NO ONE KILLED JESSICA
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Rahul.
New Delhi, Summer 1999. Meera Gaiti (Rani Mukherjee) narrates, speaking about the Capital of India. She mentions that, though she was born and raised in Delhi, she has not been able to understand it yet. While Mumbai might be the centre of finance, Delhi is truly the centre of power in India. As she speaks, a montage plays depicting Delhi's various sights and happenings. She's a well-known (albeit, rather abrasive) TV reporter, who's currently reporting about the Kargil War (between India and Pakistan). Just as the war ended, another story broke, one that was so sensational it rocked the foundation of the power base in India.
One late summer night in '99, Sabrina Lall (Vidya Balan) is woken up by a call from a friend, who informs her that her sister, Jessica (Myra), has been shot and has been hospitalised. Horrified and panicky, Sabrina rushes to the hospital and frantically asks the assembled family friends there about Jessica's condition. She sees Jess' boyfriend, Vikram Jaisingh, shell-shocked and tearful, giving his statement to the police, including an Inspector (Rajesh Sharma). After Sabrina coaxes him to tell her what happened, he relates the events of that fateful night.
We flashback to the Keno Club, where the hostess, Mallika Sehgal, has thrown a lavish party for about 300 people, the celebrations going late into the night. Jess, Vikram and Naina (Mallika's daughter) are in attendance. Jess and Vikram also work the bar. However, due to high demand, the drinks are exhausted quickly. At that time, Manish Bhardwaj, Lucky Singh and RJ Rastogi walk inside and start dancing around Naina, getting a little too close for her tastes, prompting her to walk off in disgust. They approach the bar and demand drinks. Jess and Vikram tell them that the drinks are over. Despite their repeated demands, they're turned down curtly by Jessica. Later, in an emptier, less noisy part of the club, the trio accosts Vikram, still demanding liquor. Naina tells them to get lost and walks off. Jessica walks in and tells them to get out. Infuriated, Manish yanks out his .22 Beretta pistol and holds it on Jessica. Jessica, a bit cowed, nevertheless refuses to back down. He fires once in the air, the bullet hitting the ceiling, and, on being refused again, shoots Jessica point blank in the right temple. Manish's friends are shocked and petrified at his actions, but Manish is doubly so. At that moment, there are 3 eye-witnesses - Vikram, and two others, Shankar and Dharam. Mallika enters and sees Jessica on the floor, in a pool of blood, and Manish still holding the gun. Yelling he didn't do it, he and his friends run out, as Mallika tries to stop them, calling for her Canadian husband (out on the dance floor) to stop them, but the trio escape. Vikram finally comes to his senses and screams for help, but to no avail, as his screams are drowned out by the loud music.
Back to present, Sabrina is incredulous that Jessica was shot over a drink. At that time, her parents, Sanjit and June, come rushing in, her mother crying hysterically. The doctor advises them to take Jessica to another hospital. Jessica dies on the way to the hospital.
We're then introduced to Meera, who's wrapped up her coverage of the Kargil War, though she's deeply saddened by the heavy casualties suffered by both sides. On her flight back home, a co-passenger talks about how exciting the war was and gets an expletive-filled mouthful from Meera about the horrors of war. When she reaches the NDTV office, she gets a standing ovation from the staff. She meets her boss, Gaurav, and asks for her next story. When shown the story of Jessica's murder by Manish Bhardwaj, the son of a prominent politician (Pramod Bhardwaj), she rejects it, saying that the evidence and witnesses are so overwhelmingly against the accused that he doesn't stand a chance.
While Manish is in hiding, his father, Pramod, and his flunkies talk about what they can do to save Manish from prison. Manish's mother stands at the door and tells them to do whatever they must, but she wants her son back (a recurring theme). They agree to hire Shyam Tolani, a renowned defence attorney with a 70% success rate. They also decide to "handle" the witnesses and evidence. Manish comes out of hiding and is immediately arrested. He is interrogated by the Inspector, who tells him that he took a huge bribe not to beat him up during interrogation. Manish confesses on tape to having shot Jessica for not serving him a drink. After killing her, he hitched a number of rides to a dhaba (roadside motel for truckers) where he buried the gun. Then he returned to his friends, who are freaking out. They retrieve their SUV and the gun and dispose of them. However, the SUV is found later with shell casings inside that match the ones that were removed from Jessica's body and the ceiling of the crime scene. By the looks of it, Manish is screwed.
Sabrina goes to meet the Inspector. He rails against all the "high-society" people she associates with. He narrates about how each of the party-guests keep saying that they had left before midnight, that is, they saw nothing. He gives her a file of 7 people who were identified as eye-witnesses. She takes the file and tries to the witnesses. However, as she tries to get in touch with them, Bhardwaj's men have already started to swoop on them, wither threatening or bribing them. Shankar tells her that he's poor and he doesn't want the trouble. Dharam emphatically declares that he's an honest person and he'll testify. However, he manages to chisel Rs. 20,000 off of Sabrina first, 30,000 later. Mallika says she's not sure about what she saw. Finally, she tries to contact the star witness, Vikram, but too late again - he's been intimidated as well. He refuses to take her calls or see her, even running off to Kolkata. She tries to go after him, but keeps getting blown off by his staff. She also finds out (from the Inspector) that the ballistics evidence has been tampered with. Her complaints to the superintendent fall on deaf ears. Sabrina slowly starts to feel the case start to unravel around her, despite her best efforts. Manish's parents even visit the Lalls (when Sabrina is away). They sit in extremely awkward silence. When Sabrina finds out about the visit, she flies into a rage and screams loudly.
