Review: ‘Court’ renders judgment on modern vs. traditional in India


The winner of two prizes at the Venice International Film Festival in Italy, “Court” revolves around the fallout from police allegations that a politically charged concert by 65-year-old Indian folk singer Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar) abetted the suicide of a sewage worker.

This isn’t your typical courtroom drama about an idealistic attorney with a savior complex per se. The film dramatizes how authorities can systematically police thought and harass radicals with bogus charges.

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Legal professionals are merely cogs in this broken machine: Defense attorney Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber) enjoys a thoroughly Westernized lifestyle far removed from his clients’ harsh realities. Glimpses of the home life of prosecutor Nutan (Geetanjali Kulkarni) show her to be modern rather than villainous. Judge Sadavarte (Pradeep Joshi) proves unsophisticated with his various superstitions.

The film must have struck a nerve in its native India, where censors mandated edits for its commercial release. Stylistically and thematically, it couldn’t be more different from sweeping escapist Bollywood offerings. Instead, it recalls Iranian films and the way they epitomize the collision between outdated customs and modernization. Indeed, “Court” invites comparisons with the 2011 Iranian film “A Separation,” even if “Court” director Chaitanya Tamhane hasn’t achieved the same level of mastery with his feature debut.



MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.