Towards the end of Section 375, a female lawyer tells her mentor, “Sir, I don’t think that the justice was served.” The senior lawyer retorts, “We are not in the business of justice. We are in the business of law.” The lawyer’s remark makes it absolutely clear that justice and law are not synonymous. At the end of the day, all laws are subject to human interpretation and a good lawyer understands that there are enough provisions and technicalities to be toyed around with. It all boils down to one thing—whether you can prove it in the court of law.

Ajay Bahl’s Section 375 is based on Section 375 of Indian Penal Code which deals with rape. The film explores the various provisions of the section through the story of a film director named Rohan Khurana (essayed by Rahut Bhat) who is accused of raping a junior colleague named Anjali Dangle (portrayed by Meera Chopra). After Khurana is sentenced to 10 years of rigorous punishment by the Sessions Court, his wife entreats noted criminal lawyer Tarun Saluja (essayed by Akshaye Khanna) to take up his case in the High Court. Saluja is pitted against a firebrand public prosecutor named Hiral Mehta (played by Richa Chadda).

Section 375 is a police procedural, courtroom drama, and crime thriller in parts. But since most of the film is set in a courtroom it wouldn’t be wrong to primarily assess it as a courtroom drama. Now, we have seen a lot of Hindi films set in a courtroom making a mockery out of the judicial processes. However, Section 375 stands apart. It’s a thinking man’s courtroom drama that stands head and shoulders above the other Hindi films of its kind. The credit of course goes to the strong legal research work done by writer Manish Gupta whose earlier credits include films like Sarkar, Darna Zaroori Hai, The Stoneman Murders, and Rahasya, among others.

Director Ajay Bahl shows great control over the material at hand. It’s quite evident from the way the story shapes up on the screen that has greatly matured as a filmmaker since B.A. Pass and is truly capable of handling much complex subjects like Section 375. The film unfolds in a Rashomonesque manner which makes it layered and thoroughly engaging.

The film has 4 memorable performances at its centre—Akshaye Khanna, Richa Chadha, Meera Chopra and Rahul Bhat are all brilliant. The supporting cast is well led by the veteran actress Kruttika Desai. Annuup Choudhari deserves a special mention for his short but memorable part of the victim’s enraged brother. Section 375 attempts to tread uncharted territories, at least in the context of Indian cinema, and dares to ask difficult questions about our judicial system and the society at large. It’s heartening to see a well-researched commercial Hindi film with a taut narrative and without any forcible insertion of songs.

 

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