National-award winning film “Court” had to undergo two snips before being passed by censors for its theatrical release in India, director Chaitanya Tamhane said.
“It is ironical that in a movie which has freedom of expression as a key theme, we have had to face censorship. We were given a choice to cut or to go mute. Editing out anything was out of question.. so we chose to mute,” Tamhane told PTI ahead of the film’s commercial release on April 17.
One mute pertains to usage of a commonly-used phrase, while second one is an entire sentence. However, the flow of the narrative employing four languages–Marathi, Gujarati, English and Hindi–does not get compromised through the actions, said the 28-year-old director, whose debut film is getting rave global reviews.
Since its premiere at the prestigious Venice Film Festival last September, the courtroom drama has won 18 international awards, including the Lion of the Future Award for the best first feature at the Italian fest.
The National award for Best Film, announced earlier this month, is the latest feather in Tamhane’s cap.
The film revolves around a case of abetment of suicide filed against a ‘Lok Shahir’ or a ballad singer in a lower court in Mumbai involving legal action against him including those under the controversial UAPA (the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).
The action against activist ballad singers from the Kabir Kala Manch on allegations of links with the Left wing extremists, while the movie was in the scripting stage, inspired the narrative, Tamhane said.
Watching award-winning documentary maker Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ was also educative, the first-timer said.
Tamhane touches on various facets, including the way lower courts function, the people who make the system and also makes a strong commentary on contemporary social issues like conditions of sanitary workers and the undying spirit of the activist-ballad singer. Unlike the very loud depiction of a court room in a movie, “Court” attempts to be very original, Tamhane said.
The movie has been made after exhaustive research which included visits to actual court rooms during the three-and-half years journey, he said.
“I wanted to show the original chaos and the mismanagement. I also saw some scope for humour, which I have explored through this film,” he said.
He found a very supportive producer in friend Vivek Gomber, who also plays a major role of a lawyer specialising in human right violations in the film.
Gomber had acted in a play directed by Tamhane earlier and helped him through the entire process, including paying him a monthly honorarium during scripting.
“I have seen quite a few good projects suffering because of the lack of a producer and did not want Tamhane’s project to undergo the same fate. So, I backed it up fully,” 36-year-old Gomber said.
The director-producer duo is distributing the film independently and have not associated with any of the studios for the same.
This gives them greater flexibility like taking the troupe of popular Lok Shahir Shambhaji Bhagat, who has written and sung ballads for the film, out across Maharashtra for promotions.
Apart from that, they are also promoting the movie in law colleges across the country, Tamhane said.
The film makes a poignant commentary on people who deliver justice and when asked if he expects any retribution from the judiciary, Tamhane said the film has already been shown to many Judges and they have liked it.
However, Tamhane is keeping his fingers crossed ahead of the release next Friday, hoping that there is no strong reaction against his film.