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Courtrooms in Film

Many of us, consciously or subconsciously, are heavily influenced by popular media and film and legal court dramas are  no exception. They, in equal parts, entertain and educate. In this episode, we spoke to Anushka Shah, the founder of Civic Studios and Chaitanya Tamhane,

 the writer and director of the nationally and internationally lauded Marathi film, ‘Court’. Anushka Shah strongly believes in the power of entertainment to bring change. Her organization, Civic Studios, notes that “a good story and set of characters can bring attention to ignored issues, create awareness of rights and duties, and model exemplary actions to help ‘fix-the-system’.” Chaitanya, on the other hand, has created an exceptional piece of art through his movie, “Court”, that exemplifies the type of art Anushka has been rooting for. The film follows the trial of a protest poet and singer who is accused of abetting the suicide of a manhole worker to reveal the systemic issues of bigotry and injustice in society and the judicial system.

We chatted with Anushka and Chaitanya about the role of art in social change and the moral responsibility of artists, especially in the depiction of a courtroom drama. In the process, we explored the importance of empathy in building characters, realism in cinema and how conveying the fragility of the individual in a complex and unpredictable system transcends the courtroom.

Show Notes

  1. Court (2014), available on Netflix
  2. Civic Studios, Crime and Punishment in Indian Entertainment, 2019 https://sway.office.com/CUIjI1M69CLiVxCN
  3. Aishwarya Viswanathan, Roohi Bhatia and Anushka Shah, Crime, courtroom drama in Indian entertainment: How the genres sway popular opinion on law and judiciary, Firspost, 2020 https://www.firstpost.com/india/crime-courtroom-drama-in-indian-entertainment-how-the-genre-sways-popular-opinion-on-law-and-judiciary-7905631.html#aid_8087031

In the accused Naryan Kamde  865 is charged under Indian Penal Code Section 306 abatement of Sucide.Vikas Dubay is dead he’s been killed after an encounter broke out. This is the big breaking news that’s coming in. Suspense is finally over the Mumbai trial court today gave more with Momhamad Amin Cassab death sentence for murder and waging war against the country 17 months. The Consitutent assembly will frame the Constitution in terms of paragraph three of the resolution.

Welcome to the Daksh Podcast. I’m Anindita. I work with Daksh which is a Bangalore-based nonprofit working on judicial reforms and access to justice. Many of us consciously or subconsciously are heavily influenced by popular media and film and legal court dramas are no exception. They in equal parts, entertain and educate. In this episode, we talked to Anushka Shah, the founder of civic studios, and Chaitanya Tamani, the writer and director of the nationally and internationally lauded Marathi film court. Anushka is a big believer in the power of entertainment to bring change. Her organization civic studios notes that a good story and set of characters can bring attention to ignored issues, create awareness of rights and duties and model exemplary actions to help fix the system. Chaitanya on the other hand, has created an exceptional piece of art through his movie court, that exemplifies the type of art Anushka has been rooting for. The film follows the child of a protest poet and singer, who is accused of abetting the suicide of a manhole worker. It shows you glimpses of the lives of the public prosecutor, the criminal defence lawyer, the judge, and the family of the man hole worker to reveal systemic issues of bigotry and injustice in society and the judicial system. I chat with Anushka and Chaitanya, about the role of art and social change and the moral responsibility of artists, especially in the depiction of a courtroom drama.

Hi, Chaitanya Hi, Anushka Welcome to the Daksh Podcast. I’m really glad that you’re here today. So correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we’ve all grown up with the typical Indian courtroom drama, where everything is very different from what an actual court proceeding is like, right from the beating of the gavel to cries of order to witnesses, in passionately pleading their own cases, the depiction of court proceedings have been fairly fantastical and out of touch with reality. Chaitanya. Now, my first question is to you. You’ve mentioned in your other interviews that this difference struck you like the difference between the way things are portrayed in film and media and how could proceedings actually work? What spoke to you? Why did you think it was important to show this reality in your film the court?

