hiding something. When a CBI officer on the case (Kay Kay Menon) becomes obsessed with finding the truth, he must navigate the various loose ends to piece together what really happened. The fractured marriage of the dead girl’s parents (Ashish Vidyarthi and Tisca Chopra) comes under the scanner, as does the nature of the father’s relationship with a close friend’s wife (Mita Vashisht), the role of the family’s maid of over 30 years (Ashwini Kalsekar), the whereabouts of the victim’s no-good boyfriend (Kunal Sharma), and the link between the two murders.
The wildly implausible script quickly ditches real events and details of the Talwar case, adding fictional characters and predictable subplots into the mix that don’t always work. Yet Gupta keeps the pace brisk, and the salacious theories surrounding the case ensure that you’re never bored. It’s Kay Kay Menon’s committed performance however that is the film’s biggest strength. Adding little touches – like breaking into Marathi while speaking to his wife, or discussing his lunch with a junior officer while investigating the case – Kay Kay offers a fully realized, flesh-and-blood character, where a lesser actor might have been tempted to play to the gallery. Bringing humanity to the part of the wearied cop, he keeps you invested in the story even when the writing slips.
To be fair, the script isn’t all bad. Gupta gives us little clues in throwaway dialogues, in innocuous scenes where characters behave uncharacteristically, and in seemingly ordinary moments that prove surprisingly relevant. You’ll be piecing the puzzle as the film unfolds, and although you’ll probably guess the film’s big revelation before it’s made, this isn’t a bad way to spend two hours of your life.
I’m going with three out of five for Rahasya. It’s a very watchable thriller, inconsistent but never dull. A compelling account inspired by an oddly fascinating case.