Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Film Review: 'Section 375' is a must-watch

The courtroom drama film looks at sexual violence against women, a hot topic in India today

Akshaye Khanna‎, right and ‎Richa Chadda in 'Section 375'. Panorama Studios
Akshaye Khanna‎, right and ‎Richa Chadda in 'Section 375'. Panorama Studios

Section 375 is a gripping ride that keeps viewers engrossed in a courtroom drama as two lawyers debate a high-profile and highly-publicised rape case. The film, whose title is taken from the corresponding clause in the Indian Penal Code, tells the story of a film director accused of rape by a female crew member. The courts - sessions and then high court – must arrive at a conclusion under pressure from human rights activists and in full public glare on social media.

Tarun Saluja (played by Akshaye Khanna) is a successful criminal lawyer defending the director (Rahul Bhat) and Hiral Gandhi (Richa Chadha) is the prosecution lawyer who represents Anjali Dange (Meera Chopra).

The rape case becomes a debate about the necessary protection of women against sexual violence, versus the misuse of laws by women seeking vengeance against former lovers. The film, indeed, turns out to be a “balanced narrative” as Khanna and Chadha told The National on the eve of the film’s release.

Khanna is rock-solid in his performance as the level-headed, practical sort of person who lives by his motto of lawyers “being in the business of law, not justice” until the end.

Chadha, who has stood out in her previous roles, gives a good performance. Although it's worth point out that she has been given weaker dialogues. The script is however super tight after having been wrung out by two writers in the pre-production of the film, which, paradoxically saw its own real legal fight. Originally written by Manish Gupta and also to be directed, matters of screenplay led to disputes with the producers with the court having to intervene.

Gupta made way for Ajay Bahl, director of the critically acclaimed B.A Pass, and the end product proved it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Akshaye and Ajay have been the driving force of the film.

As Bahl fits in scenes depicting public outrage as timely reminders to the courtroom drama being played out, the two judges – played by Kritika Desai and Kishore Kadam - deliver equally strong layered performances. There are subtle hints of their own personal baggage involved, a tinted glass through which they must read and deliver their rulings. .

The film, which is based on true events, is a suspense thriller in many ways that has all the trappings of a John Grisham novel. Incidentally, Grisham’s first novel, A Time To Kill, published in 1989, was based on circumstances around a rape incident with racism at its core. In this case, the story relates to India’s share of the #MeToo movement.

Simply put, it is a must-watch.

Updated: September 16, 2019 04:28 PM

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