For me, I didn’t start out, you know, with the idea that oh, I want to show how real courtrooms work on screen. I think it was a phase in my life when you know, this was a general state of mind. It was a reaction to like you said, what we’d grown up watching. And that sort of, you know, I included everything right? From the performances, the locations, and therefore also courtroom because you know, the film is called Court. What happened was, I was watching some, you know, American TV show, which was a legal drama. And it was like, again, a typical American courtroom drama where they were like, you know, very articulate lawyers, and was very dramatic, and they were great orators. And I was like, okay, surely this is not how it works in an Indian court, like, Okay, let me go to an Indian courtroom and find out for myself, what actually goes on there, right. And the other question in my head was, Why do we always see Supreme Courts? Why do we always see high courts on screen, because there’s a session court, there’s the magistrate court, so it was a conscious choice to go to the lowest possible court, and see what goes on there. After that, it was that location, that experience, you know, educating me as to what to depict on screen, I was just absorbing all of that I was just taking it all in, and it was great theater. In fact, that visit was what made me you know, want to work on the film because I was like, Okay, there’s a comedy goal here. Okay, be there’s a lot of drama in how non dramatic some of it is. And See also there’s a lot of conflict, psychological conflict, because of the sheer fact how inaccessible some of this is to a layperson. Even if you’re, you know, it’s your own case, and you’re involved in the trial, most of the times, you know, the lawyers are whispering or fumbling while they’re reading out certain laws, you know, the break character and they certainly the judge about going to their hometown for a leave and things like that. So I was like, Okay, this is great. Then it was just me and the entire team soaking all of this in and then deciding to depicted on screen?

Would it be fair to say that before you saw an actual court proceeding? Did you have a fair idea about how the Indian justice system works? Was it mostly informed through film? Or how did you know about it?

No, I had no idea about how Indian courtrooms work because look, I was like, 24, when I started, you know, researching for the film, and to go to an actual courtroom, and which is also why it was exciting. It’s part of an education. It’s part of wanting to know more of being curious as to, because we are so you know, sometimes protected or insular, unless you have to confront that side of the system, that side of society, right? Everything’s going well, and then, you know, something goes wrong. And now you’re in this labyrinth of, you know, bureaucracy and mismanagement and chaos. So no, I actually had no idea. And the question was, what if, what if one had to be embroiled in a court case? And, again, the research informed a lot of the scripting, a lot of, you know, the characters and the plot, because that’s what I was observing, and in a way, assimilating into the script

Anushka My next question is for you. So taking from what Chaitanya said that, you know, a courtroom drama can be an educative experience in the way that it’s depicted. And also, your research at Civic studio shows that the way the justice system is portrayed in cinema affects people’s perception of justice in real life. Like, I think you worked on mob justice, and extrajudicial killings having more public acceptance because of the way they glorified in film. So do you feel that there’s a benefit to realism and accuracy in the way courtroom dramas are depicted?

I think the weight of the question here is on the word benefit. You know, I think as you start working in production, you realize the different stakeholders and the competing objectives. So I think the question of benefit really is to whose benefit? So if you ask me for the cause of democracy and societal progress, then yes, because it’s something a film or media piece that’s able to give an accurate or realistic depiction serves as an educational piece of material. And I think court is an amazing example of this, while being so engaging, if you ask me if it’s the benefit of the audience who may be coming to watch a movie or a show, because they’re expecting to learn about a real story of a real incident, when you decide to watch a series on OJ Simpson or the Aarushi Talwar case in the movie Talwar, then yes, I think certainly there is. Well, the benefit is huge, because your audience is coming to know the truth. But if you ask, you know the benefit for an audience who’s looking for maybe a more escapist form of entertainment, or producers who are looking to maximize revenue, I don’t know necessarily if the mundane procedural quality of a real court is as entertaining as the freedom of a dramatic monologue might be. So I think it’s really about to whose benefit, however, I think, to go back to what you began with, there is no doubt that whether you are the person creating or consuming that piece of media, entertainment, even in its most banal form, even when you’re coming to watch it, for the most escapist of reasons, will influence you. The study that we did was a report on crime and punishment in Indian entertainment. And we studied how courtroom and police dramas influence audiences watching and we were able to show in a statistically significant way with the example of the Rohit Shetty movie Simba. It has Ranveer Singh in it. And there’s a scene in which the extra judicial killing of the rape accused is extremely glorified at the moment where you’re seeing all the female characters of the movie really support this idea that circumvent the court. And, you know, take the law into your own hands. And we were able to show that people who had watched Simba had a higher support for vigilantism in the real world than people who had not. And I think that’s an example of the overarching idea that the more true you are to a progressive intention in a media piece, the overall benefit that is to society with that.

