Saturday, May 2, 2015

Disquiet all around

My review of National Award winning movie, Court

Newspaper headlines these days are all about alleged extremists getting caught/detained and incriminating material being seized from them. Most of us flip over the page and the said news is buried somewhere, until there is a brouhaha over the detention of the said terrorist. In most cases, even that dies down soon enough and the ‘accused’ is dropped from the public consciousness.

Court is the story of one such person named Narayan Kamble. The scene opens to Kamble wrapping up tuition classes at his home, to reach a residential colony inhabited by a few lower middle class families, where he and his troupe would present a powada (ballad). As his song nears the end, the police arrive and take him away, for abatement of suicide of a sewage worker, Vasudeo Pawar.

According to the charges slapped on Kamble, his song had incited Pawar to commit suicide. The seemingly ludicrous charges are actually a bigger design to detain the social activist and folk singer. Kamble, is played by a real life activist, Vira Saathidaar, whose understated but stoic performance is bound to send a shiver of disquiet down your spine.

The court scenes unfolding between public prosecutor Nutan (Geetanjali Kulkarni) and defence lawyer Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber, who is also the producer) before Judge Sadavarte (Pradeep Joshi) show the functioning of the courtroom. Unlike the usual depiction in cinema, where the judiciary has been painted in broad brush strokes — in white and black, Court, without an overt villain in its midst, is a lot more grey and hence chillier.

The ordinary lives of the lawyers, outside the court, serve to bring out the intensity of the stance they have taken. Nutan, who is a loving wife and mother, can also be callous enough to talk about ‘dumping Kamble in jail for 20 years under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code. Vora, on the other hand, belongs to the privileged class, yet has the sensitivity to reach out to Kamble and folks from the lower stratum of society.'
Besides the realistic court room scenes, Tamhane has lent his characters a sense of dignity too. The numbness of being caught in the machinery, and adherence to the rules, is so understated that it takes some time to realise that not only have all doors been shut on Kamble, but it’s also he alone who remembers the dead sewage worker, the trigger for the trial. Released on bail, Kamble is arrested again when he is in the midst of bringing out a book on the same worker, titled Apamanache Oze (Burden of Humiliation). That’s the travesty of the judiciary.

The only false note is the last 10 minutes of the movie which seeks to reiterate, rather shrilly, how callous the powers that be are.

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