Mumbai, 24 May 2019 7:00 IST
The court scenes are the ones that hurt Judgement, starring Tejashree Pradhan and Mangesh Desai, the most.
Director Sameer Ramesh Surve’s Judgement is based on former bureaucrat Neela Satyanarayana’s Marathi novel Rounn (ऋण). The story is inspired by a real incident, according to the author, a former election commissioner of Maharashtra, and the makers of the movie. It is a chilling tale of revenge through legal means.
Agnivesh Satam (Mangesh Desai), an IAS officer hailing from Ratnagiri in the coastal Konkan region of Maharashtra, pretends to be a simple person before the world, only showing his real evil avatar within his house. He regularly beats up his wife (Shweta Pagar) for petty issues and at times for giving him two daughters when he wanted a son.
When Agnivesh’s wife gets pregnant a third time, he gets the sex of the foetus checked, even though sex-determination tests are illegal in the state. On learning that the foetus is female, he strangles his wife to death.
The Satams' elder daughter Rujuta witnesses the scene but does not testify against her father out of fear. Fifteen years later, Rujuta (Tejashree Pradhan) becomes an advocate with a mission to avenge her mother’s death.
There is no doubt that the basic plot of the film touches your heart and you feel like rooting for the character of Rujuta. But the script and the treatment just make a mockery of a story dealing with an important social issue.
Judgement messes up on three fronts:
1. Crimes against women
Merely showing women facing physical and mental abuse from a man isn’t enough to portray a convincing picture of the sad situation. Judgement touches the issue only at a superficial level. The main problem here is the character of Agnivesh, which lacks depth. He is just an evil person. At one point much later we are told about his childhood trauma, which in a way tries to justify his behaviour.
Also, you wonder why his wife suffered in silence when she neither hailed from an orthodox family nor was her father unsupportive of her.
Desai succeeds in bringing his evil avatar alive, but there is a lack of consistency. There are moments when it becomes clear that he is only acting. The content probably affected his performance, unlike his role as Master Bhagwan in Ekk Albela (2016).
2. Psychological issues
Rujuta’s character suffers continuously from headaches. The word ‘migraine’ or its Marathi translation ‘aadhashishi’ is never used for her condition. Yet she visits a clinical psychological centre just because her younger sister works there, without even consulting a general physician. Who directly sees a shrink for a headache? This isn't a minor blip since its consequences come later in the film.
3. Court scenes
These constitute the film's biggest drawback. Despite the two problems mentioned earlier, Judgement would have worked to an extent if the court scenes were handled in a mature manner. Instead, what we get here is a farcical representation which makes Sunny Deol's over-the-top ‘taareekh pe taareekh’ sequence in Damini (1993) appear sensible.
The court drama starts with Rujuta placing wafer-thin evidence before the judge when she has more substantial proof. She presents the latter only in the second hearing and you wonder why. The consistent issues with her character and the film hamper Pradhan’s performance.
Even if you ignore such bloopers, it is impossible to take the court scenes seriously as there is simply too much screaming going on between the two lawyers and a total lack of any sense. Satish Salagare, who plays the rival lawyer, acts as if he is performing in those over-the-top one-act college plays, with the judge also joining him regularly. The judge here is barely centimetres away from getting compared to the unintentionally hilarious judicial officer in the Hindi dud Haseena Parkar (2017).
Madhav Abhyankar is the best of all the artistes on show here, but his character, Aaba, also suffers some serious flaws. Aaba, Agnivesh's father-in-law, decides to take Rujuta and her sister with him after their mother's murder. And yet he keeps persuading Agnivesh to send gifts to the girls on special occasions like their birthdays. Come on, uncle! He brutally murdered your daughter and you know that!
If not realism, one expected at least some sense from a dramatized version of a real incident. But, clearly, that was much to ask of Judgement.
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