Yeah, I think I remember even in the Hyderabad, rape accused case where they were killed by the police, a lot of the interviews of, you know, the common public there was very much in support of the extrajudicial killing. So it pretty much resonates exactly the sentiment that was shown in Simba in that scene that you’re talking about. But what I have seen in most of the movies as a lay movie goal is that the courtroom is actually used as a story framing device. Like it’s really just an opportunity for every character to narrate what happened to them what their side of the story is, like back from baat Ek Rat Ki  and Damini. In the 60s too, oh my god, like, which was basically about the existence of God. All of this uses the courtroom as a merely a place to hash out ideas and maybe give a message that the filmmaker wants to give to its audience, including pink and mulk, which recently have been commanded to be good courtroom dramas. But as a lawyer, I assure you that it wasn’t accurate. I mean, in terms of not at all, like, you know, to disparage the movies, they were extremely good. But they were more about pitting arguments against each other and getting a social message across than being accurate about courtroom proceedings. So Anushka do you think that the fact that the issue which is being portrayed in the courtroom drama has more legitimacy, because it’s in a court, rather than say, just two friends talking, the fact that that is depicted as being in a arm of law of the state, do you think that lends more legitimacy to it?

I don’t know if it’s necessarily that putting it in a courtroom setting creates more legitimacy. I do feel like the way influence between media and audience happens is more through the power of the character and the audience’s connection to the character. People trust people. And you know, if you’re a writer, who’s able to create a character that an audience likes, is rooting for and believes in, then I think it’s that character that becomes the device of communication influence. Now that could Sunny Deol in Damini. And in a courtroom setting, you know, who has the spacefill and the justifications, or it could be an Air Force officer like Madhawan in Rang De Basanti, who’s in the setting of a bar with drunk friends and is saying system badalna ho toh  politics join karo IAS ya police me bharti karo, or take Amir in three idiots in the setting of a classroom. And he’s making a point about education versus rote learning, I think it’s a little bit more about the power of a character’s conviction. And various research has also showed this idea of a positive negative and a transitional character, when you’re able to make the audience connect with what they see as a positive character, and set kind of the opposite argument within the opinion of the negative character. And then you have a transitional character who’s more meeting the audience where they might be in their thinking, and showing them kind of how to transition to a positive character. That’s when you’re able to kind of create a sense of not just legitimacy, but also action towards the legitimacy that you’re showing. You know, recently, we completed our short fictional film called Wakil Babu with Abhishek Banerjee and the lead, he’s playing the lawyer. And it’s showing the transformation of her lawyer who starts are being quite apathetic towards the victims of domestic violence that he’s working with. And his transition goes into someone who’s being more sensitive and more victim centric. Now, this film, even though it’s with a lawyer, at the core, it is not shown in a courtroom at all, you know, you see him proving the legitimacy of his point, or the film proven illegitimate to the point between the conversations at his home between him and his mother, who was also a former lawyer, you see it when he’s giving a lecture to law students. So I do feel it’s more about the character than the setting necessarily. 

Yeah, that sounds fair. But do you think that a courtroom may depict what the state believes is? Okay? I mean, in the sense of influencing how people understand what is right and wrong, the fact that the state sees a particular thing as passable, or not in a courtroom, like a judge agrees with an argument. Do you think that makes a difference?

Yeah, I think any media piece that’s able to have a public institution at the core of it, and is able to show kind of whether it’s the court or the police, who are kind of essentially enforcing or enacting or explaining the law or policies as they are. So I do think that a courtroom definitely becomes a tempting setting to be able to show the stand up the state

Chaitanya in your movie court, you also involved some very relevant socio political issues. I mean, there was caste based discrimination unprotected labor, as well, as you know, how inaccessible court proceedings are to the common layperson, including language, people who came up who are involved in the case speak a language that the court doesn’t recognize. So what was your motivation and picking these specific topics? Would you intend to show this particular specific social issue?

