Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Court

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Court

Article excerpt

The big hitter this week is, of course, Batman v Superman , but if you want to learn something new, and meet characters that'll stay with you long after, well, get yourself to Court . This is an Indian courtroom drama in which the wheels of justice grind so slowly you'll want to scream, and now I can see I haven't sold this well. 'What do you fancy seeing at the cinema, dear? A courtroom drama in which the wheels of justice grind so slowly you'll want to scream? Shall I book, or will you?' But Court 's lassitude is kind of its point. It is one of those film in which not much happens but everything happens. Court is fascinating, affecting and completely engrossing while delivering a devastating critique of a system so antiquated and absurd that a woman is told her case won't be heard today because she is wearing a sleeveless top.

The film is written and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, who is 29, which is worrying for those who are, ahem, nearly twice that age and had thought they'd yet to peak. (Damn.) Narratively, it follows the case of Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), a 65-year-old folk singer and political activist who is living in Mumbai and arrested under the Dramatic Performances Act (1876). It's been alleged that a song he publicly performed drove a sewer worker to commit suicide, and that he is responsible. The charge is patently ridiculous, as is that law, but no one questions it. Even Kamble seems passively resigned.

We follow the trial, which is hopelessly protracted -- papers are mislaid, the wrong documents turn up, the police lose and fabricate evidence. A lengthy public holiday comes up, so everything has to wait. Kamble has a lawyer, Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber), who is from a well-to-do background and is affluent and shops for wine and cheese in western delis. He is not a crusader, but we understand that he has a conscience and this is why he's not working higher up the food chain. In one instance, he sits on the edge of his bed and weeps with the frustration of it all. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor (Geetanjali Kulkarni) reads out the Victorian-era laws parrot fashion while believing what the judge believes: the law is the law, tradition is tradition, and no one must ever be allowed to break with either. …

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