This is in continuation to our last week’s post (Revival of Marathi Cinema: Best Films to Watch – Part II) on Marathi films worth watching since Shwaas (2004), the film that sparked a revival of sorts for the Marathi film industry.
7. Court (2014) | Director: Chaitanya Tamhane
Judiciary system in real life is about 1 percent histrionics and 99 percent colossal boredom. Most films take this 1 percent and exaggerate it for cinematic effect. Court (2015) is a rare film that way. It shows that oft ignored side and reflects it from a mirror that highlights the hypocrisies of our legal system.
In one scene, a human rights lawyer is presenting some of the latest examples of court prejudices against activists. Two guys come on stage out of the blue with a rotating table fan and start installing it. The fan turns on and drowns the voice of the lawyer who is about to say something substantial.
It is such absurdities presented in a way devoid of even the slightest theatrics that makes Court so special. It is a Kafkaesque representation of Indian courts where dates are changed because lawyers need to attend family functions. Where hearings are adjourned because the witness has a sleeveless shirt on. And where a poem forms the basis of a completely unconnected ‘suicide’ of a gutter cleaner.
There is no escape.
The movie is more about the people associated with the court than the court itself. The people who understand facts and logic have long given up while the opposite kinds are hopeless to the point of exhaustion.
(They evoke the helplessness you feel watching a debate with Pahlaj Nihalani. You know there is no way to reason with such people, yet you marvel at the sheer idiocy on display).
The movie instills a fear in you without attempting to even startle you. The director understands that there is no need for any background score when just the day-to-day proceedings in the session’s court are scary enough.
Truth is stranger than fiction and Court presents the naked truth like no film you’ve ever seen before.
The sessions’ court judge discusses with his relative who has an autistic child. The judge advices that consulting a numerologist or using a gemstone ring would serve better benefits than a therapist/psychiatrist. It’s a moment that shocks our core when we realize our courts rely on the judgments and wisdom of such men.
8. Valu (2008) | Director: Umesh Kulkarni
The world of absurdities continues but now we move from court to a village. This is a story about a village and a forest officer’s efforts to catch a mad wild bull. Except that it is not. The bull is just the representation of the villagers’ joblessness and internal politics.
The wild bull is a fantasy concocted by villagers in order to make the village a tad bit interesting. The beauty is the contradiction that the people are not lying. In fact, they are naively convinced that the bull is out there to harm them. Their behavior is what makes the bull harmful than misunderstood.
Girish and Umesh’s debut film propelled Marathi industry to new heights with its innovative storyline and unique rural setting. Marathi films never explored the funny side of rural politics. The makers accepted the rural idiosyncrasies and presented their flaws in an extremely humane manner.
The brilliant writing blends entertainment with poignant commentary on rural issues like lack of toilets, youth representation in politics, suppressed lovers and animal oppression.
The film takes a dig at the society where everyone is attention hungry. The forest officer’s brother who is out there to make a documentary about catching bull is instead made to film everything from children’s dances to a dejected lover’s story.
Subtle and witty jokes fly from all sides. I find something new to laugh at every time I watch Valu. The ensemble cast is in top form and brings a chuckle in seemingly ordinary moments. A fine example is Bharti Achrekar’s expressions when her husband, the sarpanch, narrates a story of how the village’s donkeys were part of the Panipat battle.
Girish, Umesh introduced a brand of intelligent, understated cinema that was lacking in Marathi industry for a long time.
The forest officer and 10-12 villagers are hiding around the trap set to catch the wild bull. When the officer calls the unsuccessful vigil off, only a couple of villagers turn up. The rest, apparently, left their hiding spots for lunch. It’s a piece of random humor where villagers find lunch more important than catching a mad bull.
9. Rege (2014) | Director: Abhijit Panse
Inspired by RGV’s crime classics, Rege builds a gripping atmosphere of underworld and corrupt cops where money is the only loyalty.
Without giving away much, Rege is a cat-and-mouse chase between cops and criminals except it’s all for money. Law and order is the last priority.
Director Abhijit Panse seamlessly tackles the tricky putting together of past, present and future events. All of it is a jigsaw puzzle that fits perfectly only at the end. Seemingly innocuous scenes are important to the narrative and emphasize the fact that crime world is darker than we’d imagine.
The cinematography is the real winner as it creates a claustrophobic effect with close lens shots. The shadows and dark lighting are perfect metaphors to the grey areas of police investigations. The hand held camera movements underline the murky dealings our protagonist Rege. He is a medical student who finds himself caught in it due to his fascination with criminals.
I particularly enjoyed the good cop bad cop routines of Mahesh Manjrekar and Pushkar Stotri as they get information out of Rege. Dark humor is abundant as the narrative shocks you with manipulation techniques cops use for confessions.
Rege is an uncomfortable but thrilling experience. It’s a brave film that deserved more appreciation.
A constable thrashes a random criminal in the background. An officer is on the phone with his wife as he tries to subdue her requests for dinner, amid screams of the beatings. It’s a brilliant moment about the matter-of-fact nature of police job which reminded me of a similar scene from Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday.
By Shridhar Kulkarni
PS: This is an ongoing series where we’ll bring you the best of Marathi films, post the release of Shwaas. Look out for fresh recommendations every week.