Pillars of Parallel Cinema

(a book to be released in January 2022)

Ek Ruka Hua Faisala(A Pending Decision)

‘Sara Akash’ (1969) by Basu Chatterjee along with Mani Kaul’s ‘Uski Roti’ (1969) and Mrinal Sen’s ‘Bhuvan Shome’ (1969) are recognized as the harbinger of Parallel Cinema in Hindi.

Basu Chatterjee was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan in a Bengali family. His middle class upbringing reflected in his movies, which explored areas, which are far removed, from the glitz and glamour of the mainstream cinema. In 1950’s Chatterjee arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai) and started his career as an illustrator and cartoonist for the weekly tabloid ‘Blitz’ published by Rusi Karanjia. He worked for 18 years before changing his career to filmmaking, when he assisted Basu Bhattacharya in the film ‘Teesri Kasam’ (1966) produced by lyricist Shailendra. Sara Akash (1969) was his debut film. Later on he went of to make films that are called middle –of –the road or the middle class cinema.

‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisala’ (A Pending decision) is a 1986 Hindi language serious courtroom drama film directed by Basu Chatterjee. It is a remake of Golden Bear awarded American motion picture ‘12 Angry Men’ (1957) directed by Sidney Lumet that was an adaptation from a 1954 teleplay of the same name written by Reginald Rose.

The film tells the story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of 18-year-old defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt, forcing jurors to question their morals, values and perceptions.  The discussions begin with 11 for guilty and only 1 for not guilty. The film explores many techniques of consensus- building and the difficulties encountered in the process among this ‘group of men’, whose shades of personalities color their conclusions adding complications to process of conflict resolution, which requires final verdict to be arrived unanimously. The film is also notable for its entire drama happening within the confines one single room.

 The movie demonstrates how a logical process of patient questioning can elicit change in the perception of the people. The film forces the audience to evaluate their own perceptions by observing the distinct personalities of jurors, their assumptions, their prejudices, their interpretations and their conclusions.

The story is about how a ‘person’ can change the mind of a group of people by sticking to his convictions backed by logical thinking. The protagonist (Jury no 8, played by KK Raina) approaches the subject of capital punishment with caution and wants other members of jury to convince him that convicted person is guilty beyond any doubt. In this whole process of discussion, arguments and counter arguments we see so many facets of human behavior. A few in the room have ‘don’t care’ type of attitude. Then there are a few, who are overloaded with the belief – ‘ I am always right’. Some of these men have some fundamental beliefs and assumptions and they want to stick to it. There are also a few, who have good analytical skills and have conjured up lots of facts and data and they want to justify their conclusion based on facts and figures. What differentiates all these men from the protagonist is the way he draws his inferences using various analytical ways and proves that if something is generally believed to be correct, it does not have to be always correct. Hence he makes these twelve people introspect and distill their own set of beliefs and thought processes as they try to unravel the truth about the accused. Each one tries hard to stick to his version of the story and tries to convince the rest about his viewpoint. But gradually as their conclusions are questioned and dismantled by the protagonist, they one by one start changing their vote from ‘guilty’ to ‘not guilty’. The twists and turns in the script and the sharp dialogues keep the audience hooked on. It is almost like we, the audience, are a part of the jury, presented with a case and trying to discover what could be the ultimate realty.

 ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ was co-scripted by Basu Chatterjee along with Ranjit Kapur.  The latter also wrote the dialogues for the film. The cast of the film includes Deepak Qazir, Amitabh Srivastav, Pankaj Kapur, S M Zaheer, Subhash Udgata, Hemant Mishra, MK Raina, K K Raina, Annu Kapoor, Subbiraj, Shailendra Goyal, Aziz Kureshi and C D Sindhu with some admirable performances from K K Raina, Pankaj Kapoor, MK Raina, Anu Kapoor and Aziz Kureshi.

The cinematography was done by Ajay Prabhakar and editing by Kamal A Sehgal .It is a 117 minute long film produced by Basu Chatterjee.

Published by

O P Srivastava

A banker-turned filmmaker based in Mumbai. India.

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