This official Indian entry to the Oscars is bound to make you look at new-age Indian films in a different light. What can easily be regarded as the epitome of the new wheels that parallel Indian cinema is riding on, the Marathi movie ‘Court’ demands of you a mindset that trite Bollywood films do not have the slightest requirement for.
At the onset, it is necessary to mention that this movie does not have a conspicuous background music or a fashionable cinematography. Yet the movie manages to arrest your attention by the sheer power of simple dialogues and the remarkable patience in the natural depiction of scenes of life. Centered on the plight of the tution teacher-cum-folk singer Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), the film seamlessly and significantly peeks into the lives of the two confronting lawyers and the judge (Pradeep Joshi) of the sessions court so as to draw the complete picture of their mentality, lifestyles and prejudices that have subtly played a hand in the case. The portrayal makes it indispensable to note how each of the given three, upon whom rests solely the conviction or acquittal of the prosecuted, takes the case as just another errand in their prosaic life, and tackles with professional indifference. Even the accused seems to have lost the urge and emotion of combat against injustice, and deals with his fate as unsurprisingly as he deals with his day-to-day life.
Here emerges the distinct microcosm of the lower-middle and middle class Indian Citizen as the helpless enduring puppets of the Indian Judiciary, whose resignation has inevitably taken the form of an inanimate acceptance. Herein lies the distinct irony of the lack of dramatics in the movie and its proven necessity. Herein gets scripted the victory of the adopted style of ‘naturalism’. The traits of resignation are best found in the eyes and mannerisms of the wife of the deceased man-hole worker, Vasudev Pawar, whose supposed suicide is alleged to be the result of Kamble’s abetment. She feared the harassment of the law more than she mourned the death of her husband, and had not the food in her stomach to afford the luxury of grief before she found work. That the lack of any protective equipment and poisonous man-hole gases caused the loss of an eye of late Vasudev, is turned a blinder eye by the judge and dismissed as assumptions immediately. The only one in the film not accustomed to the perennially prevailing prejudices governing justice is the young defending lawyer (Vivek Gomber) with hints of affluent upbringing.
I must mention my favourite scene where loyalists of a minority sect ‘Goyamari’ captures the lawyer outside a restaurant before his family and blackens his face for ‘insulting’ their practices before court. We only hear screams of his family and Goyamari slogans as the name of the restaurant “Chetana” (Conscience) is captured in the empty frame.
The irony heightens when after bailing out Kamble for lack of evidence, he is arrested again on grounds on sedition, an ill-defined crime that he again did not actually commit. He only sang his songs that he knew he was forbidden to.
The film is successful in its criticism of the Indian Judiciary and Indian Society, though the unabashed disregard for all usual rules of entertaining film-making might cause slight discomfort. It opens the Indian audience to the raw non-commercial style of cinema and earns the unforgettable niche of the true cinema-loving hearts. Since an art form must only be classified as good or bad, this piece would undoubtedly near the former.
(May 10, 2016)