Posts Tagged ‘Chaitanya Tamhane’

This is bizarre. And it just doesn’t seem to end. So we are forced to write this post.

Hey Large Short Films, you awake? You drunk? You know the role of director in making a film? And how different it is from being a producer? You know what Somnath Pal has done?

Why is Chaitanya Tamhane’s name being peddled everywhere for Somntha Pal’s film Death Of A Father. First, it happened during Mumbai Film Festival. The communication was so deceptive, everyone thought that Chaitanya has directed a new short film. Nobody knew about Somnath. His name wasn’t mentioned anywhere.

Even Varun Grover, who was moderating the Q and A panel for the shorts, had no clue till he was there.

We understand that you want to cash in on Chaitanya’s name, and it’s great that he is supporting other talented filmmakers. But how about we get the basics right. We don’t know what Somnath and Chaitanya feel about it, and how they are allowing it to happen, but this is atrocious.

Even the trailer that they have put it now, the description has Chaitanya’s name, and no mention of director. In the trailer, the credit has producer’s name first, and then comes director’s name. If it was some well know director, i wonder if they would have the guts to do something similar. Just because he is a new director, one can get away with anything.

WTF! And WHYTF! Anyone has a valid explanation?

Here’s the trailer

 

Chaitanya Tamhane

Filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane seems to be going places and making all the right marks. Last month, he was in news as he was selected for Rolex’s Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative where will be mentored by Alfonso Cuarón.

And now there’s some more good news. He will be on the jury of 73rd Venice International Film Festival. He will be part of the international jury for the Orizzonti section of the fest. In addition to its president, French director Robert Guédiguian, other jury members for Orozzonti are : American film critic and historian Jim Hoberman, Egyptian actress Nelly Karim, Italian actress Valentina Lodovini, Korean actress and director Moon So-ri, Spanish film critic and scholar José Maria (Chema).

Interestingly, Chaitanya’s debut feature Court premiered at the 71st Venice Film Festival, where it won the Lion of the Future award and the Orizzonti award for Best film.

The Jury will award the following prizes, with no ex-aequo awards permitted: Orizzonti Award for Best Film; Orizzonti Award for Best Director; Special Orizzonti Jury Prize; Orizzonti Award for Best Actor or Actress; Orizzonti Award for Best Screenplay; Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film; Venice Short Film Nomination for the European Film Awards 2016.

The festival will run from 31st August to 10th September, 2016.

 

Court

Finally, the Film Federation Of India Jury has made a choice that most people will agree with. The FFI has been getting lot of criticism in the last few years for their weird choices. When it comes to picking films for Oscar, it’s not only about the best film, but also about the right film – one which has made international noise, got some awards, got rave reviews, local subject with global appeal (glo-cal), and little bit of desi exotica that white Academy members can watch and get. And Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut feature Court ticks all the right boxes.

Court premiered at Venice Film Festival where it picked up two important awards, a rare achievement for a desi film/filmmaker. The film went to complete a dream festival run and also picked up the top prize at Mumbai Film Festival.

The film was picked up by 16 member jury of FFI which was headed by Amol Palekar. The other films which were in running included Masaan, PK, Haider, Kaakaa Muttai, Haider.

The kind of spotlight an Oscar win brings, in the last few years, this section has become the toughest one with some of the best films from across the world. 53 films have been officially entered in this year’s foreign-language Oscar race so far. The number is expected to go 80 plus. The first shortlist will be out in January next year.

All the best to Chaitanya Tamhane and his ‘Court’ team!

 

Court : On Celluloid and otherwise

Posted: April 24, 2015 by moifightclub in cinema, Indie
Tags: , ,

This post is by Mohamed Thaver, who has covered the Sessions Court proceedings for Hindustan Times for over a year. As he watched Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court, he could not stop himself from making some Court-notes. Blame it on good ol’ journalism.

Thaver is a former journo who still finds it difficult to keep his nose out of crime, movies and book. Over to him now.

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It is easier to hate people if you do not see them in human form. Especially, if, with the help of stock phrases, you just have to reduce them to pre-moulded narratives. After moving to report on the Mumbai Sessions court from crime reporting, the first thing that hit me was the absolutely direct access to the accused. While though initially it gave me a kick, seeing all these accused about whom I had been writing, soon I realized it was a tricky position to be in. To see these ‘demons’ in human forms was a bit inconvenient.

