Cross Examination, My Lord!
From time immemorial, master storytellers have had an uncanny ability to foresee and forecast monumental happenings. That is why their tales not just manifest into reality but also change the future course and discourse of a society. From the vast fraternity of literary giants, the names of George Orwell and William Golding readily come to mind since their fictional narratives like “Animal Farm”, “1984” and “Lord of the Flies” foretold of despotic and democratic horrors much before “regimes of terror” were unleashed around the world!
 
Reel life is a reflection of real life on screen, yet it is a rare cinematic fiction that foreshadows the future. Ever since the astounding accusations against the Chief Justice of India, my mind is overwhelmed with scenes of the classic 1960 Hindi film Kanoon since they emit eerie echoes of similar decibels! To me, the metamorphosis of those fictional images into a near parallel reality today is a vital moment of introspection of our socio-political cauldron and though I have no intention to comment on the sensational allegations of sexual harassment against the topmost judge, I do wish to understand why Hindi films do not attribute negative shades to characters of judicial administrators?
 
 
Though a miniscule number of films have depicted personal dilemmas of judges, none except “Kanoon” has ever castigated their professional actions in the deliverance of justice. Unlike the US where films regularly mock, satirise, lampoon and criticise the workings of the president, secretary of state, attorney generals, army officers, bureaucrats as well as judicial officers with great disdain, it is surprising why our film scripts never analyse the professional conduct of judges in India. Despite numerous public allegations about corruption and misuse of power, it is perplexing why our film stories have neglected “cross examination” of the judicial improprieties of the administrators of courts.
 
If fictional shards of a film can induce dissection of a real life parallel six decades after its release, it has to be a brilliant creation and indeed Kanoon was an enthralling court drama due to Akhtar Ul Iman’s insightful writing and Baldev Raj Chopra’s deft direction. Devoid of songs, it highlighted an accusation by a lawyer (Rajendra Kumar) upon the judge (Ashok Kumar) of being a murderer, etching in the process one of the most gripping yet explosive court scenes ever shown on a movie screen. Mesmerising audiences with its taut suspense, Kanoon boldly sullied and sliced the judge’s character in view of his wager to plot a perfect murder!
 
But why is it that no film thereafter has been bold enough to depict the “vexatious knots” of legal functionaries? Is it the fear of punishment under the Contempt of Court Act? 
 
According to avant-garde film director Sudhir Mishra, since "any act... by word, spoken or written” can be construed “as scandalizing or obstructing the administration of justice or lowering the authority of a court”, it is a huge deterrent for creative film makers. 
 
Sudhir opines the draconian Act “makes film producers shy away from contentious subjects” since any gesture, speech or act can be interpreted as an insult of a court of law. And with the new found habit of fringe elements to haul people to courts, Sudhir feels a character portraying an unscrupulous administrator of law could render a film maker as a sitting duck and nobody wants to “lose peace and money if the law cannot save their skin”.
  
 
Would the courts be lenient to an exhibition of a judge’s professional impropriety on screen, I asked the highly respected former justice of the Rajasthan High Court Vinod Shankar Dave. A jovial man of great sagacity, Mr Dave frankly admitted that “the decision would entirely depend on the conscience and wisdom of the judge deciding the case.” 
 
Ruing “plummeting levels of tolerance”, Mr Dave conceded film producers face an uphill task in combating the statute in view of the combustible environment of our polity. But in his considered opinion, a plausible storyline depicting a flawed judicial persona should not invite punishment if there was no malafide intention to lower faith in the justice system. Disclosing he had not punished anyone under the Act even when he was severely criticised by the media, the former judge advocated punishment for contempt only as the last resort and that too if “the majesty and dignity of the court had been trampled for selfish reasons”.
 
 
A strong votary of public criticism to build a vibrant and vigilant democracy, Mr Dave decried the fading ability of Indian luminaries to laugh at their own selves. With a throaty laughter at parting, he recommended Charles Ashman’s book “The Finest Judges Money Can Buy” which cites proven examples of America’s “judicial pollution” since there were similar parallels in India too! 
 
Given the high prevalence of muddle headedness of Indian administrators as well as the timidity of censor boards, it is quite difficult to envisage a Hindi film in the near future about professional transgression by a legal practitioner. 
 
Surprisingly, a day after my conversation with Mr Dave, the former Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti publicly lamented in Chandigarh that the greatest shortcoming in the justice delivery system was that those deserving to be appointed were not appointed at all while “several judges unfit for appointment were elevated as High Court judges”. 
 
Couldn't this resounding statement about Indian system’s tolerance of judicial incompetence be used to script a new film? But will the courts allow universal exhibition of such preposterous shortcomings? 

(Deepak Mahaan is a well-known Documentary Film Maker, Writer and  Commentator)

Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

User

COMMENTS

Sucheta Dalal

3 months ago

Excellent. I must now see Kanoon and read the book - The best judges money can buy. Looking up kindle!! Thanks Deepak!

Harish

3 months ago

Very well written.

Modi biopic to release after LS polls, SC will not step in
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere with the Election Commission on the biopic "PM Narendra Modi".
 
The poll panel told the court that movie should be released only after the Lok Sabha elections got over.
 
The seven phased polls began on April 11, when the biopic was to release. The polls will get over on May 19 and the counting on votes in May 23.
 
To secure level playing ground, the poll panel was asked to take a call.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

User

Marketing a Film or Begging to Sell?
Neither bereft of wealth nor suffering a want, yet film celebrities nowadays hop, step and jump across television studios, radio stations and newspaper offices “begging” everyone to see their new film. Possibly, you could also find these “poor workers” gracing college campuses or waltzing through malls and bazaars with fervent pleas to crowds to watch their latest movie.
 
