29 November-5 December 2013 #683

Guilty unless proven innocent

In Anup Baral directed, Court Martial, trooper Ram Bahadur (Sudam CK) is doomed. Facing court martial for killing one officer and wounding another, his case is almost already decided. Presiding at the bench to spell out the imminent sentence is Col Rupak Singh (Rajesh Hamal), a man of fierce reputation who has little time for subtleties.

But Ram, it turns out, is the ideal soldier. Polite and respectful, he has never had discussions, let alone fights, with anyone. His superiors speak glowingly of him and are puzzled why he would be trigger happy when on duty. To his credit, Ram even refuses to say anything against the prosecution when asked to the witness stand. So why did he do it?

Not convinced with what lies on the surface, his lawyer, Captain Bikas Pokhrel (Subash Thapa), makes some unsettling discoveries. An army man with a brother fighting on the other side of the war, Pokhrel knows that feudal tendencies run deep in the army. Ram Bahadur is a Dalit and his surviving target Captain GB Rana is a proud and chauvinist aristocrat. The two have a history of one-sided abuse, which Pokhrel, the knight in shining white to Rana’s pantomime villain, is keen to expose.

The Nepali translation of Indian writer Swadesh Deepak’s hit play, Court Martial, about semi- feudal and caste-first India of the early 90s fits seamlessly to the Nepal of 2013. Deepak’s hero is a low-ranking soldier, compelled to obey without question every order that comes his way, despite legal guarantees to the contrary.

Court Martial marks the first ever theatrical performance for veteran Kollywood actor Rajesh Hamal. Where was he all these years? Or rather, where were we? Director Anup Baral deserves our gratitude for extracting such a layered performance from him. But it is Subash Thapa’s smiling, well-read lawyer who steals the thunder from the great hero of Nepali film. Can his persistence save Ram Bahadur from punishment or will fate hand out poetic justice?

Sunir Pandey

Court Martial

Cast: Rajesh Hamal, Subash Thapa, Diya Maskey, Karma, BS Rana, Dayahang Rai, Sudam CK

Directed by Anup Baral

Music by Jason Kunwar

Rs 300 & Rs 500, Theatre Village, Uttar Dhoka, Till 2 December, second run: 9 to 22 December, 5pm, 9751023023