The Verdict on Court is Out
While we are all beaming with pride with the announcement of Court being selected for the Oscars, here’s a tad personal account of my brush with one of its key members.
Geetanjali (Kulkarni, the lead actress of Court) and I have lived on the same street for years. We only met last October. I still remember the common friend who introduced us mentioning, ‘Geetu has done a small film called Court. I hope it releases in India and gets its due. It is being appreciated all over the world.’ My first encounter with Geetanjali was at a chance meeting at this very friend’s house. She came in her tracks and T-shirt, hair oiled back, completely in her comfort zone. We spoke about random things that middle class Maharashtrians talk about, discovered common friends and enjoyed the relaxed Sunday brunch.
Thereon there were several mentions of Court as casual updates but who knew then, that this film would go on to create history. We read and heard about it before it released. When it won the National Award, it was another feather in their cap. Thanks to Pandolin I could do an exclusive uninhibited interview with the immensely talented actor.
The simplicity of the team reflects in the film, and how. The National Award coming even before the release of the film gave it yet another boost. I watched the film with my husband. Just to put things into perspective, he’s a representative of the kind of audience who is in tune with movies and television only because his spouse is a part of the industry. Movies were never his calling. He thinks it is foolish to shell out a three digit amount on watching a movie in the theatre. Moreso, it is considered a waste of 3 hours where you can’t even catch up with the people you watch it with. Nevertheless, he is nice enough to go through all the cinematic, sometimes traumatic experiences with me.
Those details were not life changing but I had to give you a heads up before you read what happened next. We watched Court together. Within fifteen minutes, he began to get restless. He kept saying, ‘Nothing is happening! Who has made this film and why?’ I was neutral and tried to focus on the Marathi which was not that easy for me to grasp despite being a Maharashtrian.
The silences in the film almost screamed out the monotony and dichotomy of our lives. Be it the scene where Vivek Gomber is shopping at the supermarket or driving back home after a not so eventful day at work. The dialogues were so normal, you felt you’ve heard this before and wonder why it is even in the film? Be it Geetanjali’s discussion on the phone while she cooks for her family or the conversation about olive oil in the train.
By the end of the film, the husband was frustrated. His why-was-this-film-made mode was still on. I didn’t ‘love’ the film because to me it was not just a film. It was reality. We’ve heard about cases going on for years and not being resolved but when you watch the film, it’s not even remotely close to what one may have imagined.
We met Geetanjali once again and told her we saw and loved the film. The husband is honest that way and just had to ask – Why was the film made? Nothing happened in the film. Here’s what Geetanjali told us, ‘The director didn’t want to make a film that spoon fed the audience. He wanted to show them his perspective; what he had seen. He wanted to tell the audience that this is how it is. Now you decide. He didn’t want to tell the audience what is right or wrong. I am happy you are asking these questions because that was the purpose of the film. It was meant to disturb you. It was not meant to be watched and forgotten.’ The husband was silent. He just said, ‘But we know all this. There was nothing new in it.’
I watched on to realize how these things were so apt for the film. We are part of this system. We were saying exactly what the film wanted to say without saying it out loud. It didn’t need a star to deliver a monologue about the sorry state of the Indian Judicial system. It didn’t need a song that brought a lump in your throat. It didn’t even show the sewage worker or the pathos of his job. It didn’t have dialogues that you could remember, repeat and say ‘Wah!’ It had a strong message, loud and clear that isn’t written in ink, sealed in an envelope and only meant for people who read or hear it. Nothing happened in the film but what happened to the film and after the film out in the open was for all to see.
A week before the big Oscar nomination was announced, in another one of our casual evening chai sessions, Geetanjali recollected an incident again. She told us an interesting anecdote about one of their many screenings. She casually said, “Once again I watched this movie sitting right in a corner. The front row seats were full and this certain senior actor came in. I left my seat for him and stepped aside because it was more important that he watched the film than for me to be seen in the front row.”
Enough has been written and said about the young dynamic director, Chaitanya Tamhane but what makes this film what it is, is probably the fact that every member of the team owns the film and has taken it upon themselves to spread the word. There was no big budget marketing campaign, no front-page PR interviews and definitely no in-your-face promotion. The film was made with an intention. Even though it mocks the system of the very country it represents, it is one of the most honest expressions through cinematic language ever seen.
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