Seeing them in full view of the pathetic condition, their wives-mothers squatting at one end of the courtroom, missing a much needed day’s salary on most occasions; trying to understand first the English and next the legal jargon from the expressions of the judge and the lawyers. One had to be heartless to not feel for them. The irony of women reporters telling a rape accused that he had ink smudged on his face and giving him a tissue to wipe it with was never lost on me.

I almost felt possessive about the domain that debutant director Chaitanya Tamhane’s court deals with. The other day I saw a former colleague covering sessions court say ‘Finally a movie about us’ on a social media platform. Court’s have always aroused curiosity, as it is on most occasions wrongly construed to be a place of high drama. However, the exclusive access to this beat, sometimes encouraged us to keep the myth going, as we would regale our colleagues and friends with stories from the court. I remember during the final stages of the Shakti Mills trail, several colleagues of mine reporting on other beats, had come to the court to ‘just see’.

Had I seen Court, as against other bollywood movies before I started covering the Mumbai sessions court, I would have been more at ease making the transition into the world of the black coats. Like the act of the Judge, repeating the just concluded arguments of the two lawyers for the stenographer to put in on record bizzarely worked as comic relief when it was screened at the MAMI film festival, so was it a bit amusing in my head when I first entered a courtroom in 2013. As days passed by, I realized how different the actual courts were as compared to their sexed up versions dished out in movies after movies. The heart at the most courtroom movies: drama, is reserved for handful of days in the court; mostly on the days the verdict is pronounced.  On most days, the court is like it is in Tamhane’s movie, slow, dreary, confused, boisterous and more than anything a distant soporific hum that continues with robotic monotony.

Such is the monotony, that in the nearly yearlong period that I was reporting on sessions court, I found a familiar cycle in most cases. Most cases began with the accused and family members initially trying to understand every word that their lawyers and judges were saying. However, with the innumerable repetitions of sometimes the same set of facts looked at differently from both sides, slowly but steadily their helplessness induced determination is hacked down by the sheer lifelessness of the trial till they go on auto pilot. They ultimately emerge during the crescendo of final arguments and wait for bated breath for the day of judgement.

To explain how taxing the process is in words itself,  the initial stage of the trial, framing of charges, is when the police produces a chargesheet in the court that carries the sections under which a person is to be tried in addition to a detailed account of the crime and the evidence against the accused. This is the point in court, when Vinay Vore (Vivek Gomber) argues before the judge that section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code  slapped against his client, the folk singer Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar) should not be applicable as there was no intention on his part to provoke people to commit suicide. Kamble is arrested after a sewerage worker’s body is found in a manhole. The police allege that Kamble’s ‘inflammatory’ poem ‘exhorting’ sewage workers to commit suicide outside the sewerage worker’s residence, led him to commit suicide two days later.

And since abetment to suicide it is the only charge his client is booked under, Vora asks for his client to be discharged from the case. Like in most court cases, the judge decides to go ahead with the trial and leaving the decision of whether the charge is applicable for a later starge after going through the evidence. What I found is that this stage would tend to get technical as lawyers quibble primarily on technical law points.

Then we come to that part of a trial, which, in movies, is normally seen as the be-all and end-all of all courtroom dramas. The public prosecutor (who represents the state) calls forth witness and then examines them, trying to extract information that can be used as evidence against the accused. Once the prosecutor finishes with his examination, the defence lawyer starts a cross examination or cross- as called in legal lingo – of the witness. Of the few technical glitches that I could spot in the movie as far as court room procedures were concerned, was the one in which the first police witness was not cross examined by Vora.

After the prosecution witness are examined and cross-examined, the trial them moves to 313 – in court lingo – which refers to the recording of the statement of the accused as ordained by section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. While, it seems like an interesting phase, what it is, is, just a rough question – answer format document that the judge reads out before the accused, to which he has to reply in a yes or a no. This stage, in my humble opinion, which has not been shown in the movie, could have been exploited to get us a sneak peek into the mind of Kamble, who gives the impression of a person who has so much to say but has decided to turn his back to the world.

