Sunday, February 14, 2016

Court (2014), Interludes, part 2

Part 1 here.

Continuing with my interpretation of the interludes:

Interlude Five: The lawyer and his girlfriend at the club-lounge

Before the lawyer drives to the lounge, he has been offered water by an amazingly level-headed and sensible woman living in the slum-like colony. And the lawyer manages to mutter a "Thank You" at the end. Is the lawyer really understanding the reality of these people? He lives in a completely different space than them. And moments later, that is highlighted in a quietly explosive way.

This scene is one of my favorites because it is so oblique.

I would like to point the readers to something called the Kuleshov effect.

After exiting the slum hallway, the lawyer is suddenly shown on an empty road. The lawyer is driving to the lounge. Contrast the availability of "space".

In the slum-colony, people live in a single room and so many of their possessions are out in the hallway. There are clothes drying, there are barrels of drinking water. The shot of the hallway continues for a bit as the lawyer walks away. We are meant to notice these things.

The next shot is of the empty road from a carefully chosen high vantage point. Almost no traffic at that hour. Trees lined on both sides of the road. Seems like another country, doesn't it?

And once again, jazz music is playing in his car. But he seems quiet and inexpressive. Is he also impervious to the chasm? To the brutal difference in the way he lives and the places he goes to and the life of those who are his "clients"? Is he aware, or is he not?

The next scene attempts to demonstrate, even more starkly, this distinction between the two worlds. There is no purpose to this scene, apparently. But it is amply clear to me that the director is telling us to look, look closely at the inequality.

This scene is that of the lounge.  Apparently nothing happens here, but observe carefully.

In the lounge, his girlfriend is wearing skimpy clothes (by Indian standards). It is a very western atmosphere, with acoustic guitar, live English music, and a bar. What happens next is slightly jaw-dropping. The singer says that her next song is from a "street-musician in Brazil".

Well, holy shit.

Brazil is a developing country like India - corrupt, poor, with a lot of crime, but it is "exotic" - and a song from there is fit for an elite audience.

But how can we take in this passing reference to a a street musician in Brazil and not think of our own singer currently in jail? Is Narayan Kamble not a street musician? Can we ever imagine a song taken from him being sung in such a gathering? Absolutely not.

Narayan Kamble cannot be romanticized. He represents the morbid reality and we don't want that at this lounge. A Portuguese song from a street musician in Brazil is comfortably cool.

Interlude Six: The train ride of the Public Prosecutor

The prosecutor leaves the courthouse, and is in the ladies' compartment of the suburban train. She seems to be trying to peer into the paper that her neighbor is reading. But no, that is misleading. We are surprised by what she soon utters. She is actually more interested in the sari worn by the neighbor. The point is that the prosecutor is just doing a "job" and has no conscious interest in society and the wider issues. Once out of the court, she is only seemingly interested in the clothes and food and groceries. They talk about problems of relative affluence: diabetes for example. But the director makes a point about her still being in the middle-class. That "olive oil" is still beyond their reach. Contrast this with the lifestyle being enjoyed by the lawyer.

Interlude Seven: The Public Prosecutor serving dinner to her family

She picks up her son from a basic daycare and then is having a phone conversation while making dinner. The conversation is about someone unclear about a legal issue, probably a divorce. She offers to look at the "papers" tomorrow. Though women's rights are being obliquely referenced, what about her status in her own home?

When she goes to the living room, the husband as well as the son are watching TV while she is serving them. The husband is on a chair and having a table in front of him. The son is lounging on the bed. And the daughter is sitting on the floor? Not very subtle. And notice the slightly different ways in which she asks all three of them for food. She is servile to the husband, gentle toward the son, and a little (just a little) curt with the daughter.

And after dinner, she is humming and working on her papers while everybody else is likely sound asleep.

Interlude Eight: The Public Prosecutor and her family's outing

This is not very subtle. The outing is at a very humble establishment where the prices are mentioned on a blackboard on the wall. Contrast this with the lounge that the lawyer goes to earlier, where he doesn't even look at the menu or prices before ordering beer. The music being played is local Marathi music.

