According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest lawsuit in history was a property dispute in India that took 761 years to decide. Knowing that, the plot of this excellent film makes a great deal of sense. The Indian motion picture industry is rigorously censored; in the
typical commercial film, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, but boy doesn't ever get to kiss girl--not on-screen anyhow. This feature exemplifies the so-called New Wave of Indian films (also known as the Parallel Cinema) because it tackles realistic subject matter and does it with
unusual candor. Government censors know that the manifest "seriousness" of such films will ensure that the masses will never see them; hence they feel they can loosen the reins.
Sahni is an aged man who lives in a slum tenement that is as bad as anything one might find in Harlem or East Los Angeles. He is a proud, decent man, and his one desire is to get the slumlord to make the needed alterations in the building and bring it up to livable standards. The landlord has
other ideas. He's trying to force the tenants out so he can tear down the apartments and use the valuable land in a more profitable enterprise. Sahni tries to gather the other tenants around him in a strike against the landlord, but they are frightened and will not rock their leaking boat. Sahni
will not be cowed and engages an attorney, Shah, to represent him. The lawsuit goes on for what feels like a lifetime, and Sahni's savings are wiped out by the endless motions introduced by the opposition. It finally reaches the court, where the judge feels that he must go to the tenement and see
the conditions for himself. When that happens, the other tenants realize that Sahni has done what he promised and flock to his side. Sahni believes in the law, but that faith is shattered when he sees that the legal fraternity in India is just that, a fraternity, and that he cannot afford to keep
the case going. The judge won't make a decision, and the case will proceed indefinitely.
Essentially an indictment of the Indian legal system, this fine movie makes its points subtly rather than directly. Made for under $200,000, it was shot in 16mm then blown up to 35mm, thus creating some grainy scenes. However, that less-than-slick look also makes it appear more real than if it had
been made on a large budget with an all-pro cast. Instead, only the leading actors are from Bombay's thespian community. (In Hindi.)
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- Released: 1984
- Rating: NR
- Review: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest lawsuit in history was a property dispute in India that took 761 years to decide. Knowing that, the plot of this excellent film makes a great deal of sense. The Indian motion picture industry is… (more)