‘Section 375’ Movie Review: Akshaye Khanna stands tall while Richa Chadha disappoints in this gritty courtroom drama

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Directed By
Ajay Bahl

Produced By
Kumar Mangat Pathak, Abhishek Pathak, SCIPL

Akshaye Khanna, Richa Chadha, Meera Chopra, Rahul Bhat, Krutika Desai

Bollywood Bubble Rating

What’s It About:
The film opens with a girl (Meera Chopra) getting raped by a hugely successful film director (Rahul Bhat). She cries rape and knocks the doors of the police and the courts. What follows is a legal battle between the two sides ably represented by lawyers Richa Chadha and Akshaye Khanna. Will Rahul Bhat be declared guilty just on the basis of a social media trial? Will Meera Chopra be able to get justice? Will Akshaye Khanna be able to beat his former protégé, Richa Chadha? Well, you’ll have to see the film to find that out.

What’s Hot:
Akshaye Khanna! Yes, the man has finally arrived after his sabbatical of 4 years. He has been trying to make inroads back into the mainstream with smaller parts in films like ‘Dishoom’, ‘Mom’, ‘Ittefaq’, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, etc. However, it is this performance of his which filmmakers should watch and then decide whether or not to cast him in their own projects. The man has truly arrived. What a fab performance! He is laden with jokes, innuendos, facts and a no-nonsense attitude. He takes the film wholly on his shoulders and makes sure his every dialogue and punch line hits the bullseye.

Meera Chopra is good. Her performance as a girl in distress and the girl who’s planning and plotting for revenge is a fantastic balance which she has been able to pull off. She looks innocent, but not that innocent after all!!

I want to give a special mention to Meera Chopra’s scene with the doctor where she’s uncomfortable yet has to talk about the rape incident. The scene is a typical example of how a small performance can make its mark and leave an impact.

Then, there is the storyline. It’s remarkable to see a writer (Manish Gupta) and a director (Ajay Bahl) be able to not choose the conventional path of a rape case story, and show both the sides, thereby leaving the audiences to decide which side they want to lean on.

Having no songs in a Hindi movie is another brave choice that the makers of the film decided to go ahead with. As a connoisseur of great cinema, I adore that fact. In a gritty courtroom drama like this, there is hardly any space for songs especially the ones taking you away from the story into a dream sequence of a romantic track.

Also, the makers have kept the story pretty direct just like in Hollywood films. So once you start the film, within the first 5 minutes you’re into the story, which is quite rare in B-Town films. We generally end up showing backstories and romantic angles between the lead pair before finally getting into the story. ‘Section 375’ cuts out that bull shit.

The film doesn’t end up giving a message, which is usually the case in such films. ‘Pink’, ‘Mulk’, ‘Jolly LLB’, ‘Jolly LLB 2’ all had it. But this film gives you an ending which you know is the logical climax, but you will be left open-minded with different options, thinking ‘Oh this could also happen’.

What’s Not:
The screenplay of the film is botched to an extent. Things just keep happening one after the other as separate incidents and many times in retrospect you are left asking as to what happened to that?! For example there is a whole backstory that the makers have tried to create by calling Richa Chadha a protégé of Akshaye Khanna, however, their friendship or bonding hasn’t been explored till the last scene of the movie. Then there is a whole scene where Akshaye Khanna compares dal, chawal, subzi and dahi to the people involved in the case, but it somehow leads nowhere. Then there is this scene where someone from the audience throws ink on Akshaye Khanna’s face. He gets all enraged and heads to the washroom and then back to the courtroom. You will want to see some more of what happened as a result of that, but sadly you’ll be left hanging high and dry. You will get to see a lot more of these unanswered scenes in the film.

The most disappointing part of the film is Richa Chadha. I admire Richa Chadha for her brilliant performances and choice of roles, however, this was not just one of those films where she excelled. To my understanding, Richa Chadha is more of an instinctive actress who improvisers quite a lot. Thus making her characters believable which makes her onscreen performance stand out (Point in case being Bholi Punjaban from ‘Fukrey‘ franchise). But, this being a courtroom drama, there is hardly much scope for improvisation and Richa Chadha is left mouthing pre-written dialogues, which seem to come out of her mouth merely as words and not as her speech. Also, there are places where it feels that Richa Chadha is not totally comfortable talking in English, which has been used pretty much as the primary language inside the courtroom. To be very honest, the first half has her saying just the word ‘Objection’ maybe a million times whereas Akshaye Khanna walks away with the lion’s share of the punch lines.

Rahul Bhat is another disappointment. Not with his performance, but with the sheer amount of screen space he has in the film. While the opening scene of the film has him shouting out loud at his film’s crew making us want to see more of the man, but sadly, he is only made to sit quietly throughout the movie in a corner with maximum 10-15 lines throughout.

Another thing, which has been bothering me ever since I saw the film is the trailer of the movie. The trailer painted Akshaye Khanna to be a bad guy who takes up a case of an almost proven rapist just for the money probably. However, when you see the movie, by the time you reach the climax you will be questioning yourself as to why you were thinking him to be the bad guy all this while.

Overall, they had a great premise, a great storyline, some super talented actors and yet, the film didn’t end up living up to its potential.

Overall, ‘Section 375’ is a ONE-TIME watch. The film will leave you with questions in your mind and will induce you to talk about the law and make your own judgment of whether or not justice has been done.

The film has had minimal promotions. To add to it, there are no songs which make promotional activities even more difficult. Therefore, the movie will have to solely rely on word-of-mouth publicity. It’s opening on a weekend when people have just got done with the Ganpati festivities and might want to get back to work. Therefore, it will have to earn its worth over the first weekend, because, after that, the footfalls might see a drastic drop if the word-of-mouth doesn’t pick up.

Watch Trailer:

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