Chaitanya Tamhane’s Marathi-Hindi-Gujarati-English language debut film Court which has recently won the National award for best film is well on the way to being the most feted Indian film abroad.
Chaitanya, who comes from a family of non-cineastes, has just returned from the New York from the 44th Annual New Directors/New Films festival where Court was screened to rave reviews.
Jet lagged and still incredulous about the success his debut film has received globally, in spite of having taken it to 30 international film festivals so far, Chaitanya says, “The New York experience was unique because this is a festival for the first and second films of directors. Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan’s debut films were shown here. It’s still hard for me to believe that my film has been so warmly received the world over.”
While making a film on the vagaries of the Indian legal system, Chaitanya didn’t think he was making a social comment. “I wanted to tell the story that I wanted to tell. It wasn’t as if I had set out to tell make a social comment. I just got interested in and started researching on it.”
Chaitanya went through hundreds of cases. “I began visiting the 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 Vivek’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.
You won’t find anything remotely unoriginal in Chaitanya’s work. Which is why he is a little disturbed when Court is referred to as “another Lunchbox.”
Thoughtfully Chaitanya says, “I am not too sure whether 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.”