Thursday, August 11, 2011


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 12th August, 2011
Time : 113 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Prakash Jha; Co-Writer : Anjum Rajaballi; Music : Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy
Starring : Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Prateik, Manoj Bajpai, Yashpal Sharma, Tanvi Azmi, Mukesh Tiwari, Chetan Pandit, Darshan Jariwala, Saurabh Shukla

Imagine a film that doesn’t even mention its title subject matter in a longish second half. Aarakshan, raises the issue of reservation in the first and then harps on the malaise of private tuitions, the commercialisation of education in the second. It does so in an extremely melodramatic style, through ill-etched, unreal characters and complicates things with sub plots that don’t need to exist. Needless to say, its predictable ending (I predicted it 10 minutes into the film) arrives far too late and the film overall fails to enthral.

Amitabh is head of a college, the best in Bhopal and has been for several years (different numbers are bandied about as to how long he’s been with the college : 35, 32 even though a board in his office suggests its only 25). He has now reached venerable Guru ji status in the field of education, is well respected, bows to no one, runs the place as per his strict principles & teaches kids who need remedial coaching for free in his house. He’s very fond of Saif, (Dalit honours student, seeking to do his PhD in USA and is currently employed as Asst Professor in the college) who in turn reciprocates by being very fond of his daughter (Deepika) who returns the affection whole-heartedly. Prateik is a mutual college friend and is also the son of a rich trustee of the college.

The villains of the piece are the rich trustees who don’t like the way Amitabh overrules or scoffs at their suggestions (including admission requests), a home minister who’s used to having his way and their man in the college, Manoj Bajpai, who runs a lucrative coaching centre (in violation of the college norms) and is promoted to Vice Principal, setting off a power struggle of sorts.

Against this background, when the sceptre of reservation comes up (as the Supreme Court declares that further to the 27% existing reservation for SC/ST, another 22% is to be sanctioned for OBC’s), battlelines are drawn quickly, and nothing is ever the same

All the characters seem permanently emotionally overcharged, launching into dialogue baazi & ultimatums at the slightest provocation, changing allegiances & years of friendship or tutorship with scarcely a reason. Saif (lapses into Dalit champion mode too easily), Pratiek (what was his character about ? what was that between deepika and him ?), SM Zaheer & his family (who were they ? why were eminent, rich people there at his funeral ? why did his family backstab the one person who was helping them ?) and last but not least, Amitabh, (he didn’t know that one of his professor’s wasn’t taking any classes for 3 weeks ? couldn’t he get another job when things got rough ?)

Questions, questions…

I found the music atrocious, not fitting the movie in the first half. I found the acting ordinary, not helped by the weak characters. I found the film dragging, heavy and wasteful of the considerable talent at its disposal. It did make me think, asks us the question on where we are on the subject of reservation, but rather than delving into the topic further, makes the second half ‘commerical’ (pun intended).

PS : I think it’s a shame though that the film is being subjected to bans by states & moral policemen. There is nothing objectionable in the film, it provides both sides of the story on its core topic & I’m appalled that despite clearance by the Censor Board, it has to go through all this. Bollywood needs to put its foot down and make the Govt and Police do its job and protect freedom of expression.

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