The 2014 Marathi film ‘Court’ by 28-year old first-time filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane was awarded the ‘German Star of India’ at the 12th Indian Film Festival Stuttgart in July 2015. The jury members were actor and psychiatrist Dr. Mohan Agashe, Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider of the Humboldt Universität Berlin and Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel, research associate at the Zentrum für Kunst- und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe.
‘Court’ depicts the arrest and consequent trial of an elderly folk singer and grassroots activist who stands accused of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. The film depicts the absurd procedurals of the trail fraught with institutional incompetence, caste prejudice and venal politics, as well as the everyday realities of the characters’ lives. The ponderous trial with its privileging of arcane colonial law is in itself a form of punishment in its harassment of a man who is advocating for change. Tamhane portrays the deep dysfunctions of the Indian judiciary while simultaneously reflecting on the power of language and freedom of expression which is not only threatened by the state or the legal system but also by self-appointed guardians of culture. The film’s persuasiveness lies thus equally in Tamahane’s both tragic and comedic narrative and the distinguished performance of its professional and nonprofessional cast, as finally in its localized portrayal of matters of global relevance.