For all you parallel-cinema buffs out there, here’s an Indian entry to the Oscars that will make you really pleased and genuinely hopeful of India’s chances at the next year’s Oscar ceremony.
A hard-hitting and eye-opening story in two ways:
Though some commercial and parallel-cinema movies have highlighted the disarray that the Indian lower judiciary has been in, I cannot recall any movie that focuses on the plight of sanitation workers in India. Getting justice in the Indian lower judiciary is a far cry for a common man (a brilliant movie in this context was 1984 multi-starrer Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!); imagine how difficult it would be for an activist fighting for the rights of the sanitation workers to have his arguments heard! Add to this a sanitation worker’s suicide, a “happy-to-book-you” police force and two sections of the Indian Penal Code- 107 & 306 (abetment to suicide) and what you have is a 116-minute long “trial” of the Indian Lower Judiciary.
A highly promising debutante director-cum-writer:
28 year-old Chaitanya Tamhane, an English literature graduate from Mumbai, had decided that cinema and theater were his true vocations. He wrote and directed his debut short-film Six Strands in 2012 which was nominated for Best Screenplay at the Asian Film Awards. Court is his debut feature film as a writer and a director and it won the Best Feature Film Award (Swarna Kamal) at the National Film Awards this year and a host of other awards at various film festivals across the globe including Vienna and Venice film festivals. The really good thing about Tamhane’s script-writing is that it is sharp, brutal and at the same time does not deviate from the issue at hand.
The jury that selected Court:
It was headed by Amol Palekar and consisted of 16 members including the likes of Kamleshwar Mukherjee, Abbas Tyrewala, Bijukumar Damodaran, Ravi Jadhav and actors Arindam Sil and Koel Mallick. After deliberations and voting, there was a 7-7 tie between the Tamil film Kakka Mutai and Court (Rahul Rawaii resigned from the committee alleging high-handedness by Palekar). Palekar cast the decisive vote in Court’s favour and the selection was announced. Interestingly, Palekar’s debut Marathi film was also based on the judiciary-but it was a satire (“Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe”, 1971).
The need to highlight the plight of the lower judiciary and why Court has a genuine chance:
In a survey published by The Times of India in 2007, it was revealed that the lower judiciary in India was the most corrupt public institution in public perception; the police came at second place! There have been quite a few commercial cinema movies in the 1970s and the 1980s that highlighted the issues pertaining to the sorry state of the Indian judicial system, but Court does an even more commendable job.
The Oscar jury that shortlists and eventually selects the winners in the Foreign Language Category has in recent years preferred to highlight tales that revolve around individual stories (Poland’s Ida in 2015). Also, the three Indian movies that have made it to the final five in this category (Mother India, Salaam Bombay, Lagaan) have had individuals overcome personal or public hurdles to achieve their ends. So, Court seems to have a genuine chance at the Oscars 2016 in trends are anything to go by!
Shashi Shekhar Misra
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