Power on Trial

Posted: March 14th, 2022

THE COURTROOM DRAMA is a popular genre in Hindi cinema, with many films having their denouement in a highly melodramatic court scene where the truth is revealed. This week, I watched the recently released Tamil film Jai Bhim, where the hero, Suriya, plays real-life lawyer Chandru. He has taken on the case of a tribal woman whose husband has gone missing in police custody. This particular courtroom drama deploys the full panoply of melodrama—a superstar good lawyer fighting a wicked, state-appointed advocate as they personify the struggle of good versus evil. Our hero’s body language is dramatic, in particular, his swaggering walk, but there are also costumes where the colonial meets the present legal system, high formal language (I don’t understand Tamil, but we hear legal English as well as Latin and Sanskrit), and we see a helpless widow symbolising a wider victimhood. The courtroom drama unfolds slowly in this very long film: the antagonist presents argument/ evidence that seems to mean conclusive defeat, and then a twist allows our hero to snatch back the case and appeal to the judges. This sequence is then repeated.

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