It’s an Amitabh Bachchan’s movie right from the start to the finish. All other characters are mere supporting cast!
Quite contrary to the title, Aarakshan isn’t a movie all together dedicated to portray the reservation-quota ‘Mandal’ saga which engulfed the whole nation during late 80s to early 90s. In fact, it’s a story which tries its best to paint the contemporary education system, which is laced with stories of high donation fee and extra coaching classes. If observed closely, the whole movie is based on the commercialization of education system and has been bordered with the reservation story. The script writer and the director has done a commendable job of creating one of the most intense and thought provoking cinema in recent times. Although not in grandeur, but in content quality, Aarakshan surely matches Prakash Jha’s last magnum opus, Raajneeti.
In between the movie, I somehow managed to imagine Ajay Devgan playing the character of Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) and the result was mind-blowing. Saif, the dalit and OBC face of the movie, tries hard to produce that suppressed anger and the pain which comes from reservation-favouritism done on him. The opening scene of the movie is itself a mini-documentary reflecting the plight of those myriad quota helped and reservation-assisted persons who face the hidden ire of ‘general category’ sub-ordinates in professional lives . But somehow something was missing. He surely produced lots of one liner which prompted claps all across the theatre.
And the anti-reservation brigade was managed by Prateik Babbar. Now, I think he was a mis-fit. The character demanded a personality which resonated the high intensity anti-reservation sentiments which was prevalent during that period. The Rajiv Goswami story still gives me dreaded nightmares. That was the blackest hours of Indian education system. However, the movie does try to understand the plight of those general class students who are economically backward, but fail to bring in those cut-off marks. Isn’t the reservation system applicable to such genre?
The movie opens the Pandora box which modern India shies away to discuss and debate. But, the show must go on..
The first half is filled with agreements and counter agreements between the pro-reservation and anti-reservation supporters. Both parties try hard to convince the audience that they are right. It’s the judgement of the audience which is final. Prakash Jha never answers that question.
However, Amitabh is a character which is playing the judge’s role. He is the face of education, and he neither supports the system nor rants against it. He favours the economically backward students, disregarding the caste and race factors. And to prove his stand, he provides absolutely free education to all. And that was the message which is the highlight of the movie.
All this while, Deepika tries hard to maintain a balance between her dad, Amitabh and her love, Saif.
Manoj Bajpai is the man who sparks the screen every time he is given a chance. His plays a menacing character that is hell bent on monetizing the education sector. He is the one who doesn’t come to regular classes in order to encourage students to join his coaching institution. He is the one who supports anti-reservation movement and incites the students to oppose it vehemently. And he is the one who takes revenge against Amitabh by confiscating his home and challenges to dethrone him. He has acted superbly.
But, with due respect to all actors, Amitabh steals the show with impeccable acting and emotive outbursts which dwarfs all and sundry. The manner in which he steers the movie and plants his philosophy that ‘reservation is not the solution’ is just mind-blowing. Very few actors could have done what Amitabh does in Aarakshan.
And the final blow comes from none other than Hema Malini, who appears at the fag end of the movie to set things right and highlight the main message of the movie: Reservation alone can’t solve the problems.
Go for the movie if you wish to witness intense drama and some thought provoking encounters. Prakash Jha has delivered another salvo!
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Update 1: The movie is a box office hit. It has generated close to 25 crore INR in the first weekend itself, despite the bans by UP/Punjab and AP govt.