Juriscine – use of cinema to teach law

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Suman Kalani, is an assistant professor at Pravin Gandhi College of Law. She is very passionate about teaching and loves to watch plays, write, travel and innovate new methods of teaching.

The canvas of cinema has spread its vibrant colours to various aspects of life. Apart from playing a major role in the entertainment industry, cinema has played an important role in bringing various other socio, political, economic and legal aspects in the forefront by its medium. One such important area has been the law and the courts.

Indian cinema has produced some brilliant films projecting the legal issues and court room drama. O My God, a brilliant and bold movie which questioned the commercialisation of religion in India by suing the agents of god while literally interpreting the “force majeure” clause in the insurance contract is one such recent film. The film highlighted important concepts of clauses in contract, and concept of agency if looked into minutely. A very important aspect of a valid contract is whether it is enforceable by law. This aspect was well projected in a very humorous film Bunty and Babli, where the characters in the film have entered into numerous illegal contracts. The film has helped law students in understanding the application of laws pertaining to invalid contractual relations, its consequences and understanding the concept of voidable and void contracts through important sections in the Indian Contract Act.

Corporate, again a much appreciated film was a brilliant exposition of a director’s liability concept, rules relating to product manufacturing, brand setting and consequences of unfair practices adopted by the employees of the company. The film also helped to discuss the issue of licensing and permission in any business, thus highlighting that ignorance of law cannot be an excuse. The film also touched on cybercrime. The film Khosla ka Ghosla helped to teach the concept of fraudulent transfer in property law. Transfer of Property Act, 1882 one of the technical laws can be made interesting by using this film as a case study. Today a lot is spoken, discussed and debated about the surrogacy contracts, a very important off shoot of the medical tourism industry. The concept of surrogacy, much before its debate and discussion started in India, was excellently put forth in the film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, underlining terms of surrogacy contract, rights of the commissioning parents and rights of the surrogate mother. Damini, projected the fight of an ordinary woman to bring justice to a rape victim. It raised important thought provoking questions about the current legal system. Some of the scenes in the movie Beta could be used to highlight the consequence of coercion or undue influence on contract. Apart
from this concept, the film was also important to understand certain aspects of criminal law. Muslim Personal Law and rights of a Muslim woman have always been a subject of discussion in the society. An important film projecting Muslim law of marriage and divorce in its story was Nikah. Exploitation of women and illegal trafficking of women was featured in one of the boldest films of its time, Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Films like Wednesday have proved to be nice film in the class of cyber crime where the main character in the film uses computer and mobile to commit heinous crimes.

Films like Waqt, Mera Saaya and Insaaf ka Tarazu were excellent court room dramas. Such movies have been a great tool to teach crucial subjects like criminal law and criminology. The movies apart from having thrilling story lines, have lawyers arguing cases which are helpful for students to understand the art of examining and cross examining the witnesses. Kanoon, a 1963 film on capital punishment, was again a brilliant courtroom drama based on a murder case.

There are many more films that can be cited as examples in legal education. The contribution of cinema in educating our youth, students as well as lay persons about law and its many aspects has been immense. This is an aspect worth mentioning when we are celebrating 100 years of cinema.

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