Art & Entertainment

'To Kill A Tiger' On Netflix Movie Review: This Riveting Documentary Is Filled With Courage, A Burning Hope For Justice

Outlook Rating:
4 / 5

While 'To Kill a Tiger' may not gotten an Oscar win, it has managed to make a place in the hearts of all those who have watched it. Is this Nisha Pahuja documentary worth your while? Or can you skip it? Read on to find out.

Netflix
A Still from 'To Kill A Tiger' Photo: Netflix
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‘To Kill a Tiger’ has garnered tons of buzz due to its achievements at various film festivals and a nomination at the 96th Academy Awards. The film landed on the OTT giant Netflix on the same day as the Oscars. It also came under the spotlight because it has been backed by huge names—Dev Patel, Mindy Kaling, Rupi Kaur, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas—joining the film as executive producers. Despite the film not winning the award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2024 Oscars, it has managed to impress and leave an impact on all those who have watched it. So, what’s the documentary directed by Nisha Pahuja all about?

‘To Kill A Tiger’: Story

“A father fighting for his daughter in a rape case… this is no small thing. It never happens, it’s very rare.” The film centres on a family in the Bero district of Jharkhand who are fighting to seek justice after their 13-year-old daughter, Kiran, was brutally raped by three men. Even when the entire village is forcing her to marry one of the men and ‘forget about it’ because no one else will take her hand in marriage, she stays strong, and would rather die than give in. They disrespect and ignore her and her family throughout the entirety of the film. While the documentary is about getting Kiran justice by punishing her abusers, it primarily sheds light on her family’s determination and unfazed courage to emerge victorious and not give up, despite death threats and societal pressures.

‘To Kill A Tiger’: Performances

Being a documentary, the people in the film are real-life characters. They are not enacting any scenes. Rather, they are speaking truthfully to the camera and narrating how they feel about the distressing incident. Be it sadness or anger, the documentary is filled with raw and unfiltered emotions. Jaganti’s (the mother) helpless eyes and Ranjit’s (the father) determination will shatter you but also inculcate a sense of hope in you. While the mother had less screen time, the events are primarily narrated from the father’s perspective, and his quest for justice for his little girl.

The organisation supporting them, the Srijan Foundation, played a huge role in getting Kiran justice. Without them, the process would not have been possible, or wouldn’t have gotten the push it needed. Amit Singh (Gender Rights Activist), Jopha Lakra (Lawyer), and Pushpa Sharma from the Foundation, along with Mahendra Kumar (Women’s Rights Activist), left no stone unturned in providing support and guiding the family. Small perspectives and interviews with AK Rai (Public Prosecutor), Budram Bada (District Chief), Lakhan Lal Shah (Legal Advisor), Juhi Chaudhry (Defence Attorney), Muthalik (Ward Member), and Samrendra Kumar Singh (Investigating Officer), as well as people in the village, will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

What has also been absolutely heart-breaking to see is how Kiran had to practice her statement the night before her hearing. The vulnerability and pain of the girl as she narrated the events have been so heavy to the ears. The instances in the film will surely bring tears to your eyes and leave you feeling sympathetic yet angry.

‘To Kill A Tiger’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects

You can almost feel how unscripted the documentary is. Nisha Pahuja knows what to shed focus on, and she’s done that fabulously. This kind of story doesn’t exactly need a complex narrative structure; you have to let the events take their course. The film tells the story clearly and directly without sugar-coating anything. Pahuja’s film stands to challenge the longstanding beliefs that have worsened the hardships faced by innumerable girls and women like Kiran. While the film is about getting a rape victim justice, it has also highlighted in a minute way the harsh realities of a farmer’s life. Not only that, it also talks about the irresponsibility of a police officer and bribery. But this isn’t just another story of a rape survivor; it’s also about how patriarchy is so deep-rooted in the society.

Without any flashy visuals, the camera work by Mrinal Desai has been absolutely beautiful. The emphasis on the expressions of the family members talking about their pain and agony is done in such an honest way to give viewers an idea of a life that might be unfamiliar to them. What I also absolutely loved was the concept to showcase grey clouds accompanied by lightning as Kiran gave her statement at the hearing. Even the drone shots used to showcase the village or the different angles to portray commoners, just to step away from seeing familiar faces, have been wonderfully executed.

The editing also needs to be appreciated because Dave Kazala and Mike Munn have managed to pack all the necessary information. The crisp editing keeps you engaged from the very beginning to the very end. None of it feels rushed. Even the music by Jonathan Goldsmith has been nothing short of stellar. The flute, the tabla, and the harmonica sounds used in some scenes really helped intensify the emotions you’re feeling in that moment. The choice to keep the sound of the events happening in the background while interviews were going on was brilliant.

‘To Kill A Tiger’: Cast & Crew

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Director: Nisha Pahuja

Available On: Netflix

Duration: 2 hours 8 minutes

Premiere Date: March 10, 2024

Genre: Documentary

Language: Hindi

‘To Kill A Tiger’: Can Kids Watch It?

Yes, with parental guidance.

Outlook’s Verdict

The film shakes you to the core. I felt goosebumps, and found myself shedding tears by the end of it. As horrifying as it is, and it breaks my heart to say, common, ‘To Kill a Tiger’ is one of a kind example of how truth will prevail. The film is a powerful yet heart-shattering display of courage and determination and one of the purest examples of parental love. Nisha Pahuja’s documentary truly serves as an inspiration for women, especially rape victims, to come out and speak their truths.

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