Again, the thing is, I don’t necessarily think that, you know, fiction films are the best vehicle to bring up social issues. I mean, there are other ways to do that. If that’s solely your intent, you know, and I know many filmmakers do believe in that kind of a discourse I personally don’t, which doesn’t mean that I am shut off to the realities of society or I won’t use something that exists in a society, if it fits with a story if it fits within the dramatic framework of what I’m trying to do, because like I said, you know, you’re like a sponge, when you’re absorbing everything, and reacting to what’s happening in your society, what you have been protected from what you see as wrong. Because when I was researching, there were many, many different kinds of, you know, social issues, or socio political issues that came up. But these were the ones that kind of fit with the story. So in some ways, they’re also a tool for drama. In some ways, it’s also a means to illuminate a larger truth about you know, as as a collective about society. And that essence is what I’m more interested. Because I’ll tell you what, even some of my mentors at that point, when I was writing the script, were like, you should mention the word sedition. This film should be about sedition. That’s a big issue in the country. And my point was, look, sedition is a law that exists right now, what about five years later? What if the law stops existing? I don’t want the film to be irrelevant, because the law has been abolished now. And again, the point is not the law, because law is to be interpreted, right. Any law can be interpreted in any way. What’s more interesting, and what’s more, sort of, you know, indicative of our mindset, and our psyche is how people use laws against people how our laws are used as tools of oppression. I remember back then reading, you know, the works of Laura Nader, who said that what if the law itself is illegal? So that was something I was more interested in. But yes, a lot of these different issues, were part of my readings and my research and you know, even stories of Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, and a lot of sort of unlawful arrests, and people languishing in prisons for a long time, and the working conditions of manhole workers and caste discrimination, and that very organically sort of became part of the film, you know, off the script. And it was a bit of a shock. For me, it was, like I said, an education for me to know that these things are happening. But again, I wouldn’t say that, you know, I made the film to highlight these issues. Like, I’ll be very honest. And this is something I’ve said many times I’ve said even back then that a lot of people like cpurt and that’s a happy misunderstanding, because they think the film is about the Indian judiciary. And I don’t think the film is about me, the Indian judiciary is just a vehicle to reflect on something entirely different. I mean, it could have been set in a bank, it could have been set in a hospital, it could have been set in any other institution, because and that was kind of my key observation when I when I went to a real courtroom is that these people could be you know, somebody from my own family, that they are real human beings. Also, you know, this goes back to what you were talking about how depiction of courtrooms impacts people’s psyche. The big one for me is the judge. I mean, you see very, very few films where the authority of the judges question. Now what if the judge himself or herself is castist or has all kinds of biases, you know, political biases, class related biases, social biases, and we are taught to sort of, you know, be reverent towards authority, and you cannot question it. And I’m saying it’s the same even with law itself, like, oh, no, this is the law. You know, it’s illegal. And we know what’s happening in the country right now, there are many, many laws that are being implemented, the Constitution is being fundamentally changed. And who is to say whether this is actually legal, or whether this is something actually democratic or something to be done. And again, so the larger point for me is to use the courtroom as this mirror or as the springboard to get into the personal lives and was to get into the psyches of the human beings who are, you know, inhabiting these institutions and acting as players, and then bringing it back to all of us. It’s like the DNA, which makes a sort of social, political and cultural fabric and the mindset, you know, so I know it’s a slightly different tangent from what we’re here to talk about. But I genuinely saw all of this in the courtroom. And one more thing I’ll add is that what you probably don’t get to see in commercial mainstream film sometimes is just how palpable that tension is when you know that this is a life and death matter. You know, that these are real human lives you’re talking about these are real people in flesh and blood you see in front of you, and that it’s not nice to go to jail for 10 years or 20 years or to be imprisoned for life or given the death sentence. So that, that you really, really feel because you see, you see all their hopes, you see their aspirations, you see their family members with them in that room, and you’re like, Okay, so there’s one person sitting on that chair, who’s going to decide the, you know, the rest of someone else’s life, who comes maybe from a totally different background, who maybe comes from a totally different set of privileges, or the lack of it. And still, this is how it goes down.

