More than three decades back, the additional district and session judge – Justice Saanwar Mal Agarwal had asserted in an interview given to the fortnightly published popular Hindi magazine – Sarita that the difference between reel courts and real courts is even wider than that between the reel life and the real life. He’s right. Indian movies and novels, being influenced by the American pulp fiction, have always shown the courts as a place of enormous drama (and entertainment) whereas the reality is polar different at least in the Indian courts. For decades and decades, the Indian filmwaalas have shown the artificial, non-existing courts to the Indian audience on the silver screen. However the Indian courtroom dramas seem to have come of age through Jolly LLB (2013).Through the activities of a petty lawyer – Jagdish Tyagi, nicknamed as Jolly, the filmmaker has shown the courage of showing the real courtrooms of India. All the courtroom scenes are so realistic with the judge, the lawyers, the plaintiffs, the defendants, the cops, the witnesses, the court-staff; all appearing real and not filmy that it won’t be an exaggeration to consider this movie as a landmark movie in the history of Bollywood. It’s definitely a path-breaker and therefore, we can expect many more realistic courtroom dramas on the Indian screen in the times to come.Our hero Jolly (Arshad Warsi) migrates to Delhi from Meerut on order to rise in his career of a professional lawyer. He finds public interest litigation (P.I.L.) as a means to be in news and get quick name and fame (which is expected to turn into money in future). Seeing a high profile lawyer Raajpaal (Boman Irani) winning the case of his client who is actually guilty of crushing some innocents sleeping on footpath under his car, Jolly decides to play a gamble which if he wins, is likely to take him much ahead in his career. He files a P.I.L. to reopen that case and then the game of checks and checkmates starts between the rival lawyers inside as well as outside the court. The hero wins in the end after passing through lures to withdraw, hardships and danger on his life. His Meerut-stationed sweetheart – Sandhya (Amrita Rao) plays the role of an eye-opener and a motivator for him when he is slipping from the correct path.
As said earlier, the USP of this movie is the flavour of realism in the narrative. Never before any Bollywood movie has shown such a real judge who is a normal human-being with all the weaknesses expected in the normal folks. The character of the judge (Saurabh Shukla) is the best developed one who is shown as more or less honest (perhaps to keep the movie optimistic and making the hero only as the winner in the end). He wants to do justice but not very much keen to improve the system. Corruption is rampant just beneath his nose but he is not bothered about it (perhaps because he feels there’s little that he can do about it). He knows that a major part of his duty is only to give dates of next hearings of the cases and that he performs by consulting with the lawyers only. He seeks the help of the high-profile lawyer to get a good flat while sitting on the chair of the justice itself. He mostly remains subservient to the high profile lawyer but realizes the significance of his chair and the power inherent in that in the climax.
In 1996, the steering of my new Bajaj scooter broke when I was driving on the highway. Its being under the warranty period, I approached a local Bajaj service center for its free replacement which took the broken steering from me but didn’t give me a new one (gave false assurance to do it and later denied). When I followed up with that, I had to face the rude behavior of the service center people. Many people advised me to move the consumer’s court to get justice in that regard. Not knowing about the Indian judicial system, I filed a case against Bajaj Auto Limited in the consumers’ court of Sirohi (Rajasthan) and instead of hiring any lawyer, decided to present my case myself in the court. Whatever happened during the proceeding of the case shattered my assumptions about the consumers’ courts as well as the Indian courts in general. The judge not only took the side of the mighty company but also ill-treated me. Plus under the pretext of the non-serving of the court’s summon to the local Bajaj dealer, he made me visit the court many times. The hearing never took place in the real sense and one day, I was served the verdict (whose copy I could get with a lot of effort and wait) which was not even announced. Not only was the verdict against me but I was also fined for filing a ‘false case’. Adding insult to injury, the verdict was leaked out to the local newspapers who published it in their next day editions with such sarcastic and mocking (for me) headings that gave me, the aggrieved party, a very bad taste.
The real court that I had witnessed, comes alive on the screen in Jolly LLB. It vividly shows how witnesses are dealt with in the court, how corrupt cops behaves like the paid servants of the wealthy and the mighty and how big lawyers behave like the middlemen and sometimes even like the pimps, reminding the SHER of the famous Shaayar Akram Allahabadi – Paida Hua Vakeel To Shaitaan Ne Kaha – Lo Aaj Ham Bhi Saahib-e-Aulaad Ho Gaye (The Satan reacted on the birth of the lawyer by saying – See, I have also got a child today).
Under the Indian Contract Act, champerty (a lawyer’s making a contract with his client to have a share of the property involved when the concerned suit is won) is illegal. But the Indian courts are studded with such suits in which the lawyers have struck deals with their clients to become shareholders in the properties which are the subject-matter of the suits. Who cares ? In several civil suits filed in our country, the rival lawyers work in collusion, jointly preparing their documents and even designing their arguments to be given in the court with mutual consent, just to prolong the suits by relentlessly obtaining fresh hearing dates and thus keep on exploiting their clients. The judges know it very well but instead of stopping it, they become a party to it on most of the occasions. Jolly LLB highlights it.
The inexperienced lawyer in this movie wins the case because fortunately for him, the judge is not totally corrupt and his conscience is still alive. Had it not been, then ? Then our hero would have met the fate of most of justice-seekers in India. The climax has been designed with an optimistic twist which is seldom seen at least in the lower courts. But the complete proceedings and environment in the court have been depicted with utmost realism.
How lawyers resort to rhetoric and hollow talks when they are exhausted of logic, arguments and facts, has been underscored very well in the climax through the character of the corrupt but highly successful lawyer. The fact is, not only the lawyers, but the judges also go for rhetoric and nonsense comments when dealing with the cases, as if they have a license to say anything and everything. They want to become preachers for all but have they ever shown any concern for the corruption in the judicial system itself ?How the so-called legal men go for violence against their opponent and how namesake security is provided to the victim by the court has also been shown very impressively. The reality of sale of evidences from the police custody and the auction of police posts is also present.
The movie goes for formula-based proceedings in its final act. The romantic track is also forced into the narrative. Indecent slang has also been drawn from the mouth of the hero but that can be ignored because courtesy our liberal censor board, that slang is now heard frequently in the Bollywood movies. Certain things and the character of a so-called eye-witness Albert Pinto (Harsh Chhaya) are a bit unclear and confusing.
With its realistic setting, the movie is technically superior. Editing could have been better. Music is ok but this movie could have been made without songs too. Background score is good.
Arshad Warsi has done exceedingly well in the title role with Boman Irani not far behind as the high profile but crooked lawyer. Amrita Rao has filled heroine’s quota. The complete supporting cast has done perfectly. Especially veteran actor Ramesh Dev has delivered a touching performance. The actor in the role of a weak yet conscientious policeman (deputed as Jolly’s bodyguard) is also very impressive. However the show-stopper is Saurabh Shukla (the session judge of Delhi).
I term Jolly LLB as a highly realistic and hence, a praiseworthy movie. Kudos to its writer-director – Subhash Kapoor. While signing off, I reproduce the dialog of Raajpal aimed at Jolly – ‘Yeh Court Hai Mr. Tyagi. Yahaan Jaldi Kuchh Nahin Hota’ (This is court Mr. Tyagi. Nothing happens fast here). Very true. Nothing happens fast here, at least not justice.
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