Last year, the #MeToo movement spilled over at home following its reception in the West, in the wake of the sexual abuse allegations against noted Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. What followed was a can of worms out in the open as many women came out with shocking accounts of personal experiences of sexual abuse, by the men in position of power and privilege, across sectors. While many were lauded for courageously sharing their stories, some have also questioned the authenticity of these accounts. ‘Section 375’ starts a conversation from that perspective.
Anjali Vasudev Dangle (Meera Chopra), a costume assistant on the sets of film director Rohan Khurana (Rahul Bhat), visits the latter at his home to display costume options for a scheduled shoot. Except for the housemaid, nobody else is present. Khurana sends his housemaid to fetch groceries and in the meanwhile, forces himself upon his unsuspecting subordinate. Later, in the evening following an official complaint by the victim, Khurana is arrested from his film set. Public and media outcry coupled with substantial evidence against him leaves the Session court sentencing the director to a rigorous imprisonment of 10 years. An appeal is made in the High Court and prolific lawyer Tarun Saluja (Akshaye Khanna) steps in to represent the accused. He is up against his dissenting protégée-turned- public prosecutor Hiral Gandhi (Richa Chadha), who stands behind the victim. What follows is a battle of wits.
Written by director Ajay Bahl and Manish Gupta, ‘Section 375’ is not an easy watch. The cinematography by Sudhir K Chaudhary coupled with the effective background score by Clinton Cerejo offer a haunting, but arresting narrative. There are many scenes that will leave your stomachs churning. Some of the arguments that the film hopes to present will leave you questioning your ideals. Who decides who is guilty? Should the media and public show some rationale in their reactions? Can principle outtake practicality?
Infact, the conflict between principle and practicality is the highlight of the film. A conflict communicated effectively at the hands of Akshaye and Richa. As Akshaye tells his protégée in a scene, ‘Law is a fact, justice is abstract’. You have to watch out for the scenes between these two actors, who are totally at the top of their game. Can filmmakers please offer more roles to Akshaye? We’ll sign up an online petition, worry not. Richa adds another feather to her hat of doing unconventional films that do not adhere to the typical box-office patterns. Meera and Rahul have less to say but they emote well through their silences. Krutika Desai and Kishore Kadam, playing the judges bring in equal measures of grit and dignity to their parts.
As a film, ‘Section 375’ is important and relevant that will leave audiences aware, informed and introspecting.