Meanwhile, Meera reports on the hijacking of flight IC-814 by terrorists and the subsequent exchange of 3 hardened terrorists for the hostages. During the coverage, her subordinate Aditi tries to get her on the Jessica Lall case, but she blows her off. One day, she sees Sabrina waiting at the NDTV office. She introduces herself and tells Sabrina that she's confident that Manish will get what he deserves. Sabrina appears on a news segment, hosted by Aditi, where she speaks about Jessica, her murder and how it could have happened to anyone else's sister or daughter. She pleads for people to do the right thing. She mentions that she hasn't cried for Jessica once, saving her tears for after she gets justice.
On the day of the trial, reporters and onlookers clamour to see the drama unfolding outside the courthouse. Inside the crowded courtroom, the case gets underway. Shyam Tolani, arguing for the defence, manages to get some witnesses' testimonies thrown out, though Naina holds her own against him. However, all the eye-witnesses (Shankar, Dharam and Vikram) turn hostile. Vikram claims to not understand Hindi, which was the language in which his statement was written. He tells the court (much to Sabrina's dismay) that he was forced to sign it by the Inspector. The Inspector vehemently denies this. Vikram says that there were two people, one taller and one shorter (who resembled Manish), the latter the one who killed Jessica. The fudged ballistics report seems to corroborate his story. The trial spreads over 6 years, until one day in 2006, the verdict is out - Not Guilty, in other words, No One Killed Jessica. Meera reads the news and is shocked and angered.
Due to the stress of the case and the denial of justice, June Lall suffers a heart attack and passes away. At the same time, the Bhardwajs celebrate their victory in a temple. The shock of having lost his daughter and now his wife causes Sanjit Lall to suffer a heart attack also. However, he survives, though is bedridden at the hospital. Sabrina, now having lost all faith in law and order in the country, decides to let things be and throws herself in her work at a travel company, refusing to watch the news.
Meanwhile, Meera demands Jessica's story and, after a lot of cajoling, gets it. She enlists Aditi's help. She gets Aditi to call Vikram Jaisingh and pretend that they're calling him for an audition for a movie role. He jumps at the chance, meeting Aditi and a pretty blonde (named Michelle) at a hotel. The whole meeting is secretly being taped by Meera's team. They manage to bait him into speaking Hindi, which he speaks really fluently. They also ask about the Jessica case. He gets defensive and says that he was offered a million rupees or a bullet. He didn't want the money, but he didn't want the bullet either. He feels remorse about Jessica to this day. The next day, the hidden-cam footage is broadcast. Meera, acting as Sabrina, calls Shankar and again he talks about his plight. The recording and transcript are aired almost immediately. They even get Dharam to confess (while drunk) about how he was offered money by both sides and he took the higher offer. When the Inspector sees the exposÈs on TV, he sends Meera a CD containing Manish's confession. The explosive confession is aired and soon people all over the country are up in arms over the injustice. Meera starts a Justice for Jessica campaign which gets immensely popular. People send in their support from all over. Pramod Bhardwaj is sacked from his position by the Prime Minister as a result of the scandal. Campaigns start up all over, not just about Jessica, but demanding an overhaul of the justice system, which hasn't changed since British Rule. The President and Prime Minister of India also give support for the campaign. The only one who couldn't care less is Sabrina, as she keeps away from the media.
Naina watches Rang De Basanti (a hugely popular movie about righteous revolution among today's youth) and, taking a cue from the movie, organises a candlelight vigil for Jessica at India Gate on February 5 at 5 PM. Text messages, emails, blog posts etc are exchanged by the thousands, popularising the vigil. Still Sabrina isn't interested, until Meera (who's been trying hard to get in touch with her) finally goes to her place to invite her for the vigil. Sabrina refuses, saying that she lost 6 years of her life fighting for Jessica and has nothing to show for it. She wants to move on. Meera convinces her (a bit harshly though) that this is probably the best way to get justice. Later, Sabrina remembers a time when Jessica beat up a boy for deliberately brushing past Sabrina, standing up for her sister.
At India Gate, at 5 PM, a huge crowd starts to build up. Sabrina shows up, much to Meera's relief. People hold their candles high as they call for justice. Meera hands Sabrina a microphone to address the crowd. Sabrina thanks the people for turning up and supporting their cause. The vigil is a huge success. Later, as Sabrina stands at Jessica's grave, Meera shows up and says that she won. The case has been reopened and fast-tracked. The accused have been re-arrested and the evidence is being reconsidered. Finally, Sabrina breaks down and sobs uncontrollably. She tearfully thanks Meera, who walks away. Meera narrates that Manish Bhardwaj was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Jessica Lall.