Rubaru Roshni review: Documentary on acts of violence gives you poignant insight into a criminal's psyche

Udita Jhunjhunwala

Jan 28, 2019 10:26:23 IST

Director Svati Chakravarty Bhatkal’s documentary opens with a reference to Rumi’s couplet: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you’. Having no idea what this 110-minute film was going to be about, Rubaru Roshni took me by surprise. (The English title of the film is Where the Light Comes In.)

Rubaru Roshni review: Documentary on acts of violence gives you poignant insight into a criminals psyche

A still from Rubaru Roshni. YouTube

The three chapters in Bhatkal’s film are unrelated in most ways. Not only are they set in different time periods, but also disparate geographies. But they are linked, strongly, by a core emotion.

The first is set in Delhi and Punjab, the second in Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala and the third in Virginia, the US and Mumbai. These intensely personal, heartbreaking and yet heartwarming stories are connected by a tough human and emotional chord. Using present time testimonies, news clippings, photographs and other interviews, Bhatkal has shone a light into the deep wounds caused by irreparable loss borne out of violence.

I felt an acute connection with the opening chapter ‘Orphan and the Convict’ (about the assassination of politician Lalit Maken in the 1980s) and as a Mumbai resident, felt very moved by the ‘Terror and the Mom’ (about a mother who lost her family in the Mumbai terror attacks of 26 November, 2008). The middle case study, ‘The Farmer and the Nun’ (the brutal murder of sister Rani Maria in the 1990s), conveys the message of the movie in the most lyrical way.

The link between these three real life stories is not just of loss, but also of healing that comes from beautiful gestures of forgiveness and the belief in second chances. There are lessons to be learned here, as anger turns to vengeful hate and acceptance gives way to compassion.

Aamir Khan provides the voiceover that takes us through this journey stitched together by editor Hemanti Sarkar. The overarching emotion and thought are so poignant that they erase the momentary doubt about the political subtext of the film and its technical limitations (particularly with the images).

Bhatkal has spent years working on this film, and succeeded in coaxing her subjects — not just the victims, but also the perpetrators of these heinous crimes — to speak with candour. We can sympathise with the victims and survivors of course, but the gut-punch comes as you get an insight into the psyche and motivations of the criminals.

Towards the end, American Kia Scherr reworks another popular quote, which summarises the essence of Bhatkal’s potent film. She says, ‘To be unforgiving is like taking poison, and hoping your enemy dies’.

Rubaru Roshni is streaming on Hotstar in English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam and Telugu.

Rating: ***1/2

Updated Date: Jan 28, 2019 10:26:23 IST