>>> Court

The verdict’s in, and Court is great.

COURT  (Chaitanya Tamhane). 116 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 28). Rating: NNNN

Watch online: iTunes

India’s rusty legal system seems too easy a target for newbie talent Chai-tanya Tamhane. Court, his cold, smart and absurdist debut, lays bare the irresponsible and malicious use of ir-relevant laws, some of them survivals from colonial times. His drama is more than a simple indictment, exposing the social divides between generations and castes at play in the farce before the judge.

The events centre on Narayan -Kamble (Vira Sathidar), an aging poli-tical activist whose folk songs are blamed for inspiring a sewage worker to kill himself. Kamble’s charged with abetting suicide, though common sense might suggest dangerous labour conditions were the real cause of an accidental death.

The exasperating case gives us a peek into the private lives and jarring gaps between the working-class prosecutor (Geetanjali Kulkarni), who wants to get home to cook dinner for her family, and the young, educated defence attorney (Vivek Gomber), whose parents still spoil him with home-cooked meals. One listens to Brazilian jazz, while the other hums Bollywood tunes, details that say a lot about how they think.

The camera frequently observes it all from a perfectly composed distance, a panoramic approach that’s too formalist at times. We’re never invest-ed in the characters, but that’s okay since Tamhane is working at building a compelling case instead. 

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