I think there’s a nod to that in that scene where this woman comes to court and the judge says you can’t present today, you can’t be in court today, because you’re wearing a sleeveless piece of clothing, which is exactly which is true. This is what happens in court all the time, we see get to see it all the time. So I’m glad you’ve captured these elements in your right. I mean, I think it’s very much what we’re discussing today. Because though we believe that a courtroom or the law is somehow removed from who we are as a society, that is as far from the truth as possible, right? I mean, our laws are meant to reflect exactly who we are as a society, and meant to protect exactly what we believe is, you know, justice should be what is right, and conscionable. And I think that really brings us to this other line of movies, a depiction of courts, which engages not with a specific issue, but with courts and the justice system itself. The issue could be anything, it could be caste discrimination, it could be a simple civil case where people people are fighting over a piece of land. But the problems that we run into in courts, and this mechanism that’s there to help us resolve disputes is the problem itself. I think chaitanya your movie definitely did this, I wanted to know if it’s something you want you to tackle, like how state institutions can be a problem, or your viewers, I would say walked away with that impression that there is a problem in our justice system. More than I mean, any report I’ve read on courts or statistical finding on courts, the movie court has made me feel like really emotionally feel the problem that we have in courts, is this something you intended to do?

I mean, thank you for saying that. And I think that is also the power of fiction, you know, which deals on a more visceral level, and not just an academic or theoretical level. And it also allows the audience to empathize with the characters. And in that sense, I would say, for me, I was more interested in the human sort of politics and dynamics of those people. Because, you know, I would have to kind of disagree with you a little bit. In the sense, I have a lot of compassion for the public prosecutor, I have a lot of compassion for the judge as well, because we need to understand what they are paid. You know, how many cases they have to go through in a month. And you know, what a thankless job it is for them. And that was kind of the big realization for me, because that’s what we see in films otherwise, which is like good versus bad, right? A lawyer with a conscience versus an asshole lawyer who’s totally corrupt and spineless. And, I mean, I’ve said this in a few interviews that the public prosecutor for me was inspired by my mother, you know, I was the that kid who my mother would come to the crash and pick up and then take me shopping. When you asked me that question about, you know, state machinery and institutions. For me, it doesn’t matter which institution it is, it happens to be the case where the court is, you know, kind of the the last bastion for, for people for justice, and where life and death is decided for a lot of people, it boils down to just power structures and our mindsets towards it. And also see there’s if you see the film, there’s also a massive colonial hangover, in the way that whole trial is played out. And also the laws, if you see the laws that are being cited are like 1856, and 1896. So that was also quite eye opening for me. And this is actually something that I also came across while I was making my short film called six trials, which was about you know, the tea industry. And again, it was like, the laborers are being paid like 50 rupees a month, or something like that. And these are laws like, you know, and the increments are like 5%, every three years or something like that. And this tea is being sold for 60,000 rupees a kg. It’s the most expensive city in the world. Is it legal? Yes, it’s legal. But these laws are these laws were made in the 19th century or 18th century and they’re still applying the same laws, the laws haven’t been updated. What’s really interesting in this is like, how the players also interpret the rules of the institution. Because there are fair judges and you know, liberal judges and reasonable judges, and then there are people who will take the same law and interpret it in a completely different way, and do something that you will I may find unacceptable. And again, I think it’s really complicated also, in terms of how much for example, say how much does a judge earn a month as compared to a criminal lawyer? Right, who’s earning like probably five times six times the He’s so yeah, so like, again, who wants to then in that case, how many, you know, people want to be a judge as compared to being a corporate lawyer or a criminal lawyer. So these are some of the conversations that I also had while researching. And while I interviewed people, you know, so I think all of that kind of was playing on my mind while I was writing the script.

