Remember #MeToo? The movement where few fell to the sword while many were shaken by the storm only to resume normalcy after it died down. Ruchi Narain’s Netflix original film ‘Guilty’ is a reminder of the phenomenon and women’s plight in society.
We’re introduced to a group of students in St Martin’s, which is a far more authentic college than what you’d expect from a Karan Johar production. This is no student of the year. These characters are real people you’ve surely met in universities.
The college heartthrob VJ (Gurfateh Pirzada) gets accused of rape by a new student named Tanu Kumar (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor), who wanted him to be her boyfriend. She takes advantage of the #MeToo movement to sway the public, while VJ’s family, friends and girlfriend Nanki Dutta (Kiara Advani) attempt to protect him.
But Nanki slowly begins to realise that there’s more to the whole saga than meets the eye. With her own mental issues to cope with, who should she believe? Forced to question the truth by VJ’s lawyer Danish Ali Baig (Taher Shabbir), Nanki sets out to learn what actually happened.
Advani is the central figure of the narrative on whom a lot hinges, and she manages to give an assured performance by completely blending into the character. The same cannot be said about Kapoor, who seems out of place with an exaggerated performance while all the other actors subtly portray their characters.
Shabbir is excellent as Nanki’s indirect voice of reason, and their scenes together are highlights of the film. The actors playing VJ and his group do justice to their roles but are unable to stand out.
One of the biggest positives of Guilty is the premise itself. Apart for the sexual harassment case around which the plot revolves, there are several references to how men harass women in society. From public masturbation to victim shaming, you see it all.
Nanki herself is a canvas for all the evils of entitled men. She’s been taught that women need to protect herself and ‘men will be men’, but begins to realise the whole idea has been fed to her. Putting aside her differences with Tanu shows the need for women to band together, perfectly addressed by how VJ’s mother tries the hardest to protect him.
The fact that Tanu desperately wants VJ to be her boyfriend but changes her mind about sleeping with him is a direct attack to those who believe women are the ones who ‘ask for it’. No matter what one does, they always have the right to say no. The whole narrative is filled with lessons, just depends on who wants to imbibe them
Nanki is a rebellious scholar with coloured hair. The resemblance to Maeve Wiley from Sex Education seems obvious. Add to this a ‘shame’ sequence right out of Game of Thrones. There was absolutely no need to pick up western elements.
The narrative occasionally begins to linger and some characters, like the popular student and son of a politician VJ, have been used as a plot element so many times it’s getting tiring.
It’s a film the viewers need and deserve. In a society where the mindset needs to change desperately, Guilty is something that needs to be seen by absolutely everybody, and perhaps more importantly, learn from it.
Also Read: It Happened in Calcutta review: All is fair in love and war