Come late August, and Mumbai boy Chaitanya Tamhane will pack his bags for Venice where he will wait for a judgment and his moment of glory. Tamhane (27) is the young filmmaker of the feature film, Court, that has been selected for the 71st Venice Film Festival in the Horizons section.
Set in Mumbai, the film initially focusses on the death of a sewerage worker and an ageing Folk singer who is purportedly charged for the worker’s suicide. The complexity of the film unfolds when Tamhane adroitly shifts his gaze to the lawyers and the judge as characters to be told through his camera.
(Top and above) Stills from the film, Court
An English graduate, Tamhane relates, “I have always been intrigued by settings rather than situations. So, the setting of a lower court in Mumbai was the starting point. The idea was to capture the essence of a trial, as it would unfold for real, without all the exaggerated drama seen in films and television.”
Having experience in theatre, Tamhane has received accolades as a playwright and director and even collaborated with Ramu Ramanathan for a children’s musical called Medha and Zhoombish II.
He also made an impression with his short film, Six Strands at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Modestly, he shares his interest in filmmaking in the first place; “I got exposed to a lot of world cinema when I was about 17. I directed my first feature length documentary, Four Step Plan, when I was 19. This was while I was still studying in Mithibai College. It’s when I seriously got interested in filmmaking.”
Speaking of his dramatist personae, he comments, “Actually, the character in the film is not just a poet but also a protest singer. Cultural activists like Sambhaji Bhagat, Kabir Kala Manch and the trial of Jiten Marandi inspired me as I wrote the character.”
Throwing light on his unconventional approach, he describes the film as “much more than just a courtroom drama. It delves into the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge, who are forging fates of ordinary people on an everyday basis. It was interesting for me to explore who these people are beyond the theatre of the courtroom. This forms the crux of the film, more than the court case.”
The film’s schedule panned out to 45 days and canvasses various locations in the city, including Wadala, Parel, Dadar, and Fort. A total of 1,800 auditions were held to finalise the cast with no familiar face, intentionally. From acquiring permissions, befriending locals to getting even local goons to agree, the young filmmaker is finally getting his due.