The jury has come to a decision. It's Chaitanya Tamhane's Marathi masterpiece Court that goes as India's official entry to the Oscars, beating other strong contenders including Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan, Avinash Arun's Killa and Kabir Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Tamhane's evocative film gently and non-judgmentally questions the loopholes in the Indian legal system. While the film's intrinsic merits cannot be questioned, one of the jury members for the Oscar contender Rahul Rawail has gone on record to question the jury's chairperson Amol Palekar's competence.
Rawail tweeted, "Just want to clarify that I am proud of Court and fully support its selection. I resigned from the Oscar jury because of Mr. Palekar's obnoxious behavior."
Court's director Chaitanya Tamhane remained oblivious of the controversies.
Says Tamhane, "It's still hard for me to believe that my film has been so warmly received the world over. I began visiting sessions courts and discovered that the way the legal system and the courtroom proceedings have been shown in our films is completely contrary to reality."
As Chaitanya met individuals trapped in legal battles for years, there emerged a pattern of tragic sometimes tragic-comic cases and lawsuits that didn't quite make sense.
Chaitanya was hooked. He had to tell the story of the pitfalls of the legal system. But there was no money. It was Chaitanya's childhood friend Vivek Gombar who agreed to fund Chaitanya's dream.
"If it wasn't for my friend Vivek Gombar's support, Court wouldn't have happened. We made the film on our own without the support of any corporate house. When we were shooting, we thought of only how to complete the film. Little did we know that the film would make such an impact," chuckles the young director, who at age 19 made a short film on plagiarism in Indian cinema.
Court seems all set to make the same global impact as Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox.
Chaitanya isn't too sure of that. "I don't know if my film would eventually have the same global impact as The Lunchbox. But I can say this with certainty. Global audiences have got the point. At all the 30 international film festivals that the film has gone to, not once did we have to explain our cultural references to Western audiences."
Chaitanya Tamhane's Court satirizes the Indian legal system with a virility that has won the world. And now Chaitanya's appetite is whetted. He wants to go at the other major remedial institutions.
Says the shy director, "Court is the first part of my institutional trilogy. I wanted to depict the sad state of those trapped in the legal machinery. I'd like to similar humanistic look at the medical and educational institutions."
The idea, says Chaitanya, is not to mock the loopholes in the system. "I didn't set out to make a strong socio-political statement. I just wanted to tell the truth of how the endless court proceedings that sometimes take lifetimes, affects the common man. When I set out to research on the subject, I didn't know about the Indian legal system, or lok shairi which is such an important part of my film. The 3 and half years that the film took to make, has been a time of immense education for me."
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