In stark contrast to yesteryears, present day celebrities “invade” our private abodes with folded hands, emotionally blackmailing the consumers into buying tickets of their fresh cinematic creation. If they remind some of pesky insurance agents, the assumptions are not too far off the mark!
 
Like puritans deride T20 cricket as pajama circus, veteran film practitioners too find these attempts to woo audiences as inane buffoonery. Though these new age calisthenics cost a fortune, yet there is no proof that the returns on investment commensurate with the expenses made on stalwarts. Nevertheless, this form of film advertisement is now well entrenched in Bollywood but looking to the fate of “Bombay Velvet”, “Thugs of Hindostan”, “Zero”, “Welcome to New York” and “Namaste England”, it is evident that costly marketing campaigns alone cannot ensure box office successes! 
 
 
Except where a quid pro quo is involved, filmmakers pay TV channels or production houses, radio stations and print media for various publicity and marketing related interactions. Apart from taking a sizeable fee for their appearances, well established stars also get payments for costumes, travel and various other related fees. In fact, apart from remuneration for acting, stars nowadays stipulate specific charges in contracts to promote a new release.
 
 
Filmmaking has always been a crown of thorns and distribution too an ordeal but now the promotion of a new film is a gargantuan circus! Unlike earlier times, film publicity nowadays requires enormous fortitude, patience and deep pockets. While the usual movie hall trailers, street posters, hoardings and newspaper ads still hold good, the fad is exclusive interviews on TV, radio and newspapers, social campaigns and brand endorsements alongside corporate inaugurations, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook linked campaigns, web chats as well as participation in reality show contests. But the question is whether all these really help bring in audiences to the movie theatres?
 
 
In a recent conversation with this writer, noted filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt opined that in an era of miniscule attention spans, everyone seeks to “grab eyeballs of the consumer” since “only that sells which is seen”. As films are now produced in gross numbers like factory-finished goods, such promotions are intended to make a film’s name heard in the market place. But what is preposterous is that nearly 20%-25% of a film budget is now spent upon its promotion and big banners spend nearly ten to fifteen crores of rupees on publicity and promotion. 
 
 
With unhealthy cartels also stifling the exhibition arena, the misery of small filmmakers is compounded since they need at least Rs2 crore to just push their films in public gaze. A strange paradox that though many small budget films get made within a Rs3 crore budget, yet they need a much higher spend to remind the audiences of their existence!
 
 
 What a far cry from the earlier times when film advertising was a simple ritual.
 
Once the release date was decided, illustrators would be assigned to design a few posters of the film. Carrying pictures and names of the leading actors, the posters would also include names of prominent contributors to the creative content of the film. Thereafter, producers would print several thousand posters of the impending film and send them to various territories for display at strategic places.
 
 
Additionally, big producers would also book 15-minute slots on Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) or Vividh Bharati to unravel major songs and dialogues of the film. However, the most popular manner of publicity was to deploy local “vocalists” in every town who would then go around in cycle rickshaws, Tongas (horse carriages) and autos, fitted with battery operated loud speakers, announcing the virtues of an impending film. Since most films drew strength from their songs, the local anchors would also play the film’s songs via turntable in between their high-pitched announcements.  
 
 
(Courtesy: Pinterest)
 
The above description may look quite primitive and pathetic to modern audiences, yet they effectively drew people to cinema halls, ensuring silver and golden jubilee runs for many movies. Of course, the old world formulae of a few thousand rupees cannot be applied today, nevertheless, what is certainly questionable is whether the modern cacophonic tricks are delivering qualitative and quantitative results to the spenders? 
 
To me personally, the various marketing and promotional events now reek of hackneyed routines that are extremely annoying and insulting to basic intelligence.
 
The older stars had an aura since they were not so frequently visible and hence, audiences looked forward to their new releases.
 
The overdose of modern celebrities hanging everywhere from social media to consumer advertising and cricket matches to political rallies is offending in more ways than one and the sooner film stars realise that familiarity breeds contempt, the better it would be for them and their industry. 
 
Producers too must pay greater attention to story content rather than marketing gimmicks of "begging bowls" as probably, just a couple of enthralling trailers on media platforms could arouse massive public interest. 
 
Hollywood films are now making a huge dent in Indian box office collections despite little awareness of the lives of their stars in smaller towns of our nation.
 
Perhaps there is a lesson to learn for Indian filmmakers that a good product never fails to impact and the praise by word of mouth is a greater surety of success than all the publicity stunts of marketing!
 
(Deepak Mahaan is a well-known Documentary Film Maker, Writer and Commentator).
Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

User

COMMENTS

vinit

3 months ago

Prime example is Bahubali movie. They did not do single promotional event still it was huge hit

Ankit Sharma

3 months ago

Excellent article. Today's films are bad products packaged in attractive material.

AAR

3 months ago

Well put.

However, one thing remains unchanged. whatever is the education or job or age or wealth of Indians they are still slaves to Cinema and Cricket.

REPLY

Nasir Ahmed Rayadurg

In Reply to AAR 3 months ago

agree on the education observation. I can't think any other reason for people to be so servile to Cinema and Cricket. If they can spend 20% of that effort in building new skills, relationships and learning, they would vastly improve their personal economic status and spend far less time in watching useless movies (with zero content and substance)

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

online financial advisory
Pathbreakers
Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
online financia advisory
The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Online Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
financial magazines online
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
financial magazines in india
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)