Raghu Samarth's court room drama Law joins the long list of films about rape and revenge that have become a staple in women-led cinema in recent years. While the trend may mark a welcome shift in narratives about sexual assault that traditionally indulged in victim-blaming, quite a few of these films fall into the trap of easy solutions offered by vigilante justice.
Like Ponmagal Vandhal, the first south film to have a direct release on Amazon Prime Video, Law too has a rape survivor arguing her own case in court. Ragini Prajwal plays Nandini, a law graduate who files a police complaint of gangrape against three well-connected men. The film opens with Nandini flagging down a car to take her to the police station. The officer in charge (Mandya Ramesh) treats the case as a joke and subjects her to insensitive comments. I suppose these scenes were included to stress upon how rape survivors are treated by law enforcement but the writing is so caricature-ish that the seriousness of the situation completely escapes us.
Ragini is earnest as a young woman fighting the system for justice, but there's barely any thought given to her character. The rest of the cast, too, suffers from poor writing. The director treats them like puppets to force intrigue into the script. Ludicrous twists are justified with even sillier explanations that are far from convincing.
Achyuth Kumar plays Nandini's senior while Siri Prahalad plays his daughter who has a speech disability. The two of them are pivotal to the plot, but all that the disjointed screenplay gives us is a cliched happy family portrayal that would fit a 30 second ad for a washing machine. Serious scenes are interrupted by jolly songs and dances, and even the courtroom does not escape this distracting treatment. Mukhyamantri Chandru appears as the judge in the case, and is forced to perform some 'comedy' with his wife calling him on the mobile phone as he's listening to the arguments in the gangrape case. What really was the need to dilute the already wobbly drama?
Rajesh Nataranga plays the defence lawyer of the accused (who have VILLAIN painted all over them). The face-off between Nandini and him, however, looks more like a squabble between school children rather than arguments made in court. Hebbale Krishna as Brahma, the police officer who takes over the case, needs only a few days to 'crack' it. But the evidence is thinner than air â€” grand statements like collecting DNA from the crime scene are made, but it's anyone's guess how Brahma zeroes in on the three accused and decides that they are the culprits when he hasn't yet arrested them to obtain their DNA samples for a match. Such loopholes could have been forgiven in police procedurals of the '90s but in the year 2020, when Kannada cinema has delivered convincing thrillers like Kavaludaari, films like Law fall very short indeed.
Forget the lack of research, even the film's 'message' about sexual violence is clouded by patriarchal thinking. While Nandini spouts progressive lines about drinking and modern attire not being an invitaton for rape (heavily inspired by Pink), the film also has a sympathetic father saying things like, "I know nobody will marry you because you've told the world that you're a rape victim". And that's supposed to tell us how great a father he is. Narratives that constantly underline how a rape survivor has no hope of happines in the future only do a disservice to real life victims.
Law tries to be a clever film with its twists but all that it succeeds in doing is to tie itself up in knots.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.