A chaotic accomplishment so beautiful and powerful, Court is a film that shall corner you in a zone of silence, the kind of quiet one experiences after witnessing the most brilliant of things, only to be replaced by awe and contemplation later. I don’t really climax at every film-juggernaut which has been highly celebrated at international film festival circuits, but the pleasures I had just witnessing Court unfold on-screen for nearly two hours was nothing less than marvelous!
The film hooks you in the very first minute. The central story focuses on the trial of one ageing poet-cum-activist Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), who spreads awareness through his inflammatory songs, where one such rendition prompted a sewage-worker to kill himself. A false claim is registered and Narayan is sucked into the legal system. His case is defended by a Gujarati lawyer Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber), debating against public prosecutor Nutan (Geetanjali Kulkarni), who simply dismisses to take into consideration the entire perspective and continues digging into outdated laws. Presiding over the case is Judge Sadavarte (Pradeep Joshi in one brilliant performance!) who wants to appear neutral and fair, but really isn’t even interested in the case. As human as anybody else is he.
Performances from all were exceptional, as if an extension of the actors’ real self. The film is also one brilliant medium of character study. Take for example our two attorneys who participate in the same profession but lead two extremely different lives, and thus their different mindsets. Vora shops in a posh supermarket and drinks at a posh bar which hosts English ballads. He participates in various panels for social responsibility. Nutan on the other-hand lives a very middle-class life. After work she picks up her kid from school and then goes home to cook dinner for her family. She’s narrow-minded to an extreme, and independent thinking is an alien concept to her.
Every character has been empathized with, a trait consistent with really good cinema. The strongest point of Court is that it’s all very simple and the characters and situations relatable. It has a smooth narrative flow which is extremely easy to understand. The last time Bollywood attempted a “real” courtroom drama, we had Jolly LLB. And while it was a decent one-time watch, it never layered out the courtroom happenings as well as Court does. The visual styling is impressive. The diegetic sounds have been well employed, and the fixed-camera wide-angle shots capture the action well, and even cover other details being played out in the background. The editing by Rikhav Desai is another high point of the film. The outstanding story is backed by some really awesome production design. Chaitanya Tamhane has an impeccable eye for detail, and it shows in every single frame of this film. His is the most confident direction I’ve seen since Anand Gandhi’s Ship Of Theseus. For Court he adopts an observational cinema approach, and one can’t be blamed if one mistakes this well-writ film for a documentary.
Marathi might be the primary language voiced here, but it’s not the only one. English, Hindi and Gujarati are chipped in occasionally. The dialogues, organic. Humor is subtly dished out too, in the characters’ helplessness, in their frustrations and some even in the activist’s provocative songs.
Court not only studies the Indian judiciary system at length, but even lives the many lives of the characters involved, embracing their past and their differences. If I had to champion one film that you just have to watch this weekend, it shall be none other than this beauty here. One of the most special films to have hit the screens this year. Go watch.