A postmodern critique of the Indian judicial system

In the most Kafkaesque way, Chaitanya Tamhane’s directorial debut To research (2014) takes on the task of exposing “legal nightmares” through the case of a Narayan Kamble (played by Vira Sathidar), a Marathi protest singer and Dalit activist, who is arrested on a bizarre charge and is driven by numerous trials in the Mumbai Sessions Court.

The wider reception of the film, which debuted at 71st Venice International Film Festival in 2014, and the many awards it won are deserving in that the film examines and showcases fragmentary human nature. As the director resumed, a process of constant association-dissociation rendered notions like law and justice irrelevant and absurd.

Although the movie focuses on a certain case involving a certain man and his trial, somewhere along the way audiences can’t help but notice how the film breaks away from its central plot to revolve around events that are barely relevant for the real deal. Once again, everything is loosely linked, as for call out the stuffing called “court”.

Also Read: Short Film Review

Kamble is arrested by the police for complicity in suicide when a worker named Vasudev Pawar commits suicide after allegedly being influenced by Kamble’s song. A middle-class lawyer, Vinay Vora (played by Vivek Gomber), is generous enough to take on Kamble’s case. Vora comes from a wealthy family, is well-behaved, drives her own car, hangs out with her middle-class friends in pubs playing English songs, and lives away from her parents but often visits them. Again, on closer inspection, he’s also the one shopping without a glance at the price, calls Subodh his “friend” and the next moment, in an argument with his mother , claims that Subodh is someone he is only meeting for the fourth time. His hypocrisy makes him someone who tries to maintain a life behind the facade of an elitist capitalist society. His taking on Kamble’s case could be nothing more than picking up items from a grocery store without even checking a price tag!

Besides Vinay, Prosecutor Nutan (played by Geetanjali Kulkarni) and Judge Sadavarte (played by Pradeep Joshi) are the two characters whose lives are very focused in the film. Nutan is not the image of the modern-day so-called progressive woman. She sticks to maintaining ethical models within the family as well as in court. She doesn’t speak English as fluently as Vora. Both Nutan and Judge Sadavarte become the epitome of archaic laws – Nutan continues to read the laws for about two minutes, she calls “irrational” Goyamari practices “sacred”, while the judge dismisses a hearing on the grounds that a woman is not dressed. an appropriate way. Sadavarte focuses more on dictating statements to the typewriter rather than on judging the case correctly. Although Kamble is the driving force behind the entire plot, his presence is rarely felt and his screen time is kept to a minimum. Vinay, Nutan, and Sadavarte getting the spotlight is an attempt to show how these characters are never really about bringing justice to marginalized people, and perhaps people in general.

The film gets a vital edge in the hands of cinematographer Mrinal Desai. The use of wide shots, a technique used in Western films, is blended into cinematic stills near the end of many scenes. This develops a conscious feeling of incomprehensibility of the judicial system. At one point near the end, the film seems to end with a still image that lasts almost over a minute. This deliberate interpretation brings us to the next scene, as it opens with the judge taking a summer vacation when there are a lot of people in trouble, making the criticism of the system even cruder.

Set in Maharashtra, the film takes into account the four languages ​​spoken in the state – Marathi, Gujrati, Hindi and English. In doing so, Tamhane not only portrays the richness of culture, but also complicates power dynamics. In court, Nutan speaks mainly in Marathi and sometimes in unpolished English, Vora speaks mainly in English and Hindi fluently and sometimes does not understand what Nutan speaks in Marathi, at home, Vora speaks in Gujrati. This brings into play a sense of deception and misinformation that pervades the justice system and also suggests that the truth is very often manipulated.

Narayan Kamble sings and speaks in Marathi and at one point during his trials he states that he prefers to communicate in Marathi rather than Hindi. His songs, in Marathi, urge the people to know their enemy in these difficult times:

Jaan, Jaan, Jaan… dushmana jaan re… Kathin aala kaad… Maati se phute naal re.

His songs aim to bring out the true color of society. After receiving his bail, he continues his work. His second song is bold enough to call for the emancipation of art. Amid the hunt for power and control, the art, as his song would convey, has become mere “giddiness” and “deception in the name of aesthetics.” At the start of the film, we see Narayan’s voice being called in by the police. In the second half of the film, we see the police again intervene – this time he is arrested at the printing press where his book Apamanacha Itihas (History of Humiliation) was in print. Thus, through a character like Kamble, the film sets out to give voice to the establishment of an artistic enterprise that constantly threatens to be censored.

The film successfully attempts to bring to the fore the “Age of Darkness” where, as Kamble’s song would say, the misfits get no justice, artistic endeavors find no expression, and truth has lost its meaning. voice. Justice, which has failed miserably, is asleep like Sadavarte who sleeps towards the end of the film, and that she needs a jolt to wake up, as the children wake Sadavarte with a cry, that’s clear.

Disclaimer: This article was not written by the Film Companion editorial team.