STORY: A movie director is accused of raping a costume assistant working on his film. While he is sentenced to jail by the Sessions Court, the case is reopened in the High Court. And in the face of media and public scrutiny, two determined lawyers battle it out.
REVIEW: Anjali ( Meera Chopra ) goes to director Rohan Khurana’s (Rahul Bhat) home to show him costume options for a shoot. The same evening Khurana is arrested for raping her. What transpired while she was at the director’s home forms the main plot of ‘Section 375’.
Based on the evidence, the filmmaker is sentenced to ten years of rigorous imprisonment by the Sessions Court, but the case is soon reopened in the High Court. Going against public sentiment, high-profile lawyer Tarun Saluja ( Akshaye Khanna ) takes up the case to defend Rohan Khurana. The prosecution lawyer representing Anjali is Hinal Gandhi (Richa Chadha), an earlier associate of Saluja.
“We are not in the business of justice, we are in the business of law,” is Saluja’s pet adage to Gandhi. One that she does not buy into at all. ‘Section 375’ presents versions of the same story from two different perspectives. And along the way, it also examines the routine procedures (disturbing in the way in which it is shown to be handled), corruption and investigation lapses with a gritty, realistic feel. As the courtroom drama proceeds, layers keep peeling off – some facts and some conjectures come to the fore, keeping the audience hooked, guessing and joining the dots right till the end. While packing in various standpoints to showcase a balanced view and two sides to the story, the screenplay also highlights how media and social media trials take over a criminal case of this nature.
Through its intriguing narrative, director Ajay Bahl tackles the sensitive issue of rape, while throwing light on abuse of power, dynamics of privilege and the absolute need for consent, will and permission when it comes to sex. For those not in the know, it also spells out points of Section 375 of the IPC.
The film makes for a gripping watch with a crisp runtime and top-notch performances. Akshaye Khanna is intense, brooding and riveting all at once. He is simply brilliant as he owns every minute that you see him on screen. Richa Chadha follows up with an equally earnest and nuanced act. The supporting cast (Rahul Bhat, Meera Chopra, Krutika Desai) also hold their own. A special mention for Kishore Kadam who is effortless as one of the judges. Add to that, the screenplay is taut with dialogues that stand out.
Overall, ‘Section 375’ is an audacious effort. It is a relevant film that tackles a complex issue and one that will engage, inform and open up debates.