Watching No One Killed Jessica, a film based on the murder of Jessica Lal by Manu Sharma brought back memories of the man passing his .38 police special around a drunken party in Chandigarh, screaming at me.
I would not 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 17, 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 of 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 chowkidar with young children, the servant who was offered a quarter of a million dollars for 10 minutes of catastrophic memory loss.
But there were another 298 witnesses! Witnesses to Jessica Lal being shot point blank in the head in a crowded nightclub. A great deal of people, who would have got along with Manu swimmingly.
I would imagine nephews and brothers-in-law of ministers and industrialists. Mahindras killing themselves to look like Mercedes. Surrounded by fixers, wearing gold chains from which even (Magician Harry) Houdini would not have been freed himself. Throwing back single malt Scotch Patialas between 10% 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 would not recognise a moral dilemma if it walked up to them and presented photo identification.
Are the real villains Delhi’s high society that ran and made up a great deal of the club’s 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 Vinod Sharma is reportedly a billionaire and 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 was 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 your head for soccer practice.
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. India’s people rose up in a glorious roar. They demanded justice in what is now a proud milestone of modern India.
Manu killed Jessica.
Roy Lange is a New Zealander who spent ten years in India on scholastic and professional pursuit. Currently a resident of Melbourne, he is married to Mitu Bhowmick, Director of Mind Blowing Films, which distributed Bollywood film No one killed Jessica in New Zealand and Australia.