Then the family goes to watch a xenophobic play about a out-of-state guy who is lower-class than the girl's family being kicked out by the girl's father. The audience seems to really enjoy that kind of thing.

After a court hearing the prosecutor mutters that the judge should just send Narayan Kamble to jail for a long time instead of wasting their time.

Anything "other" is an enemy. To be kicked out of one's mind or one's state or into the jail.

Interlude Nine: The lawyer dining out with his parents and sister

This is yet another restaurant. A high-end vegetarian place with nice handicrafts strewn around. They are talking about gadgets and smartphones. An interesting snippet of conversation is about something to the effect that the western lifestyle is also available in India now. They casually mention an iPad and stuff "which is dangerous to carry on a train". What does that tell you?  Multiple layers in a society which are talked about nonchalantly.  There is absolutely no class-consciousness, only the consciousness of its effects.

The restaurant is guarded by a colonial-dress guard. It is a sheltered space.

As soon as the lawyer comes out, he is attacked by some goons who put black paint on his face to teach him a lesson about respecting their beliefs.

The restaurant's name is "Chetana" (awareness).  Who is aware here?

The scene ends with the lawyer crying in his room. He has suddenly been confronted with an act, not just with words.

Interlude Ten: Narayan Kamble again at the public function

His disinclination to take an injection is hilariously misunderstood by the volunteer.  The volunteer says that Narayan Kamble might be scared of the injection, while Narayan Kamble is not afraid at all of the deeper threat of state intimidation if he continues to do what he does.

He is expressly advised by the lawyer to lay low for a while. But in the very next scene, he is again at a public function doing his gig. What balls on this guy!

And while he is shown weak and languid on the hospital bed, on the stage he is fiery and full of energy.  That's where he comes alive.

After his song about rising up to oppression, there is some kind of film song being played. People in that kind of place are getting educated and entertained in quick succession. It is like a single channel TV on which all kinds of programs are being aired for an audience too poor to afford choice.

Interlude Eleven: Narayan Kamble at the printing press

The title of the pamphlet says: "A History of Humiliation". Narayan Kamble is helping stack the books.

The background is poignant. Some low-wage and low-skilled workers are robotically folding the pages of some publications.

The police enters the scene and quietly takes Narayan Kamble out. Presumably arresting him on another charge or canceling his bail. Narayan Kamble does not protest. Neither do the other people. The whole arrest is quite amazingly quiet and smooth. There is a kind of despondency in the air as a few men look at the police vehicle when it drives away.

A History of Humiliation, indeed.

Later at the court, we find out that he has been arrested for sedition, a colonial-era law.

Again, a history of humiliation.

Interlude Twelve: The judge and his circle of friends/family on his way to the resort, and then at the resort

The scene begins with a dark courtroom, being closed for vacations.

The game being played in the bus uses Hindi songs from Bollywood. Despite all the Marathi hate for other states and their languages and culture, Bombay is known for its Hindi film industry.

The film is essentially about comparison, contradiction and conflict. This is yet another contradiction.

At the resort, we find that one of the judge's colleagues has a son who is having a health issue. The judge advises his colleague to have faith in some numerology and gemstone healing. Instead of institutions that have become dysfunctional, people are being asked to put their faith in gurus and prayers.

The reason India, even in the second decade of the twenty first century, is neck deep in superstition is because the rational institutions have failed in this country.

Then we have a scene of womenfolk and youngsters playing "bingo" or "tambola". The announcer asks: "Anybody got the middle or last line"? Indeed. Anybody got the middle or lower class? Or is the oppression going to continue? "Has anybody got it," the announcer repeats? "No" comes the answer: no-one has got it.

And then later at the dinner table, the men-folk are talking about the high salaries in the private sector. Yet another comparison and class division.

The film ends with the judge sleeping on the bench (court reference!) and as he is woken up by the children's collective shout (the screams of the classes below him), he slaps one of them and then falls back to sleep.

The child walks away, wailing.

"Bloody idiots".


No comments: