BY this September, one of Indian cinema’s most unlikely courtroom drama would’ve screened at 45 festivals across the world, including an international screening at Toronto (August 28), Canada and tallied the count of awards to a flattering 19. Declined by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), and later, rejected by some international film festivals including the Cannes, writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut film, Court, went on to win laurels at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, 16th Mumbai Film Festival, Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, Vienna International Film Festival, 62nd National Film Awards, to name a few.
A multi-lingual drama revolving around a sewage worker’s dead body found in a manhole in Mumbai and an ageing folk singer being tried in trial court against the charges of abetment to suicide because of his inflammatory song causing this tragedy, Court brings out the reality of the Indian system, society and judiciary, of its daily workings, all brilliantly wrapped in Tamhane’s dark humour. As this award-winning film opened the 4th Chandigarh Cinema Festival at the Government Museum on Friday evening, its ‘brave producer’ and actor 36-year-old Vivek Gomber shares the blood and sweat that went into creating it.
“I’ve known Chaitanya since 2009, when I did a play for him, Grey Elephants, in Denmark. This was a new text that went beyond the usual Shakespearean adaptations. It was refreshing,” shares Gomber, who has acted in the indie film, The President is Coming. A passionately curious actor drawn to current affairs, political theatre, and new adventures, Gomber, after listening to Tamhane’s story set in a courtroom, was excited. “He had made a short film, Six Strands, and was under immense pressure from home to make a life. So, I decided to pay him
Rs 15,000 per month and gave him eight months to pen the script of Court. He took a year.” Once complete, Gomber, taken in by the subtle humour of Tamhane’s writing, decided to produce, and act in it. “Chaitanya’s strength is his command over the grammar of cinema, his vision and measured pace. This is how courtrooms in India work, stripped off Sunny Deol tareekh pe tareekh drama. This is how we converse, too, in many languages,” says Gomber, while defending the ‘slow pace’ of the film, too.
It took them a year of intense research, following courts and lawyers, putting together a team, and recreating the sets in a high school and a warehouse. “Exactly two days and a year ago from now, we were in Venice,” he reminisces.
For the India release this April, Gomber took the films to activists, to legal cells, to law colleges and lawyers for screening. Still travelling with it, and booked for shows till January 2016, had it not been for Gomber’s conviction, endless Jack Rabbit energy, stubbornness, perseverance, and streak of madness, Court would’ve probably never been in cinematic session for this long. A down-to-earth Gomber credits this discipline and hard work to his years in theatre, being commissioned in Singapore Army for two years and his advise from his late father. “Don’t grumble— either do something or walk away. I decided to do something. Making Court gave me faith and clarity,” says the actor who hails from Jaipur, grew up on Agneepath, and while in Singapore over a diet of music and theatre, fought with his folks to pursue acting course at Emerson College Boston, US (only after serving Singaporean army) and shifted base to Mumbai in 2004 to work there. Interestingly, his mother was a high court judge.
“No, I didn’t take any cues from her, but she liked the film. It happens, she said, but not in my court,” laughs Gomber, who, with the film, opened his production house, Zoo Entertainment Pvt Ltd, and has his fingers crossed for the Oscar submissions from India.