Aarushi Talwar murder: How one TV channel tried the case, held parents guilty, and switched stance to suit its owners' needs

The Aarushi Talwar murder case, among the most sensational whodunits of recent times, divided public opinion as the trial coursed its way to a conclusion. Everybody professed to know who killed Aarushi, the 14-year-old girl who was found murdered in her Noida house in May 2008, especially the media which led a wild, uninformed, bumbling and amateurish armchair investigation.

The film 'Talvar' took a pro-Rajesh and Nupur Talwar stance. Image Courtesy: YouTube

The film 'Talvar' took a pro-Rajesh and Nupur Talwar stance. Image Courtesy: YouTube

Well before the Ghaziabad trial court could pronounce its verdict, Aarushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, were painted as the likely culprits, sometimes over such flimsy grounds as "the conduct displayed by Mr and Mrs Talwar appears a bit too calculated, even cold-blooded", as put forth by author Shobhaa De, who wrote a blog piece titled 'Aarushi's Monster Parents'.

Such was the nature of coverage at times that the Supreme Court had to come down heavily on the media, saying the coverage lacked "sensitivity, taste, and decorum".

Among the worst culprits was Arnab Goswami, editor of Times Now, who ran a campaign to paint the Talwar couple as the culprits. Sonorita Chauhan, who was on the news desk at Times Now at the time, had said the media was complicit in changing the narrative.

Recalling her experience with her then boss Arnab Goswami, Sonorita observed: "Nupur's exclusive interview to NDTV has been quoted by many as the reason they think the Talwars are guilty, because she did not cry. But the media helped shape the guilty verdict against them as well. (The then) Times Now editor-in-chief (Arnab Goswami) (was) infuriated with the fact that Nupur Talwar had decided to give an interview to one of his nemesis — NDTV. He (Arnab) asked me to find holes in her version of events, even as she was giving the interview. Her story was juxtaposed with the idiot Gurcharan Singh's (IG, Meerut Range) mind-numbingly stupid press conference, where he insisted on calling Aarushi 'Shruti'. How could he have been taken seriously after that, I don't know."

However, in 2015, the Meghana Gulzar film Talvar was released. Based on Avirook Sen's book, Aarushi, the film was produced by Junglee Films, the films division of the Times Group. The movie, like the book it was based on, took an unabashedly pro-Rajesh and Nupur Talwar line. Following the release of the film, the Times Group, its publications and TV channels also appear to have changed their stance.

The day of the release, The Times of India carried a report wherein people impacted by the incident and its ensuing investigation spoke to the newspaper about the film and the case. Titled 'Talvar: The film that will shake your beliefs', the report spoke of the quest to know the truth.

The next day, it carried another set of interviews with people impacted by the sensational whodunit. Titled 'Talvar fills you with horror, sympathy, disgust, and anger', the report spoke to people acquainted with the couple, neighbours and Aarushi's friends.

The coverage continued for the next day as well, as the publication carried a report titled 'Even as we live together, our world and that of the people who work for us are poles apart'. The makers of the film spoke about the need to "educate" domestic help.

Times Now, which initially tried to portray the Talwars as the culprits, also ran a Twitter hashtag #TalwarDebate, perhaps suggesting the case wasn't as cut and dry as they had initially appeared to portray.

Were these reports attempting to paint the "other" side of the picture? Was it a calculated move on the part of the media group to get the Talwars' side of things out to the public, or was it simply to drive up public interest in the film?

On Thursday, after the Allahabad High Court pronounced its verdict, for instance, Times Now's coverage appeared decidedly toned down and measured. It lambasted the CBI for having botched up the investigation and asked if there will never be justice for Aarushi.

Much of the day's coverage focussed on the events of the last nine years, starting from how the crime scene was contaminated, how the probe agencies offered one verdict and then another, and how the other suspects will now be back in the spotlight. The lawyers representing the Talwar couple were also offered much screen time and given their say. A marked difference from the coverage of nine years ago.

Was it the departure of Arnab Goswami, who quit the channel 12 months ago to start his own venture Republic TV, or was it the release of their in-house movie Talvar which forced them to think along different lines? Or was it something else entirely? The nation does want to know.

Updated Date: Oct 12, 2017 18:44 PM

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