15 August, 2004 brought the curtains down on the life Dhananjoy Chatterjee after 14 years of trials and tribulations. The central character to a heinous crime that shook the ‘Bhadralok’ city of Kolkata, Dhananjoy’s name evokes emotionally-charged responses from people even to this day. Accused of raping and murdering an 18-year old Hetal Parekh, Dhananjoy (who served as the security guard of the building where Hetal lived) claimed innocence till the day of his hanging.
The trial of Dhananjoy Chatterjee left many questions unanswered (he was unprecedentedly awarded death sentence solely based on circumstantial evidence when many key witnesses had made contrary statements in the court). There was a groundswell of clamour for his hanging at the time in Kolkata, led by none-other-than the wife of the then Chief Minister of the State, political pressure from the Gujarati vote-bank and a huge media pressure which led to the final culmination of Dhananjoy’s fate. Was he guilty? Or was he just another scapegoat sacrificed at the altar of our inept judicial system? Arindam Sil’s film explores the unsolved pieces of the puzzle.
The film is a gripping courtroom drama that compels you to challenge the notions you have lived with till now. It makes you question the system and assume a ringside view of life as it unfolds. The film can be separated into two parts: the first half explores the Dhananjoy trials as it happened in a flashback while the second half is a work of fiction where the case is reopened and available evidences re-examined and questioned in a trial. Although the film is judgmental, the director lets you be the judge of what could have transpired on 5 March, 1990.
The first half of ‘Dhananjoy’ has shades of inspiration from ‘Talvar’. It also has a ‘Roshomon’ style narration of the fateful incident. However, Arindam Sil shines in his story-telling with the daft writing and striking background score. Although the film indulges in melodrama at times, it is balanced by performances that will keep you to the edge of your seats.
A courtroom drama is expected to be dialogue-heavy, which can often get tedious for the audience to digest. In ‘Dhananjoy’ the scenes are interspersed with witty one-liners that keep the film from slipping into monotony. Kanchan Mullick and Mir (Kaushik Sen and Deepanjan Ghosh post intermission) play their parts well as the lawyers in the case. In fact, the legalities in this film were more believable and ‘real’ than most films are. Kabya Sinha, played by Mimi, is emotional yet focused. Mimi does full justice to her part.
Anirban Bhattacharya and Sudipta Chakraborty steal the show with their nuanced yet emotive performances. The stoic villainy portrayed by Sudipta is enough to send a shiver down your spine. Anirban Bhattacharya’s eyes do the talking for him. His slow walk to the gallows with Manna Dey’s ‘Mahasindhur Opar Hote’ will haunt your memories for days to come. These are performances that will define the year 2017 for Bengali cinema.
However, Kabya’s motivation to work in this case, that too four years after a man has been hanged, is a bit too much to handle. A more convincing back story could have added to the film. Why require a full-fledged trial to re-examine the evidence? With the research she had, she could have written a book instead. Also, was the public prosecutor in the second half only there for providing comic relief through objections? He hardly made a case. Moreover, the opening disclaimer says the film is purely a work of fiction, while the name as well as the promos belie the claim.
All controversies aside, there is an inherent honesty in the making of the film which sets ‘Dhananjoy’ apart. One must watch it with an open mind and separate the facts from the fiction while walking out of the theatres.
My rating: 3/5 stars
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Justice delayed is Justice denied.
9 years of courtroom drama, committees, investigations and reports, finally the great Indian Judiciary pronounced a verdict that validated the “Conspiracy” theory of Godhra Train carnage.
“Special Court judge P. R. Patel has convicted 31 accused while acquitting 63 others,” Public Prosecutor J. M. Panchal said after the verdict inside the Sabarmati jail.
Thirty one people were convicted for hatching the conspiracy to burn down the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express carrying mainly the Kar Sevaks returning from Ayodhya. Interestingly, 63 otehers including the “main accused” Maulana Umarji was acquitted.
As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the trial and over 1,500 documentary evidences were presented before the court by the Gujarat police.
There were a total of 134 accused in the case, out of which 14 were released due to lack of evidence, five were juvenile, five died during proceedings of over nine years, 16 are absconding, and trial was conducted against 94 accused.
Of the 94, against whom the trial was conducted 80 are in jail and 14 are out on bail.
Two different panels appointed to inquire into the 2002 case had given different views on the Godhra train burning incident.
The heinous crime of the conspirators should be punished with harshest sentence. But my heart goes out to the 63 who have been acquitted. They have lost nine precious years of their life due to an irresponsible behaviour of the administration. Can their dignity be restored? Can they return back to their normal lives with full honour? Should the government not “compensate” (not necessarily monetarily) them for the inconvenience caused to them?
I wish to sieze this opportunity to also raise the following questions and hope i get an answer
1. Is the validation of conspiracy theory a validation for “reaction” by Hindus in the riots that followed the Godhra incident? Will this verdict influence the verdict on many riot cases still pending?
2. Since the court reached the conclusion that Justice W C Bannerjee is not credible enough, should Lalu Yadav not be show caused by the courts? And what made the judges choose Nanavati report over Bannerjee?
3. Should the Government of Gujarat not apologise to or compensate the victims of state sponsored irresponsible arrests? Is this verdict in a sense not a reminder for the Government of Gujarat that they failed people in 2002? Infact in a National Daily today the victims of Godhra train carnage themselves claimed they felt used for political gains and then dumped.
4. Should this verdict be a closure and people should move on?
5. The last and most important question : Is justice delayed, justice denied???