After last year’s multistarrer hit Raajneeti, Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan has been in the news for various reasons. First being him managing to get Amitabh Bachchan on board. Later Ajay Devgn walked out of the film for reasons known to all who saw Raajneeti, then for Saif and Prateik’s diction issues and finally the current controversy on the film’s stand on the issue of reservation.
Dr. Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is the principal one of the best education institutes in his state. He runs the place with an iron fist of discipline (a la Mohabbatein’s Narayan Shankar) and a heart of gold, which bleeds over time for the underprivileged, be it friends’ kids or students. One such student is Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) who faces casteist discrimination in all walks of life, despite the fact that he is dating the principal’s daughter, Purbi (Deepika Padukone Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, Lafangey Parindey). Also trying to woo Purbi and everyone else who cares is fellow student and friend Sushant (Prateik Dum Maro Dum).
Dr. Anand has to face his own demons in the times of the Supreme Court passing the landmark judgement on reservations; one to take a stand and second in the form of his nemesis, Dr. Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai), his newly appointed Vice Principal and promoter of the idea of private coaching.
Saif renders a very good performance as the Dalit trying to carve a niche for himself. Be it is his attire, his dialect, or his mannerisms, he delivers a fine angst ridden performance.
Deepika looks lovely as always. But she manages to hold her own in front of the Bachchan aura. Confident and expressive eyes.
Manoj Bajpai has limited scope. Yashpal Sharma, Mukesh Tiwari, Saurabh Shukla, Rajiv Verma, Vinay Apte are good in their supporting roles. Chetan Pandit is relatively left in the background. Darshan Jariwala is excellent as the supportive trustee. Hema Malini in her cameo, looks as beautiful as she did in Baghban. Wonder what happened in her last outing, BbuddahHogaTeraBaap.
Amitabh Bachchan, delivers a performance which reminds one of his earlier classics such as Khakee, Rann & Mohabbatein, as the upright, principled man fighting a battle single handedly. His humble acceptances in front of Bajpai, his stern reprimanding of Saif and Prateik are few brilliant scenes.
Music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy is hummable. The background score by Wayne Sharpe is good in places, but not as rousing as Gangajal or Raajneeti. Nothing great about the cinematography by Sachin Krishnan either.
There seems to be a point in the film, where writers Jha & Anjum Rajabali seem to have stopped the process of character development and just wrote down the film to complete it via one prolonged idea. Prateik’s character (assassination) is an ideal example.
Unfortunately, that part comes at the interval. And that is what kills the film.
The first half although takes its time to build up, does hold gripping moments, but the second half loses its momentum completely. Post interval, every character gets relegated to a mere prop, with the film becoming a solo Amitabh starrer without any dramatic punches.
Jha is conspicuous, in his cameo behind Saif on the terrace restaurant and by his absence in the Director’s chair. The frustration of the cops in Gangajal, the helplessness of the protagonist in Apharan, the ruthlessness of Raajneeti is sorely missing. The length of the film doesn’t help either.
In today’s times of ‘plexes and in your face, innovative marketing strategies, there is a thought that creating ‘controversies’ might attract crowds towards an average product. We saw it in My Name is Khan, we see it again in Aarakshan.
YusuF Poonawala, is an independent writer, who authors The Y Factor . Explore his passion for movies with reviews and everything around them.