Movie Reviews

Section 375 Is Bold, Provocative Topical

Section 375

Starring Akshaye Khanna,  Richa Chadha, Meera  Chopra, Rahul Bhat

Directed  by Ajay Bahl

Rating: ****(4 stars)

A  very pretty Maharashtrian girl steps  out of  her  humble home  to go to her workplace  when a neighbour shouts out,  ‘Ae Madhuri Dixit.’ 

In the  next ten  minutes this   girl  Anjali, played  by  the lovely and  effective Meera Chopra,  will be raped  by her  boss, an arrogant film director(played with  agonizing efficacy  by Rahul Bhat)  who speaks to his  associates  on   the  set  as though they were vermins and parasites  born to serve and  be abused.

In  the  next five  minutes this  jerk of  a filmmaker  will be arrested and tried for rape.

But did he  really commit the  crime? The question hangs thick in the narrative, circling the tense courtroom drama provocatively, letting us know that when it comes to sexual allegations, nothing is  what it seems.Madhur  Bhandarkar  will vouch for that. As  would Shiney Ahuja. 

The  trial comes later.Right now Anjali is  at the police station with her  mother trying to register an FIR against  the man who  raped her. The  officer in-charge asks leery  invasive  question in the effort  to  dissuade Anjali  from  taking her  violator to  task. But she braves  it out. Answers  the sleazy  puerile questions: did the man ejaculate inside  her, etc etc? It is not  a film or  those who like their cinema over dinner.

Here I must  say  Meera Chopra plays  the  victim card  close to her chest. She  is  being violated  repeatedly by being reminded  of her rape. Her  predicament  is projected  in this dark  yet  uplifting tale  of  justice as opposed to the law in a  light so ambivalent, it becomes  hard to tell whether  she is  a victim or  a perpetrator.

Section   370 is suffused with brilliant performances, none  more more brilliant than Akshaye  Khanna as  the alleged rapist’s  defence  lawyer. Every twitch of Khanna’s facial  muscles is priceless. His  legal eagle character doesn’t make  a mockery  of justice. But  he comes so  close to deconstructing  the  prosecution’s case he seems  to enjoy  lusting in the loopholes  of the legal  system.

In  opposition Richa Chadha finds it hard to stand  up against Khanna’s lumbering legalese   in  the court. And mind it,   Khanna  is just as good  outside the courtroom with  his screen wife Sandhya Mridyul in a bathroom sequence where he  suggests they “make twins” there and then.

While deconstructing   the  rape theory  director  Ajay Bahl(blessedly back after  the  bold BA Pass  7 years  ago) makes some room for  questioning a system that  blindly accepts the woman’s allegations in a rape  case. The  film’s   morally ambiguous ending will appal  some  MeToo supporters.

 Bahl and writer Manish Gupta  don’t shy away from wetting their  feet in muddy waters. The narrative sticks its head out as far  as possible  not afraid to face the repercussions. This is a film that was waiting  to be made. Relevant and rousing in its synthesis  of  polemics and   plain  rabble rousing.

 Nothing is as  it seems in Article 375. Except that  a   filmmaker who  is convicted may be  guilty of some other crime altogether.

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