Court came highly recommended, having mopped up awards and acclaim from all quarters and even being India’s entry to the Oscars (though past history indicates that is neither a necessary nor sufficient indicator of quality).
Court is an intricate study of the Indian legal system, as it plays out in the lower courts where the State (through its various arms) quietly and efficiently strangles voices against it. Narayan Kamble, a folk singer – is accused of abetment of suicide, sedition, terrorism and what not – for performing songs that question the system. It raises some key questions about freedom of expression and its interpretation from different ends of the political/administrative spectrum. And it does so in an indirect way, tracing the lives of the defence and prosecution lawyers and the presiding judge.
|The body-language of Court: The Accused|
|The body-language of Court: The Lawyers|
What Court does really well is in the acting department (and the casting is spot on as well). The prosecution lawyer (played by Geetanjali Kulkarni) – for me – was the performance of the film, even overshadowing the central character, Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar).
The film – a dark satire – does a fly-on-the-wall on the Sessions Courts of Mumbai, tracking the desultory proceedings populated by sleeping lawyers, disinterested audiences on phones and judges who have the strangest prejudices. Some great scenes are not related to the narrative at all – one, for example, has a judge postponing a hearing because the respondent violates the principle of ‘modest dressing in courts’.
Court also has some very interesting asides on life in Mumbai – its decrepit chawls, cramped middle-class flats, its entertainment, its jingoism, its parochialism and – most importantly – its apathy.
The music of Court – especially the ‘inflammatory’ songs – is extremely well-performed and even in the small snatches, the anger comes out strongly and muscularly.
Despite many strengths, I was somewhat bored by Court as the screenplay did not crackle enough – both as a courtroom ‘drama’ and a critique on the State’s attempts to muzzle opposing voices. The futility of our courts and the system’s inability/unwillingness to change that radically just did not hit me hard enough. Or rather, it hit me only sporadically – not enough to make an impact.