court, the film

My first thought after watching Court was to dwell on the inhumanity of justice. The second thought was how inadequate the word ‘inhuman’ was to describe the criminal justice system in India. Inhumanity implies a negation of humanness. Sometimes that negation might be conscious. At times, as psychology has so strongly proven, inhumanity is unconscious. But either way, those actions are animated by a human intelligence. And, sometimes wrongly, a moral salve can be found in burdening that intelligence with the consequences of those actions.

That isn’t the case with ‘systems’. There isn’t an agency to pin down, the cogs keep moving the same even if you replace the actors. Hence, the word ‘unhuman’ came to mind. It isn’t individual malice that is driving the injustice, but something worse, institutional indifference. It becomes that much more frustrating when there isn’t a bedrock of moral guilt to lay the foundation of redemption on. It is just turtles all the way down.

But perhaps the genius of the film lies not in articulating systemic apathy, but in revealing the egos, faiths and intentions that interact with that system. Wildly different characters, each more thoughtfully fleshed out than the one before, expose issues of caste, gender, discrimination, and violence with such muted finality that any post-film ‘kaisi lagi’ discussions ring hollow. I was silent for long after I watched the film, and I’m unsure and insecure even as I write this.

I can’t think of many films as well written and shot. The unflinching, uncomfortably long shots; the refusal to use any music; the unornamental dialogue; it all comes together in a way that carves out a space in your mind, and then silently leaves without a word. This is a film that I’d like people to watch a 100 years from now.

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4 thoughts on “court, the film

  1. Ajinkya, I share your silence and did feel the insecure and unsure in saying something about the film. But like you, I also want this film to be watched now and a 100 years later. The characters, community and everything about it was so real (especially for those of us from the region.) Such a film hasn’t been written in a long time. I’m pasting below my post on Facebook, urging people to watch this one. Here goes:

    “The tiring ‘chalta hai’ attitudes of all things Constitutional are screaming for an overhaul. Over the past two years, this is the only battle that calls out to me with all the might. 
    A film like Court probes into this issue with utmost simplicity. It exposes our inequalities despite the fundamentals of equality so carefully planted in our book of law. In undertaking this journey, the film tells you about the ironies of seeking justice and constitutional remedies. The film is your first lesson in critical thinking and it is indeed told very well. Procedural delays, tyranny of law enforcing authorities, complicated paperwork, unnecessary cumbersome steps to be followed, hierarchies to be approached, harshness of the city, the messes of our professions, the cruel differences between us, songs of the poet, stately impositions, individual battles: the film is all encompassing in its depiction of our country. 
    You will rethink your prejudices and empathise. 
    Watch Court. 
    It is a story about your neighbourhood. All the romantic inspiration you seek for wanting to ‘make a difference’ or to be ‘moved’ is waiting for you in this brilliant story. This is a request, especially to my friends from Mumbai. You will relate to this so much that it is bound to hurt.”

    • What you said about critical thinking makes a lot of sense. This is one of those rare films that simplify complex messages without dumbing it down. My only fear is that it might take more than one viewing for us to get everything it says. I’m keen on getting a DVD/soft copy to keep.

      Ajinkya

  2. Maybe completely out of the context since I haven’t watched it yet but reminded me of Milgram’s experiment when you spoke of humaness and conscience.

    • It completely fits the context. I thought of Milgram, Zimbardo (Stanford prison), and of Adolf Eichmann when reflecting on the film. It just hits the nail on the head when you see the very human costs of unhuman systems. You should try and watch it.

      Ajinkya

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