Jus­tice de­layed

COURT, drama, not rated, in Marathi, Hindi, English, and Gu­jarati with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES -

Court is a re­al­is­tic por­trayal of how long it can take to re­solve a court case in In­dia. Time drains away like wa­ter through a sieve. And that’s not all. At a seminar, the film’s pro­tag­o­nist, at­tor­ney Vi­nay Vora (Vivek Gomber), speaks about de­fen­dants who get ar­rested on cer­tain charges, but when the cases prove to be hol­low, they are re­ar­rested on dif­fer­ent charges. The film il­lus­trates one such sit­u­a­tion. A sixty-five-year-old folk singer, Narayan Kam­ble (Vira Sathi­dar), is ar­rested for al­legedly in­cit­ing the sui­cide of a sewage worker. The hear­ings drag on over sev­eral months, and the slow pace of the film’s edit­ing un­der­lines how Narayan’s case moves like mo­lasses through the court sys­tem.

Narayan’s im­pris­on­ment with­out bail and his de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health seem to bother no one but his at­tor­ney. Af­ter months, the judge pro­nounces that the case is weak and fi­nally agrees to bail, but he sets the amount at an un­af­ford­able 100,000 ru­pees in cash. Vi­nay pays the bail so that his client’s health will not worsen fur­ther. Gomber plays the large-hearted at­tor­ney with un­der­stated bril­liance.

Narayan is let out on bail, only to be ar­rested shortly af­ter on charges of sedi­tion. The public pros­e­cu­tor would be happy to put Narayan away in jail for 20 years, but she too is hu­man­ized — at home, she is an or­di­nary house­wife who serves din­ner to her hus­band and ca­joles her chil­dren to eat while the food is warm. Di­rec­tor Chai­tanya Tamhane doesn’t point fin­gers but lets us ob­serve the de­fense, the pros­e­cu­tion, and the judge and draw our own con­clu­sions. Oc­ca­sion­ally, he takes this aes­thetic too far. Es­pe­cially in the street scenes, the film has one too many wide shots, which dis­tance us from the ac­tion.

The film ends with a se­quence that fol­lows the judge on his sum­mer va­ca­tion. We see that the up­per mid­dle class re­mains fixed on its usual pre­oc­cu­pa­tions — mar­ry­ing off chil­dren or pon­der­ing which pro­fes­sions yield the grand­est salaries. Mean­while, sewage work­ers la­bor un­der unimag­in­able con­di­tions with­out any safety equip­ment. The de­ceased sewage worker had to rely on whether or not a bug came out of a man­hole to as­cer­tain if there was enough oxy­gen to go in­side.

Usha Bane plays Sharmila Pawar, the sewage worker’s wife, in a stand­out per­for­mance. Af­ter her court ap­pear­ance, Vi­nay drives Sharmila back to her slum, and she tells him she’s look­ing for work. He of­fers to ar­range some money for her, but she re­fuses. She doesn’t want his money; she wants a job. It is well known that the sys­tem doesn’t work as well for peo­ple like Sharmila and Narayan as it does for the up­per mid­dle class, but see­ing this played out in Court is a fresh rev­e­la­tion. If you can get used to the pace, this is a sur­pris­ingly easy film to watch for the com­plex in­sights it of­fers. — Priyanka Ku­mar

Com­ing to dis­or­der

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