Wednesday, March 4, 2015


By D.E.Levine

A New Directors New Films 2015 Selection

With only minimal experience in film, 27-year-old writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane has proven to be one of the "shining stars" among filmmakers under 30.

Set in India, this legal drama points out the realities of caste prejudice, social and legal injustice and venal politics when an elderly folksinger/activist is arrested on trumped up charges of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide.

As the trial drags on endlessly and the prisoner, dubbed the "people's poet" remains in jail, we witness the endless procedural delays, the incompetence of various key players, the coaching of prosecution witnesses and the constant privileging of outdated colonial law over reason, mercy and justice.  If this is how the Indian legal system works, then very simply, it doesn't work.

India is a complex nation with a society that is stuck partially in colonial 19th century India and partially in 21st century modern India.  We see that that the old outdated laws have not been modified to reflect the modern society and that the system is rife with corruption.

There is no mercy towards the elderly prisoner, who in reality has done nothing to justify the charges.  His attorney is empathetic and prepared for each court session but the injustice of the law itself and the rulings of the judge make the quest for justice seemingly in vain.

Watching this 2-hour film the viewer squirms in his seat in frustration over what he sees on screen.  We can only imagine how much worse it would be to be living through this accurate portrayal of the Indian legal system.