After the final arguments of the two lawyers are over, the judge will then allot a date for pronouncing of judgement. Like any god fearing person I thought that the ‘day of judgement’ was final. But the wheels of judiciary run a tad slower than organized religion. Because while on the day of judgement, the court may pronounce the guilty- not-guilty judgement, the quantum of sentence is still remaining. After the judgement, both sides argue about the quantum of sentence – which in the Shakti Mills gangrape case – stretched for  days on end – before the judge on most cases sets another date for the quantum of sentence.

On this date finally, when the judge pronounces the quantum of sentence, you approach the family of the accused – now either a convict or a free man– and one of them will tell you that they will approach the High court and failing which the Supreme court. The cogs of the machinery keep rolling. During the last few scenes of the movie, Vora pays Rs 1,00,000 as bail amount for Kamble. When Kamble – who earns a living by giving tuitions – questions Vora in the hospital about why he paid such a big amount, Vora’s who is also representing him in another case slapped against him by the police, replies, “Now you have just got bail. You case will go on for years. You can repay me the money by then.”

– Mohamed Thaver

 

This post is by Salik Shah, whose twitter bio says his location is Milky Way, and he is addicted to speculative fiction. Once in a while, when he remembers us or finds a film worth talking about, he sends us his cinema notes. Over to him.

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The story about struggle behind the making of a film shouldn’t be criteria for judging a film. The act of borrowings, bold decisions and compromises made can’t be more important than the film.  When a film reaches the theater, or the screen, it stands on its own feet. There is no director to defend it. No producer to sell it. No critic to lead. The decision is tough—whether we like it or not. Our choices reveal more about us than the film.

Let’s take two very different films for comparison, The Drop (Dir. Michaël R. Roskam, 2014) and Court (Dir. Chaintanya Tamhane, 2015)—both set around a fixed point—to see the differences between the choices made by a master screenwriter and a promising debutant.

The bar in The Drop and the court in Court have one thing in common: they don’t move. Written by an American, Dennis Lehane, and adapted to the screen by a European director, The Drop is a striking film set in an American neighborhood. Nothing happens in The Drop—nothing extraordinary—until the beginning of the end, or an end. The Drop ends at one point, and then starts again. Same with Court, like MFC said. Tamhane pushes the violence off the screen. Lehane embraces it. Tamhane denies a verdict. Lehane delivers justice.

Storytellers have to make tough choices—and those choices make or break them. Tamhane’s earlier effort, Six Strands (2011), is mesmerizing minus the political comment. Forerunner (Dir. Sahej Rahal, 2013) is clever and intriguing, also equally political and confident. But it is Pati (Dir. Sohrab Hura, 2011) which emerges as the winner among the three with its stark realism. Pati reminds one of Satyajit Ray’s early films—though it isn’t supposed to be a film.

Court is made with paper, but the script is not the film. Pati’s strength comes from the camera, which isn’t afraid to move when the need arises. Kamble embodies anger, movement and restlessness, but the still camera doesn’t quite capture his free spirit. Court doesn’t let Nutan’s kitchen speak for itself. It chooses noise over silence during the train journey, which could have been a memorable and powerful scene. Pati sings, Court stings.

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (Dir. Jabbar Patel, 1999) is a Bollywood film—but manages to offer nuanced characters and scenes. Though I struggled to get past my bias against the style of the film in the beginning, I was really interested in the subject. When the style became unimportant, the story took over my senses. Towards the end of Ambedkar, the struggle is lost but the spirit remains.

Court doesn’t offer such comfort. It refuses to be subjective. It is a balanced work, and therein lies its flaw. It is fair to everyone, but unfair to itself. Jai Bhim Comrade (Dir. Anand Patwardhan, 2011) from where Court borrows its strength isn’t such a sleek and sanitized film. Patwardhan isn’t easy to watch not just because of the controversial subjects of his documentaries, but also for his low-production value, unplanned, haphazard shots and unprofessional cutting by our ‘high’ standard.

Anand Patwardhan tells the truth, and he shows that it can be really ugly, quite literally. He has a signature that doesn’t need introduction in the history of Indian filmmaking. And he isn’t afraid to go the court to fight censorship and secure release of his films. We can label Patwardhan as an activist filmmaker, but Anurag Kashyap (Gulaal), Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider) and Imitiaz Ali (Highway) are also activists in their own fashion and target audience.

