“My Wife’s Murder”… This is one of those woeful titles that reveal just a tad too much about the film’s plot. Thankfully, though, debutant director, Jijy Philip, and writer, Atul Sabharwal, back up the premise promised by the title with depth, which is achieved by a complex study into human emotions.
Anil Kapoor enacts the role of Ravi, a busy and stressed editor with a wife, Sheela (Suchitra Krishnamurthy) and two children. At work, Ravi has an editing assistant, Reena (Nandana Sen), a bright and hard-working girl keen to learn the ropes of the job from her superior. Sheela is a depressed housewife whose love for Ravi has turned into loathing. Her self-esteem is so low that she believes that her husband is having an affair with Reena, without questioning the logic of her accusations. Day in, day out, Sheela batters Ravi with verbal abuse and vile allegations.
Ravi begs Sheela to stop spouting such nonsense, as Reena is just a work colleague and nothing more. But a row leads to Ravi lashing out and Sheela dies instantly by falling over and hitting her head onto the wooden part of the bed. Ravi panics and believes that calling the police would make the situation worse. He does not want to hurt his children either (he later leads them on to think that their mother has gone away for a few days). Ravi dumps the body into a canal. But Sheela’s fretting parents report her as a missing person to the police. Boman Irani is Inspector Tejal Randhawa, a cop who investigates the case.
Ostensibly a thriller, “My Wife’s Murder” analyses how relationships can come under strain. Ravi and Reena sit in the studio and cut out the bad and unwanted parts of film. They only wish that they could do the same to their own fragmented lives. Hindi cinema has often talked about wives who are abused at the hands of their husbands but rarely does it look at the situation from the other way round. Ravi is very much a victim of spousal abuse, a problem that would lead many male sufferers to feel embarrassed and powerless. This powerlessness causes Ravi to strike out. Other characters’ relationships come under the spotlight too. Reena and Raj (Rajesh Tandon) start out as a loving couple but the second half focuses on the cracks in their relationship and their insecurities. We even get a glimpse in to the Tejal’s home life where it is gradually revealed that his own marriage is filled with tension and cracks. These insights develop an ongoing theme of relationships gone wrong.
A bleak mood is enhanced by the dull and cheerless environment in Ravi’s house and a smoky and lonely atmosphere at his workplace. The floating smoke from the cigarettes acts as a metaphor for the haziness of the characters’ lives where nothing is ever certain. Reena is a character whose sympathy for Ravi makes one question whether she just sees him as a friend and nothing more. Certainly, she does look up to him and her acts begin to mirror his when she too takes up smoking to alleviate stress. P.S. Vinod’s excellent photography, which captures the wafting fog from all the smoking, is all that is needed to set up the grimy atmosphere. Sheela’s blood shines out disturbingly from the joyless surroundings. And Jijy Philip demonstrates his directorial flair by showing a reflection of Anil’s shocked face in the deep dark red blood. It is a shame then that Amar Mohile’s background score goes into overdrive. His composition is fine and effective but it intrudes into the film like a diamond stuck in the middle of a cake. There are scenes where the suspenseful music blares out when silence would’ve been the better option. The editing is noteworthy, especially in the scene after the accidental murder, where a sequence of shots help build up the chilling outcome of the drama.
A great casting must have made Jijy Philip’s job easier while making his first feature. Anil Kapoor is excellent as the harassed husband plagued by guilt and fear. Finally, here is a role after a long time that makes most use of him as an actor. Nandana Sen is the surprise package here and that is no surprise after her memorable supporting turns in “Black” and “Tango Charlie”. She makes you eager to know what Reena is thinking. Suchitra Krishnamurthy does a wonderful job as the bitter nagging wife and sincerely makes the audience believe that her character is capable of making her husband snap. Boman Irani as the cop with a passion for food infuses his part with an ounce of determined menace and compassion, making him a very capricious character (though the role itself is quite predictable). Master Zain, as Ravi’s son, is impressive in the tearful climax. Rajesh Tandon is good too.
Some of the recent RGV productions have been lacklustre but this one bucks the trend. With great performances and a solid story, “My Wife’s Murder” is definitely worth your money.