I think your frustrations with what you saw definitely came out. I mean, that’s what I took home from the film. But Anushka Do you think that things like this that engage directly with the justice system of portraying a state institution, do you think there’s a higher burden for films like this to do their research thoroughly before they give a certain kind of impression of that state machinery to its audience?

I think that burden comes depending on the intention of the film. And I think that if a film or a filmmaker is communicating through, you know, either the kind of pitch of the central story, the title, logline marketing, you know, all the ways you can communicate with the intention of a media piece is to say that they are making a commentary on something that is in the real world, then I do think that that burden is higher, you know, I think because then your audience is coming with something of an assumption or an expectation that you’ve done some research to have identified this problem or have an opinion on it. And hence, this media piece may be a slightly more informed understanding of at least setting up the problem. The solution, or the commentary, or the opinion, then that the Creator may be putting forth might be entirely and will be entirely subjective, but I think you do expect at least in the way it’s presented, the problem is set up for it to be more accurate. You know, I think that, like you said, a movie like pink, maybe in the dramatic quality that it used did something of a good job of explaining that Point of No means no. But it did a very, very poor job of showing how arguments are won in courtrooms right, as I’ve heard many lawyers and say that, and as you said earlier, as well, I think Jaibheem on the other hand, and this is from my understanding, which is, of course limited, because I’m not a lawyer, but I work for a short time as a legal aid in a Supreme Court. And I worked inside undertrial prison. And based on that limited understanding of how the judiciary works, I felt like in Jaibheem, you were seeing that it wasn’t about an impassioned closing speech by a lawyer, the burden was on the evidence presented, and no matter what the judge may have personally thought it wasn’t about that it was about what the evidence and the law allows the person to interpret. You know, I think section 375, that movie seems to be pitched as something that was commenting on the real world and about cases and sexual harassment and rape. But it did, I think, an extremely poor job of reinforcing the fake case narrative, because it made it sound like these laws are being entirely misused without giving any accurate understanding of why they’re women centric in the first place about how so many cases that are taken back after women filed them because of threats from husband in laws, you know, you don’t know the financial emotional energy, and that documentation when a case is retracted is read as a fake case. So I do feel like these movies do have a higher burden of doing that.

So just to take that question, one step forward, I mean, to get both a view from an artist and somebody who, you know, works in the field of ethics. Do you think that film has some value and therefore some responsibility in building our sense of trust in the justice system? Is that a bigger question that you think about? Or should think about, depending on you know, where you’re coming from? When you go make a film about justice? 

I don’t know if it’s the inherent responsibility of any one profession, to take on the mantle of doing good more than any other profession. I think that it is the responsibility of media creators as much as to the extent that it’s a responsibility to be a good person and contribute to a better world. I wouldn’t say that, you know, every film that’s set inside the courtroom or has to do with the judiciary has an inherent responsibility to create something real and accurate towards the betterment of the judiciary. If a film does the opposite, and is negative of that, it’s yes, a disservice to the world. But if a film is neutral and has a pure entertainment value, and doesn’t necessarily, you know, aim to do one or the other. I think that’s okay, as well. You know, I think media plays different roles for different people. Sometimes it’s about education. Sometimes it’s about you know, pure entertainment. So, I think I’ve always tried to feel that the burden of that progress is on media makers, but of course there’s no denying the fact that if you decide to use your profession towards good the The impact that you have with the power of media is immense

Chaitanya, what do you think do you think, do you actually think about what how will this change the bigger picture? How will my film change everything? Because it does No.

