A few days ago I watched the Hindi-English-Marathi movie Court at 38,000 feet above ground level. I could not help remarking just how different this film was to the one I had watched just 36 hours earlier, while still on the ground. In that one, the cast was impossibly good looking and uniformly light skinned. Even while pretending to be normal in dull garb, everyone knew that the stars’ lives bore little resemblance to the masses that had gathered to watch them sing, dance and act.
By contrast, Court was populated entirely by normal-looking people, complete with their quotidian worries (one of the scenes is about two characters wondering whether they can afford to cook in olive oil, while traveling by local train). I found myself wondering how the non-artily inclined members of my family would react to a film like this.
Most, with the exception of my father who would be delighted to see the haloed portals of justice where practices his trade being depicted in such a ‘real’ manner, would shrug and wonder what the point of such a film was. They would wonder who would want to watch such a film which has no song or dance in it. Where there were no meteoric escalations or dramatic resolutions. They’d wonder why the film-maker had gone lazy and let his camera remain resolutely stable instead of resorting to fast moves and pacy cuts. They would most certainly notice the lack of strong, memorable dialogues and someone would doubtlessly remark about the peddling of Indian poverty in film festivals abroad.
Perhaps I am the one being lazy assuming what their reaction would be. But it is impossible not to be shocked by Court, especially if your sensibilities are attuned to watching high-pitched, dizzyingly colourful melodrama. Because what Court offers is a confident commentary on the state of things in a much muted tone.
Places like courts, hospitals and police stations are locations that have drama in-built in them (hence 24 Hours in A&E, 24 Hours in Police Custody and so on). What the movie Court has done is almost be a fly-on-the-wall when the drama is being played out in all its absurd glory. It does not appear to construct drama as much as exhibit it. And yet it is not a documentary but a work of fiction, which makes it a very clever piece of work.
In a film world accustomed to spoon-feeding its audience, instructing them where to look and what to think, to grant them the intelligence and the ability to decide for themselves is a impossibly brave thing to do. And Court manages to do just that, quietly without much of a fuss.