India — 2014 – 116 mins | In Marathi, Hindi, English & Gujarati with English subtitles
Winner of the Best Feature Film award at the 62nd National Film Awards (India) and the Best Film in Horizons at the Venice International Film Festival, Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. An elderly folk singer and grassroots organizer, dubbed the “people’s poet,” is arrested on a trumped-up charge of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. His trial is a ridiculous and harrowing display of institutional incompetence, with endless procedural delays, coached witnesses for the prosecution, and obsessive privileging of arcane colonial law over reason and mercy. What truly distinguishes Court, however, is Tamhane’s brilliant ensemble cast of professional and nonprofessional actors; his affecting mixture of comedy and tragedy; and his naturalist approach to his characters and to Indian society as a whole, rich with complexity and contradiction.
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Born in Mumbai in 1987, Chaitanya Tamhane is an English literature graduate. Six Strands (2010), his first short film, was screened at various international film festivals including Rotterdam, Clermont-Ferrand, Edinburgh, and Slamdance. In 2012, he was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus at the Berlin Film Festival. Court is his first feature film. The film was awarded the Hubert Bals Fund from the Rotterdam Film Festival.
I was surprised by my urge to explore the Indian judiciary. After all, so much has been done and said in the genre of courtroom dramas. But when I attended a nondescript lower court in suburban Mumbai, the sheer lack of drama, and the casualness with which life and death decisions were being made, was what sparked my imagination.
Every face has a story of its own; the stenographer who disinterestedly types away all day, the peon who runs errands for a small bribe, the inarticulate lawyers reading out long, technical passages from outdated law books, the appellants who have probably spent years waiting for their case number to be called out. Amidst all this theatre, are the hopes and fears of ordinary people, who cling on to every word they can understand, as their fates are decided.
Although the film is set in very peculiar sub-cultures of Mumbai, the attempt is to explore the invisible fabric of a collective. The characters are constantly acting upon the invisible triggers of caste and class politics, patriarchy, and feudalism. The challenge for me was to lend dignity and humanity to these people, despite their flaws.
Narayan Kamble Vira Sathidar
Vinay Vora Vivek Gomber
Public Prosecutor Nutan Geetanjali Kulkarni
Judge Sadavarte Pradeep Joshi
Sharmila Pawar Usha Bane
Subodh Shirish Pawar
Writer & Director Chaitanya Tamhane
Producer Vivek Gomber
Cinematography Mrinal Desai
Editing Rikhav Desai
Music Sambhaji Bhagat
Production Design Pooja Talreja and Somnath Pal
Costume Design Sachin Lovalekar
Sound Design Anita Kushwaha and Amrit Pritam
71st Venice International Film Festival (Orizzonti)
Lion of the Future / Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best debut film
16th Mumbai Film Festival (International competition)
Golden Gateway of India - Best Film
Silver Gateway of India - Best Director
Jury Special Mention for Ensemble Cast
51st International Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival
SİYAD International Feature Film Award
Vienna International Film Festival
Hong Kong Asian Film Festival
New Talent award
Minsk Film Festival Listapad (Youth on the March competition)
Auteur Film Festival (International Competition)(Serbia)
Grand Prix Aleksandar Sasa Petrovic - Best Film
FIPRESCI Prize Serbia Slobodan Novakovic
Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival (International competition)
Special mention of the jury
Singapore International Film Festival
Best Film: Asian Feature Film section (Silver Screen Award)
2morrow Festival (Moscow)
Best Script (Chaitanya Tamhane)
Best Cinematography (Mrinal Desai)
FICUNAM (Unam International Film Festival) (Mexico)
Special mention of the jury (International competition)
62nd National Film Awards (India)
Best Feature Film