Tokyo Trial

Formally, it was called The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). Convened in late April, 1946, the purpose of this trial, also known as the Tokyo Trial, was to try the leaders of Japan for three kinds of war crimes.

Netflix, in conjunction with the Japanese TV Network called NHK, Don Carmody Television, and FATT Productions, has made this mini-series (4 episodes) available to its streaming service subscribers.

General Douglas MacArthur appointed 12 judges (the 12th was a replacement as one judge left to return home. These judges came from 11 countries – Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, UK., USA. and the Soviet Union.

The expectation was that the trial would last about 6 months. Instead it lasted 2 1/2 years, or about 1000 days.

MacArthur not only agreed to prosecute 28 Japanese leaders but he also approved the Charter which gave the Tribunal the right to prosecute the Japanese.

They would be charged in three categories.

  1. Crimes of Aggression
  2. Crimes against humanity
  3. Conventional war crimes

Using the Nuremberg Trials as the precedent, the President of the Tribunal,  Sir William Webb from Australia, believed that they had the moral authority as well as the legal authority to try to convict the Japanese. Item # 1 would prove to be both a stumbling block as well as a controversial point in their judicial discussions.

Webb was played by Tim Ahern in this production.

The item #1 – Crimes of Aggression – was also known as Crimes against peace. The concept of this was to charge the top Japanese leaders with: leading, organizing, instigating, or being accomplices in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to wage wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law.

Said another way – this concept was the opposite of a self-defensive war effort.

The first of the justices to step up and disagree was the Indian Rabhabinod Pal, a Judge on the Calcutta High Court. He argued, in a lengthy dissenting opinion (over 1200 pages) that a) At the time of the crimes, there was no international law against waging an ‘aggressive’ war. The basics of that was the Japanese were being charged retroactively. He also argued that b) the argument of the prosecution was quite weak with regard to the conspiratorial aspects of waging an aggressive war, and c) there was nothing to show that these crimes were a product of government policy or that the Japanese government officials were directly responsible for the atrocities committed (like the events in Nanking, China, or the maltreatment and abuse of POWs).

Indian actor Irrfan Khan had the role of Justice Pal.

Also in the trenches (at least in the pre-verdict discussions) with Judge Pal was the Law Professor from New Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Professor Bert Röling.

Dutch actor Marcel Hensema played Röling.

On the other side of the ledger, meaning those who argued (most strenuously in favor of the prosecution)  were the Scottish Judge, The Honorable Lord Patrick, the Chinese Judge, Mei ju-ao, and the Canadian, Edward Stuart McDougall, Justice of the Court of King’s Bench of Quebec. In today’s terms, they would be called the hawks.

Paul Freeman played Lord Patrick.

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Talvar (Guilty) 2015


Talvar (Guilty) opened last September at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). So what is it about?

Per the Storyline at IMDB:

The story revolves around the mysterious murder cases of a 14-year girl, Shruti Tandon and the domestic help, Khempal who worked at her place. The film is based on the real life Noida Double Murder Case of 2008, where the parents were said to be the prime suspects of the murders. The film showcases three perspectives to the case which emerge as the investigation moves forward.

Which squarely places this film into the classification of being Rashomon-like.

The film stars Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Jurassic World, Slumdog Millionaire) as a senior homicide inspector working for India’s CDI (a made up acronym for India’s CBI – the equivalent of our own FBI).

When the first responding police were summoned, the cops on the scene paid no attention to forensics, or at minimum keeping the crime scene sealed.

The lead cop called it an open and shut case. The butler did it, he stated with assurance. Of course there was no butler. Instead there was the houseboy, and it came to the cops attention that he had a thing, or what we might call a strong desire for the Tandon daughter, Shruti.

So this theory was hoisted up the flagpole and fluttered in the wind. A search (what we call here in the USA an APB) was set in motion. When Khempal was not found, it was stated that he had absconded and must be the killer. That is until Khempal himself was found dead, and decomposing, on the roof of the very apartment building where the Tandons lived.

So it wasn’t as open and shut as was first announced. Theories began to show up in the media, in the press, and in the police HQ. It was an honor killing (the parents being the killer of their own daughter because of the shame she brought on them by ‘taking up’ with Khempal.

Let’s skip ahead for a moment. Then it was called a revenge killing. Then a conspiracy. Eventually as in much later the terms incompetent as well infighting in the hierarchy of the police would come into play

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The Lunch Box

In Mumbai, India, there’s a system of delivering lunches that are picked up from home kitchens and restaurants then delivered to workers in their offices (right to their desk) via bikes, trains, and pushcarts with errors only being the remotest of possibilities. After the lunch breaks are over, the tiffins (lunch boxes) are picked up, then transported back to the exact point of origin. Every day, nearly 175,000 such lunch boxes are picked up, delivered, and returned. The rate of error for lunches either being lost or delivered incorrectly, is so low that once in a million deliveries applies. This system has been in use since the latter part of the 19th century.