No. So the thing is, again, I have a slightly pessimistic answer for this question, which is that I absolutely don’t think that my art or any conscious piece of art can consciously change the world or impact the world. It does end up happening you know, I mean, for example, after Kieslowski is a short film about killing. They abolished capital punishment in Poland that could not have been a greater impact by a work of fiction, but I don’t think anybody can do this knowingly or consciously. I don’t think a creator can be like, okay, so if I do this, this will change things in society. Maybe if you’re like, the biggest superstar in the country, and you you know, you decide to do something super preachy and like your whole intention is to bring about a change then maybe, but if you’re just trying to do what you think is right, and just trying to, you know, be authentic and be honest to yourself, I personally don’t, you know, have any such baggage of assuming any such responsibility of bringing about a change. I don’t even think that you know, I am here to do good for the society. I am here to reflect on society and to raise questions. More than you know, even provide answers but the thing is, yeah, like Anushka said, it’s about your intent. You know, if for example, I’ll give you I’ll again, give you another perspective on this, what I am chasing through my work is Truth is not necessarily reality. You know, reality is what I mean on screen reality is nothing, there is no such thing as real reality. If we actually actually show reality, that will be like boring as hell, even in the film court, what you see as a courtroom, and the trials are an interpretation by the filmmaker and the team that’s made it you know, for the sake of fiction, so I’m not so interested in presenting what’s real. I’m present, you know, more interested in presenting what rings true to me, you know, in all its complexities with all its nuances, and sometimes that I don’t even know if that has the power to change things or you know, or if it can bring about, you know, some kind of change in people’s mindset because it depends on how its marketed, what kind of an audience it reaches. There’s so many variables involved, how people interpreted you know, what is the general climate in society at that point, so it depends on many, many, many things. So my idea would be for me is to just keep doing the work with my own sort of moral compass with my own conscience. And then, you know, it’s the people make of it what they make of it. I hope that makes sense. 

Yeah,definitely. That does, but my two cents about this whole thing is that whatever an artist decides to portray consciously or subconsciously you end up communicating it I mean, if you do a good job of putting it out, then you do end up communicating it to your audience. And I think that’s where underscores work really makes a lot of impact. Maybe not the conscious emotions of filmmaker but the audience, at the very least, should be conscious that they’re going to watch a piece, which may or may not be depicting that particular situation that they’re looking at accurately. 

I just want to pick up on one point that both of you touched on about the intentionality of impact, right when I 100% agree, I think with both those points in a way and as a company whose stated goal is to create media that can hopefully create a better democracy. We’re very conscious that we’re trying to create a certain impact while fully acknowledging that it is impossible to predict the direction of impact from script to screen to audience. It takes multiple directions. At the same time, what we are trying to do is to create a ideating reflective space in our media, in which we’re portraying, not so much what we as producers or writers or the Select studios team thinks is right. We are trying to channel the learnings of people working in the field very closely, you know, so we work with a broad range of nonprofit organizations and experts, academics who work on the topics that we are creating content on and we try to kind of say, okay, x, y z is what they are identifying as the key problems and ABC as potential narratives that help change our court as a society towards that for example, the death penalty as a solution to rape is something that I think over time has been well established, that doesn’t work. So rather than creating media in which we’re showing the death penalty as a punishment, we’re trying to show more forms of reformative justice in that. Now maybe that’ll influence our audience. Maybe that won’t that burden entirely comes down to how good is the right thing? How convincing is the character, you know, how engaging is it? But if we’re able to craft that, and we’re hoping that the conversation we’re creating within that has some takeaways, at least for the audience to think more about

Anushka Do you have any, like, last thoughts for our audience who goes in to watch a movie about anything related to the justice system, like a few disclaimers that they should keep in mind about how it may affect you know, the way they see it?

I think two disclaimers there. One is that it’s very much I think any media piece is very much a reflection and extension of the media. Maker. We had done a set of 10 long interviews that are now on film companion and it’s called film and social change. And we spoke to people like you know, Hansal Mehta and vetri Maaran on the movies they made about law and order, and you see a very, very negative that connect between their philosophy and what’s in the film. So I think one thing is that you know, knowing when you’re watching a piece of media, nothing is ever 100% objective and there is a interpretation of the media maker that has gone into that. So I would say that no media piece is you know, ever to be taken as 100% reflection on reality or accuracy. I think the second is that you know, like Chaitanya said, I think particularly when you’re watching something that’s fictional, there are layers that are always going to be added on for the purpose of drama and engagement. And you do probably need to go beyond that fiction piece of entertainment and do more research on that topic using more nonfiction sources to get a more accurate understanding of what what that issue is.

