No other film of India presents a clearer socio-judicial image of India than Chaitanya Tamhane’s Marathi drama Court. Making a movie so powerful only at the age of 27 shows what a rare talent he is amongst mostly clichéd contemporary Indian directors. It gives an ultra-realistic insight into the judiciary proceedings of a sessions court in Mumbai when an old folk singer is charged on abetment of suicide along with the lives of the people associated with the case.
The story is marginal: but the screenplay has a beauty of itself. It illuminates the daily proceedings of the court, its inhibitions, and its strong headedness alongside the worldly affairs of the defense, the prosecution and a little bit of the judge. How the case is just a case, a number, how the people related to the case are affected or unaffected by its mesh is illumed throughout the movie. The screenplay points out the differences in the lives of people from different socio-economic backgrounds and the hypocrisy in their lives. Supplementing the strong screenplay is cinematography very unusual in Indian cinema. There is no tracking shot, zoom or any other movements than a few panning. It can be compared to Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 Cannes Golden Camera winner, Stranger Than Paradise, which was composed with entirely static shots; no movements at all! This gives the camera a neutral stand, makes it a silent observer much like the man from Kieslowski’s Dekalog. It does not make one inferior or criminalize a person; the camera just looks at the events as a lazy observer. It views everyone equally, like the judiciary ought to.
The characters coming from different backgrounds are shown through their different professional and social outings. The accused, Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), is a man true to himself; he does his work without caring for consequences. The defense lawyer Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber) is Gujarati living in Mumbai and hails from an affluent family. He believes in what he does: human rights and justice. The Prosecution (Geetanjali Kulkarni) is a middle class woman, who tries to bundle up the cases fast to go home and be a housewife. Her lack of attachment to her work is evident. The judge (Pradeep Joshi) is man with some religious superstitions which shapes his character. His lack of sense of humour, his failure to provide justice is shown in the movie.
Another thing, which if not written about will tantamount to crime, is its poster. One poster shows the defense, the judge and the prosecution as animated figures. This is true as the latter two are in fact persons with less care for their work; they are puppets of the society. The defense is shown doing beauty treatment; which he does in the film after his face is blackened by religious extremists as his reference to their sect was “insulting” to them. This can be metaphorical for the judiciary and other public offices which are darkened by corruption. Another poster shows a courtroom with the accused folk singer singing with half his body inside a manhole and sewage spilling out in the floor. Indeed this is the case in the film, the accused is forced charges with no logical interpretation like the sewer cleaner was forced for livelihood to enter sewers without any safety measures. The sewage is everything that disrupts the proper functioning of the organization.
Even by using mostly non-professional actors, the director manages to get very realistic performance from the cast. Editing is done beautifully with no extra visuals or movements. The use of almost no background music provides a perfect setting for the story to unfold along the lines of film with all its focus on the events. This work shows the talent of all associated with its production and is great achievement in Indian cinema where people are afraid to go out of the stereotypical forms of cinema.
Film Score :84
Direction: Chaitanya Tamhane Screenplay: Chaitanya Tamhane Cinematography: Mrinal Desai Editing: Rikhav Desai Music: Sambhaji Bhagat Cast: Vivek Gomber, Pradeep Joshi, Vira Sathidar, Geetanjali Kulkarni