This film is about one such lunchbox and it is no surprise that film is entitled The Lunch Box. This lovely film was written and directed by Ritesh Batra in his first ever work on a feature film and has won awards at film festivals from Reykjavik to Sao Paulo, from such diverse places like Oslo, London, Ghent, and from Tribeca to Telluride to Dubai. Just a few days ago, The Lunch Box opened at Sarasota’s indie/art/foreign theater, the Burns Court Cinema.

Batra is only 35 years old and studied film in New York. But his touch is fine. He knows his craft, and the film flows by in a brief 104 minutes. This is an Indian film that has made the box offices light up all over the world.

Nosheen Iqbal, writing for The Guardian newspaper in the UK has noted that the film reflects India’s new taste for realism. It’s not really new, as years back, in the 60’s and 70’s, this style of film making was called India’s Parallel Cinema. In that era, those practitioners made films with serious content, naturalism, and an eye on realism rather than commercialism. So the Parallel Cinema has been around for a while.

Here’s the story of The Lunch Box, condensed of course.

Nimrat Kaur plays the housewife Ila. Her husband commutes to work each day from a Mumbai suburb, and Ila gets her young daughter off to school in the morning. She loves her husband, and tries hard to please him. But he doesn’t notice or care. So Ila enlists the help of a neighbor upstairs, called Auntie, whom we hear, but never see. An extra special lunch is prepared. The door bell rings, and there’s the dabbawallah to pick up the lunch. She watches as he loads the lunch box on to his bike, and rides off the train station where the lunches are organized and sorted before being sent to the city for delivery.

Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire) plays Saajan Fernandes. He is an older man, a widower who is approaching his retirement from his job as an accountant in the Claims Department of a large insurance company. He too receives his lunches on a regular basis via the same system, only his lunches are prepared by a restaurant.

On this particular day something is different.

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D-Day (2013)

… The secretary will disavow…

… After OBL, this was the most wanted terrorist in the world…

Welcome to D-Day, a 2013 film by Nikhil Advani. Some may label this film as the Indian version of Zero Dark Thirty, and they wouldn’t be far off the mark. The difference is that this bad guy is the fictional Goldman Iqbal Seth, and that the Indian government would consider this a totally covert operation with no government sanction whatsoever.

Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) (above and below) plays Wali Khan, an Indian Muslim sent into Karachi, Pakistan 9 years ago as a sleeper cell. He lives and works as a barber shop owner.

Rishi Kapoor plays Goldman, the arms-dealer/terrorist.

Arjun Rampal (above) plays Captain Rudra Pratap Singh – he is the sharp stick of the good guys with a lengthy background as a special forces soldier. The 4th member of the group is Aslam, played by Aakash Daahiya – he is in charge of driving the vehicles.

There are three women with key roles:

Zoya and Rudra

Zoya and Rudra

Huma Qureshi plays Zoya – the munitions expert. She works with the semtex and handles the wiring and detonators. This is one deadly babe.

Shruti Haasan (above) plays Suraiya, a prostitute working in Karachi. She’s been around the block more than few times, and has been used and abused by many men. She’s got the facial scars to prove it.

Shiswara plays Wali’s wife Nafisa and the mother of his son.

Here is the mini-synopsis: A team of experts dispatched to bring in The Most Wanted Man in India almost achieves the unthinkable … until something goes horribly wrong.

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7 Khoon Maaf

She mates, then she kills...”, so said federal investigator Alexandra Barnes (played by Debra Winger) in the 1987 classic film Black Widow which starred Theresa Russell as the predatory Catharine Peterson who would marry wealthy men, then collect the inheritance and or insurance benefits upon their death. The Peterson character was a gold digger, plain and simple. Sorry, make that a murdering gold digger.

But what if the woman was already wealthy and she married again and again for love. Only to find that her husbands were flawed men and she would be disappointed over and over. In 7 Khoon Maaf, a February 2011 film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, the wife is played magnificently by Priyanka Chopra. She meets, marries, and murders her first six husbands.

While her motives differ from Russell’s Black Widow portrayal, the results are the same. A wedding is always followed by a funeral, which is followed by another wedding.

However the 1987 Black Widow was told as detective story with the cop (Winger) becoming suspicious then having to prove the case. In 7 Khoon, the police have only a small role. This film isn’t about the detection of the crimes. Instead the mystery is about whether Priyanka’s Susanna will ever meet and marry the right man.

This film was an adaption of the short novella called Susanna’s Seven Husbands written by Ruskin Bond. Bond himself appears late in the film as yet another prospective husband.

What is really interesting about the film is that Susanna is ably assisted by a trio of family retainers – a butler, a cook, and a third man who is a jockey and all-around jack of all trades. As Susanna ages, so too do these staff members whose loyalty goes beyond all boundaries. They are not only the household staff, they also serve as Susanna’s surrogate family, but they are also complicit in the murders themselves. In one chilling episode we watch the 3rd husband brutalize Susanna and while this is going on, the household staff is busily and calmly digging a grave that this man will soon be in.

Bhardwaj has delivered to us a drama, or maybe it is a black comedy that is heavy on the side of the black or darkness, and light on the side of comedy. But I guess that is the whole point of a black comedy – you’re not  expecting laughs – instead you get the chills.

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