Chaitanya Tamhane’s quietly brilliant Court takes an individual court case and creates a damning j'accuse of wider Indian society.

Narayan Kambal (Vira Sathidar) boards a bus which takes him to a rally. Here this unassuming gentleman is transformed into the ’people’s poet’, singing songs denouncing racism, nationalism, the caste system and corruption. However, the performance is interrupted and Narayan is arrested. What follows is a series of hearings which can be interrupted at any moment as witnesses fail to show up and the police wish to gather more evidence. All the while Narayan remains in jail. The judicial system effectively swallows him whole.

The court is no longer a place where truth is discovered, but rather a form of punishment in itself. Although Tamhane’s film recalls Franz Kafka in its nightmarish vision of bureaucracy, Court is neither faceless nor surreal. Rather, the absurdity and numbness are all too human and as such even more frightening.

John Bleasdale


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