So I’ll end with chaitanya’s thought of like, you know, depicting truth and ultimately, it’s people who will then decide after looking at it, what they feel about it and what may be right and wrong is a secondary question.

I’ll give you an I’ll give you a perfect example of this. And I think I have failed in my intention with the film court in doing that. I wanted to make a film, which doesn’t make the audience go out, okay. This is a film about the judiciary, the judiciary is flawed, the institutions are bad. Look at them, you know, and that’s I think that’s kind of exactly what ended up happening. It was meant for a viewer specially from India actually, to reflect on themselves and their own family and in what kind of society they co exist with these players. But I think that kind of ended up happening was exactly that, which is like, Oh, it’s a film about how Flawed judiciary is, you know, so this is also what I mean that sometimes the intent that you have in your mind and what ends up being into because that’s a very safe position. You know, things like all politicians are bad things like oh, all institutions are screwed up. All authority. This is a very, very safe position because it absolves you of your responsibility on reflecting on yourself, and your actions and your engagement with society and people and these institutions, even in terms of bringing about a change on a legislative level or a discourse level. So this, I’m citing my own film, as in that sense of failure. I tried something different, but similar with the disciple, but again, it’s, you know, it’s supposedly a film about Indian classical music. Which I don’t think it is. I completely agree with everything that Anushka said, but I would just like to define one sort of term she used, which is, the idea for us is not to create fictional entertainment for me, at least it’s to create art. And again, it’s not the function or the responsibility of art, to accurately depict something or to be authentic with the researches. I happen to do a lot of research and you know, we were chasing something. But again, there are lots of liberties but again, taken more for the sake I would say of truth, because again, like to give you an example, when we were studying courts, right? We were studying different sessions, court and registered court. We realize that there is no one courtroom. Every there was something that was in a classroom, something looked like a dilapidated bungalow, something looked like, you know, like a bad film set. So again, so you’re creating a courtroom. Based on your cumulative sort of impression. But does it capture the essence of a court is what you know, what was more important to us? So that’s just another thing I would have liked to add.

Can I take the liberty of jumping in for one last point?

Yeah, please do. I feel like we’ve extended but you know, I think this this point, that chaitanay said on the idea that it’s lazy storytelling that all politicians are bad and all institutions are bad. I think that is at the heart and core of the Civic studios project. Because it is really for one it makes for like bad storytelling. It’s just not interesting anymore. Because you see that all the time, whether you’re seeing it in the news, or you’re seeing it in, you know, the age old trope in movies. And then when you spend time inside a public institution, and a lot of the core team that’s you don’t join and start civic studios or people who’ve worked in the development sector have spent time inside courtrooms inside prisons, you know, Inside Education the education system, you realize that it’s so much more complex and gray and nuanced and exciting in terms of from even from a pure storytelling point of view right. To understand why that judge what is it that makes the person come there and have to sit through that on overworked hours underpaid time. What is it that a public prosecutors aspirations truly are? You know, what is it that when a high powered criminal or criminal lawyer comes in, what are their complications? I think those things make for fascinating storytelling, and do a really good job of also telling you the complexity of running public institutions. We’re damn good at telling stories about revolution and bringing the system down and insurrectionism, but reform and building and institutionalism is something that in storytelling, I think we see a paucity often there’s a lot of scope there by getting into the motivation of people working inside and engaging with public institutions.

That was my conversation with Anushka Shah and Chaitanya tamani. And you’ve been listening to the daksh podcast. This episode was hosted by me Anindita Pattanayak. If you liked the show, don’t forget to follow or subscribe to us wherever you listen to your podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. We would love to hear from you. So do share your feedback either by dropping us a review or rating the podcast where podcasts apps allow you to talk about it on social media. We are using the hashtag daksh podcast, it really helps get the word out there. Most of all, if you found some useful information that might help a friend or family member, share the episode with them. Especially thank you to our production team at made in India. Our production head and editor Joshua Thomas mixing and mastering Karthik Kulkarni and Project Supervisor Shawn Phantom. If you want to find out more about this topic, please have a look at the reading list in the episode description. And to get in touch visit our website DakshIndia.org that’s D A KSH India dot o RG Thank you for listening



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