Subjectivity comes with the position of power—internal and external—and Court was wise to recognize that it didn’t have such power early on. Court tempered the anger, harshness and spirit of Jai Bhim Comrade to reach out to a wider audience (who might actually commit suicide if made to watch a Patwardhan). Its strategy worked, but our cinema lost. Again.

“In the last few years, [I] have discovered that there is nothing bigger than a filmmaker’s ego. And [I] would surely worship that ego the day I get to know that a film is cure for AIDS or some serious disease like that. Till then, it’s just a film, a fucking film…

Does it deliver anything new? A new cinematic language? A new/hidden India that we weren’t aware of? A new art? A new craft? The answer is no. It’s a new voice that’s assured, makes brave choices but is still following the diktats set by the Top 5-fest-selection-committee.  It felt like what an European art-house director would do if he is asked to direct the film. Even when the lights are switched off one by one in the Court, you knew at that moment that the film won’t be over there. He would go back to the mundane life of one of the characters. And he exactly did that – its predictable in that way, you know whom the film is trying to please.”

MFC  

The above criticism is harsh, but necessary. It is true that a film can’t be a cure to physical diseases, but it can be a balm to spiritual calamities.  It can save marriages and prevent suicides. It can give hope to those who need it desperately. It can also make life bearable and worthwhile. It can help people to grow beautiful from within. It can also lead one astray, sow guilt, and kill. It could be a world event promoting science, or a political tool to ensue genocide. It can be extraordinarily mundane, or remain just a film, a fucking film. Should it be pathbreaking or formulaic? The choice is ours and ours alone to make.

Dear Bollywoodwallas, the good news is: the most famous scene from the court of Indian cinema is yet to be convicted. The bad news is: the world has changed. Chaintanya Tamhane is a confident voice of our changing times, and Court is better than most of our paper mache. Vivek Gomber, you’re the quiet hero we need. (Though I must confess that 12 Angry Men (Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1957) is still my favorite court film.)

In memory of Bollywood, and to good times ahead:

Salik Shah

(Pic Courtesy – Court’s FB page)

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I was in two minds about writing this post. Knowing how it goes, how it is received, and how it ends up with any criticism here, it feels futile and exhausting after a point. Mainstream or indies, the tactic remains the same – a new nomenclature, a new way of shaming, a new email, a new threat, or just a new guilt of killing-my-baby. Knowing too many people from both sides, i always get to know what’s coming, how and when. In the last few years, i have discovered that there is nothing bigger than a filmmaker’s ego. And i would surely worship that ego the day I get to know that a film is cure for AIDS or some serious disease like that. Till then, it’s just a film, a fucking film. And since the love for being a vacuous versovian overrules everything, you wonder if you should pick that weary self again, and do it once more, pick one more fight, for old times sake.

As far as films are concerned, I don’t know anyone who is so difficult to please. He never used to like anything. And I mean ANYTHING. Not a single damn film. That used to be our running joke. Maybe a Kusturica on a good day. He was the cinema snob. At least he used to be one few years ago when we used to have interaction. For his young age, he had seen lot of films from across the world.

During a late night cycle-wala-kaafi, once he was discussing whether he should assist any director and start his career as an AD. And then the bigger question came – which director? For him, no one was worthy enough to assist, and there’s not really enough to learn from them. After much deliberation, he came to the conclusion that in the last few years, he has liked just one Hindi film. Maybe he is the only director he can try, but still he wasn’t sure looking at his other films.

So we would always wonder what kind of films would Chaitanya Tamhane make since he doesn’t like (almost) anything – big, small, cult, legends. And I am happy to say that he is the snob who delivered. ‘Court’ shows confidence and bravery. With no film school or AD-ing anyone, CT went ahead by himself. So much international acclaim and national award for your first film, it’s a stupendous achievement and a dream debut. A big, big Congrats!

