A lot has been written and said about this fantastic film, ever since it started doing the rounds of film festivals last year. I made a conscious decision to avoid reading reviews before watching the film (I missed it at the festivals). And I am glad I went in with a clean slate.
The thing with a superb film like Court is that it talks to each and every one of us in a unique manner. So I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what I got from the film.
But I’ll say this — Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut film is extremely well-written & skillfully executed. The trailer tells you that the film is about a court case – but in all honesty, that’s just an aspect that holds this sensitive, explorative narrative together. The film is about the things that happen inside, outside and around a court of law. It is also one of the few films that is able to effortlessly put together the spirit of Mumbai on the screen.
The film walks you through the lives of people from different sections of the society who come together in a Sessions Court of Mumbai. You get a deeper look at the films characters beyond their personality in public. In telling their story, Tamhane doesn’t drag on with dramatics. On the contrary, he takes you into the most mundane details of their lives. Tamhane’s characters come alive so beautifully… Perhaps it’s because most of Tamhane’s cast plays a version of their real selves in this film. My sister, who happened to meet Chaitanya after the screening at MoMA, told me that Chaitanya spent over 6 months on casting. Now, if that isn’t commitment to a story, then what it is? (My sister’s words).
The result is an ensemble that makes this film feel as real as possible. Performances by Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vira Sathidar (who is a Lok Shahir in real life too & has suffered at the hands of police just like the protagonist he portrays), Vivek Gomber (who’s also the producer of the film) convince you that the absurdity unfolding in front of your eyes is fiction deeply rooted in reality.
As we speak about huge issues like net neutrality & our right to access information, a film like Court brings you to a depressing realization that right down at the grass-root level, the concept of freedom of expression is tossed in the bin like a used tissue.
This is a film that you cannot miss. It is a film that stays with you, and it forces you to think, think, think. Go watch it!
PS: The film was screened on Ambedkar Jayanti. It was sort of poetic that a film that makes a scathing comment about the absurdity of the judicial system in India, be screened for the press on the birth anniversary of the man who wrote our Constitution.