Throw in a couple of melodramatic tareekh pe tareekh dialogues and churn them with some fist-banging on the table and some fitting background score and bam! there’s your insaaf (justice). Well this is how a typical court scene worked until the likes of Shahid and Jolly LLB appeared on Hindi cinema’s landscape. Chaitanya Tamhane’s directorial debut Court joins these realistic works and is quite the antithesis of what a typical Hindi movie court-room works like except the endless tareekhs.
The movie revolves around a sixty-five year old folk singer, Narayan Kamble, (Vira Sathidar) being tried with charges of abetment to suicide of a young sewerage worker, the cause of the abetment being one the poet’s inflammatory folk songs. The absurdity and ludicrousness of the charge is aligns the viewer to the film’s sardonic tone at it its very onset. Chaitanya presents us with a life-like verisimilitude of the Indian courtroom. From the nonchalantly ill-equipped courtrooms and chaotic court sessions, ridiculously myopic interpretations of archaic laws to the arcane legal jargon used in court, Chaitanya’s film blatantly bares the incongruity that India’s legal system has become.
Conversely, the film zooms out of the courtroom to reflect upon and thus reveal the socio-economic framework it is situated in. This in turn underlines the intrinsic prejudices and twisted beliefs of the characters involved. The public prosecutor, Nutan’s (Geetanjali Kulkarni) return to a typical Maharashtrian middle-class setup despite being closer to the Kamble’s class is surprisingly devoid of any sense of collectivity and affect which is emphasized through her outright apathy towards the accused. Whereas, Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber) who is a cheese and wine picking well-off Gujarati chooses to defend the ageing Dalit Kamble. Given the nonsensical nature of the case and the consequent incompetent and jumbled court sessions, Narayan Kamble ineluctably falls into the spiral of never ending nightmares.
Court draws most of its impact from the understated rage and contempt of the insensitive and mismanaged judicial system and consequently conveys its disdain of its underlying inefficient and adulterated politics. Unflinching in its showcase of the flawed Indian legal system Court frames an honest picture albeit in a refined and discreet tone that doesn’t reduce the work into a didactic and moralistic project. Shot in real locations with an inspiring cast consisting of both professional and real faces, Chaitanya’s Court effortlessly penetrates the audiences’ psyche. A viewing of the film validates its win as the Best film in 71st Venice International Film Festival Best Film among others as truly well-deserved.