'Court' Review: Don’t miss this delicious tragicomedy!
Thursday 16 April 2015
Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulkarni
The multiple-award winning film (including the recent National award for Best Feature) is aptly titled, to begin with. It's less about the characters of the story, and more about what they do when they are in (and out of) court. The court the most important character in the film, the background against which the story is set, and the fulcrum of everything.
For those who have peeked inside an Indian courtroom, you will appreciate the authenticity of the film that much more.
There are those unintentional humorous bits like a lawyer asking the judge to review a court date as he's going to his village for the holidays; a group of college-goers presented in court, in the middle of a serious case, for travelling in the handicapped department of a local train; and the judge refusing to even hear a case because the lady is wearing a sleeveless top.
Writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane finds comedy in everyday situations and presents it for us to relish. Like the scene where, in the middle of a heartbreaking lecture, two men coolly walk in with a giant fan and disrupt the lecture to set it up. There are several such gems that we shall leave for you to discover.
But the biggest tragicomedy is in the court case the film focuses on. A 65-year-old folk singer is arrested on the charges of abetment of suicide. The cop, who has arrested the old man, claims he has two witnesses that heard him sing a song that encouraged sewer workers to end their lives, and that the deceased, a sewage worker himself was supposedly influenced by the song and ended his life.
As ludicrous as the case sounds, we see the two lawyers from the opposite parties battling it out. The activist/lawyer (Vivek Gomber, also the producer) representing the ageing folk singer presents logic and the obvious truth; the opposing lawyer (Geetanjali Kulkarni) presents long-drawn, outdated (but still existing) laws.
We all know that the Indian legal system makes sure that court cases are tiresome and messy, with dates being thrown around. Who can forget Sunny Deol screaming "tareekh pe tareekh" in Damini.
And that is exactly what happens here. The jaded judge doesn't go beyond call of duty, and in the absence of witnesses, shoddy investigation, loopholes of the law and assorted absurd reasons the case is deferred to another date, till years roll by.
The film hints that the reason for arresting the firebrand folk singer may have been more sinister than what meets the eye. Since the court represents justice, the film touches upon several issues like mistreatment of daily wage earners like sewer workers, classism, religious discrimination, and sexism among others.
This is explored through the out-of-court lives of our opposing advocates. One goes home to alcohol and passes out on the couch; while the other travels back in a local train, picks up kid from a creche, shops for groceries, cooks, does house work, and prepares for the next day's case before calling it a day.
The difference between the lives of these two lawyers is one of the film's most evocative portions, making us sympathize with them both. The cast performs with heart and makes us emotionally invest in the character, even if we don't agree with their points- of-view. The accomplished cinematography, set design and the humorously caustic finale makes the film worth savouring again and again.
This is a delicious slice-of-life film that puts forth various issues, and celebrates the unintended and often dark humour that we see all around us. As the lights dim on a closed courtroom, we understand the director is making a symbolic point. Indians often say that one should keep away from the 'chakkar' of courts and hospitals as far as possible. The film shows us why. And it's sad, sad indeed.
Rating: Fours stars