Centre for Advanced Legal Studies and Research, (CALSAR), Thiruvananthapuram

The curious case of rising courtroom dramas in Indian Cinema.


The fact that a large mass audience is obsessed with K-dramas is understandable but what exactly is this recent inexplicable rise in courtroom dramas that we get to see in movies, series and what not. Indian cinema has passed through various phases during its growth around the last century. The pace of change has been fast in 21°’ century and with increasing urbanization, the themes and making of films have changed. Despite these, it’s quite evident how contemporary Indian cinema still banks heavily on romance, music and dance. Romance is the lifeline whatever might be the genre of the film. Music and dance are something so deep in Indian culture. From Hindi films to regional cinema music and dance dominate. Scholars have penned their articles analyzing varied strings of music and footsteps of dance. Now coming to courtroom dramas as I’ve observed, it has become a recent trend to include economically and socially relevant subjects in movies and shows but the question is, what exactly does it serve? 2022 was when a lot of filmmakers attempted to bring a new legal angle to such issues.

                               In a courtroom, emotions or feelings do not matter. What matters is evidence to validate your argument. The court serves justice based on logical reasoning without thinking about who is who. But is it always the case? What if the honorable judge who delivers justice has preconceived or outdated notions? A human is making the judgment on others and no one is perfect. The law will always have loopholes.  And at the end of proceedings, a higher authority passes judgment based on their conviction and prejudices. Several movies like Vaashi, Jana Gana Mana covered sensitive topics like sexual harassment and sharply criticized caste-religion-political equations in India. What’s disturbing is the fact that Arvind Swaminathan’s mass political dialogues in the courtroom were an exposure of the political and social tyranny of present-day India but does that happen inside a courtroom? Movies are far-fetched from reality and such sequences are proof. Vaashi on the other hand, approached a sexual harassment case in shades of grey. The film, which examined the sensitive areas of both sides without taking the side of the accused, did not create any movement in the theatres. The ending left me baffled as the judge made the final judgement out of personal fatherly feelings and not based on the evidence produced before the Honorable Court. Moreover, an attempt is made to stick purely to the legal arguments, rather than use the court as a pulpit for delivering a rousing speech.  Another interesting watch is a series named “Guilty minds,” that takes an effort to show the insight into the reality of litigation in India.

                                 The thing is court-room dramas often has its heart in the right place but does not really know how to navigate two worlds. It paints a compelling picture of the lives of lawyers, something shows like The Practice have done beautifully in the West. But unlike The Practice, it does not know how to bring out the non-lawyer human side of its characters to the fore. Well, let us just hope that if there is one such show or movie that ticks off every relevant point of an arguably perfect court-room drama, the minds behind it leave no grounds for any reasonable doubt about the show’s quality.



Well writ Arpita. Highly appreciated

Jyotsna Manoj

Beautifully penned logical reasoning of courtroom dramas in Indian movies and series. I have quite often contemplated on this, while watching these exaggerated, fabricated courtroom scenes exist in the realm of movies which are supposed to be a reflection of real society.

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