But if it wasn’t Chaitanya, maybe i would have been happy with this much. Since it’s CT at the helm of affairs, i expected more, much more. And so I am having second thoughts on it – does it deliver anything new? A new cinematic language? A new/hidden India that we weren’t aware of? A new art? A new craft? The answer is no. It’s a new voice that’s assured, makes brave choices but is still following the diktats set by the Top 5-fest-selection-committee.  It felt like what an European art-house director would do if he is asked to direct the film. Even when the lights are switched off one by one in the Court, you knew at that moment that the film won’t be over there. He would go back to the mundane life of one of the characters. And he exactly did that – its predictable in that way, you know whom the film is trying to please. And my fear is coming from that corner. Not specific to Court, but it gives a starting point to ponder over. I see a new generation of filmmakers who have grown up on world cinema culture – from dvd-wallahs to torrents, easy access changed the rules. And so before they get behind the camera, they know what the Cannes-to-Tribeca likes. You know the norms well, breaking away from the desi formula has sadly become another world-cinema-loved-by-fests formula in itself – take Non-actors, take long takes, unnecessarily stay back and hold the shot even when action is over, use no background music, say ok only on 897654897th take of the shots, show no emotional hook, cut it dry, nobody can cry their heart out, keyword is subtle, and other such routine stuff. It’s the Dogme 2015. And when you can see through the formula applied to achieve the desired result, you know where it’s heading. Not saying that all that is easy or not organic, but the calculative means to target in a specific way and to please a few has started worrying me.

I fear a day will come soon when if a character dies in our film, other characters will come in black suits, and would read eulogies. All formal. Nobody will cry their heart out, no wailing, no rudaalis. Because Remember, subtle! Remember, drama is bad. Remember, melodrama is NEVER. Even though that’s what we would do in real life. Death in our society has nothing formal about it. But we would go that suit-and-eulogy route because that’s the accepted norm by the west, by the film fests whose endorsement we crave for. If being feted by them because you are passing the exams on their terms and conditions, we are surely moving away from what was ours. And it reminds me of this incident which I keep quoting. I was in school then. There was a death in the family. My Granny started wailing, she came out, sat on the elevated platform just outside the door, and continued to do so. Neighbors joined in. And i was feeling so embarrassed. How can she do it?  Why is she crying like that? Can’t she do it more formally? It reminds me that we are in similar scenario – we are embarrassed to show our true colours. We are decorating our stories in the colours they like. Even if a woman is dealing with her dead husband, she remains calm and quiet. Felt bit strange. So give me ‘Fandry’ any day.

Nobody confronts the raw emotions of “Dada, aami banchbo” of Ritwik Ghatak’s ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ anymore. It’s so loud, they new-gen cringe at it, how can you have it? Song and dance are strictly no-no even when we really learn and choreograph steps at many occasions in our life and culture. Why? Because another diktat of the west-fest. If their cinema reflects their stories and culture, why our cinema can’t do the same? And am not talking about mainstream Bollywood here. That’s on different tangent. That’s why i like what a Bhardwaj, Kashyap and Ratnam does with their songs. Or what a Q tries in Tasher Desh.

I believe this was long due. Our cinema getting noticed at the top five film fests of the world. But can we push our envelopes now – our stories in a new cinematic voice? One that doesn’t follow the fest-diktats. Hopefully the new gen kids will lose the fear of rejection by west. A ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ or a ‘Vihir’ didn’t really crack the top fest code but they remain an all time favourite. And who doesn’t love those voices when they break the fest-diktats at the biggest fests, be it as fluff and pop as QT’s.

(PS – FOR THOSE WHO THOUGHT WE HAVEN’T WRITTEN ENOUGH ABOUT THE MERITS OF “COURT”, CLICK HERE, and HERE. In Caps, because many seems to be going blind while reading this page)

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Here’s the good new for film buffs. If you missed Chaitanya Tamhane’s much acclaimed debut feature, Court, at Mumbai Film Festival, you can catch it in theatres now. The film is all set to release on April 17th, 2015.

A new terrific trailer of the film is out too. Have a look.

It’s been doing the fest rounds for quite some time and bagged some of the international prestigious awards at Venice and other fests. At the recently announced National Awards, the film has been adjudged the Best Feature Film. For a debut feature filmmaker, this is a dream run and it can’t get better than this.

Cast & Crew

Cast: Vira Sathidar, Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Pradeep Joshi, Usha Bane
Directed by: Chaitanya Tamhane
Produced by: Zoo Entertainment
World Sales: Memento Film International – Artscope

Official Synopsis:

A sewerage worker’s dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai. An ageing folk singer is tried in court on charges of abetment of suicide. He is accused of performing an inflammatory song which might have incited the worker to commit the act. As the trial unfolds, the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case are observed outside the court.