In two hours, Guilty manufactures a world that attempts to address every possible socio-political dimension of the perpetrator-survivor dynamic.
The story of Guilty revolves around Tanu Kumar (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor) who accuses college heartthrob VJ aka Vijay Pratap Singh (Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) of rape. As she “MeToo's” everyone’s favourite guy of the college, it creates great tension and divide among students. Some of them support the girl and others support the boy. However, the reason behind the boy getting so much favour from his family, friends, and girlfriend Nanki (Kiara Advani) is not just his “decent boy” image but also a certain image of the girl who has accused him.
The girl as they refer to has “trouble” written all over her and also desperately wants VJ as her boyfriend. On the night of “alleged rape”, everyone saw her “manipulating” VJ and taking her in the room for obvious reasons. And that’s why it’s pretty easy to judge who is “Guilty” here, according to everyone.
The film itself feels like a dry, slow narration of a Twitter thread. As a viewer, it’s difficult to empathize with any of the faces involved. In the process of covering all the moral and intellectual bases of a rape case – director Ruchi Narain, writers Kanika Dhillon and Atika Chohan – seem to forget that their fictional story is not based on fiction. It can’t afford to have “characters,” because it represents real people with real biases and traumas and secrets who are already labelled by public perception.
A virtuous lawyer conducts interviews with everyone who was present during the Valentine’s Day party at which the incident is alleged to have taken place. His investigation brings to light multiple narratives and contrasting points-of-view, encouraging the viewer to draw their own conclusions and come up with their own theories as to whom to believe.
The film largely unfurls through Nanki’s perspective, given that it’s always the partner – the wife, the girlfriend, the best friend – who is torn between a crippling emotional bias and the intuitions of womanhood. Moreover, Nanki’s history – “fragile” is the term often attributed to her – also feeds into the psychological trouble she faces in these two roles.
When the movie is coming to a close, we see panic attacks, unsolicited advice and a very "disgusted" lawyer, Danish. Personally, only Danish stuck out to me as a character on his own. Calm, collected and out for the truth. Lawyers have to play around with their understanding of morality almost constantly, and the stability in Danish's thinking throughout kept me interested.
Though Nanki was supposed to be the main focus, her acting seemed unnatural and there was absolutely no connection with the character. She seemed like the kind of edgy character filmmakers would use to seem smart and challenging, which is why her bits feel dry.
Guilty is made with all the right intentions and a good heart, which helps overshadow some of its patchy work. The film gets repetitive after an hour, only to pick up the pace by the end. The biggest problem with Guilty is that Akansha (Tanu) is given very little screen time. Though the story is about her dealing with the crime, we somehow see more of Nanki and VJ on the screen.
The end credits sequence of Guilty reveals more about the issue and its intensity than the entire film that precedes it. It's a weak attempt, but an attempt nonetheless. If you skip the movie, you won't miss out on anything, and if you do watch it - you won't feel any different.