Aakrosh(1980): The Anger of the Voiceless

India is facing a challenge, we do not have vaccines, the Government is busy building a palace for Prime Minister Modi, while Indians all over the country are dying due to lack of oxygen, beds and vaccines. The Government is not paying heed to it has made this crisis worse and has hit the middle class and cities. This makes me wonder, what about people who do not have access to technology? How do they air their grievances? The prologue is related to the theme of the movie Aakrosh. What do the voiceless do when they are failed by the very system which is supposed to protect them?

Aakrosh begins as a legal thriller where we see Lahanya (Om Puri) being accused of murdering his wife and the film directly does not answer the question for a major part of the film. The film is not interested in the crime or condemning it, but more interested in how of it and not the why of it. 

Then we have Dusane (Amrish Puri) who is from the Tribal community but has been assimilated into the upper class society because of the position he holds. He knows he is a part of the society and shares the table with bigwigs because of his position. He is sure that he may be welcomed socially, but will never be a part of the upper caste club. 

Then we have Bhaskar Kulkarni (Naseeruddin Shah) a rookie lawyer whose father has groomed Dusane and is an idealistic who is navigating the world of caste, politics, and justice. The film is mostly depicted through the viewpoint of this protagonist 

At first, he is more concerned about his career and how it will affect his career as a lawyer. He is frustrated by what he thinks is a lack of cooperation by his client. He is met with silence everywhere he goes, he thinks that it is their arrogance or ungratefulness on how these people cannot work with this great system. What he does not know is the system is just to give a moral and legal cloak for those who are in power and can oppress those who do not have a voice. 

Bhaskar is an interesting protagonist. He is not someone who is trying to change the system, his belief in the system is intact. You cannot fault him, for the person he is. And because of the genetic advantage of being born in a certain caste, he does not have to face discrimination in his life. When he discovers the gutter of corruption and greed, he is shaken and scared at first. He gets to fight the system in his way only to be greeted with disillusionment. 

Nothing is black and white in this Govind Nihalani directorial debut where he is aided by the genius Vijay Tendulkar. This is not a film that gives any comfort. It is a film that causes you discomfort and makes you think that we all are part of the system and in a way, we also play an active part in this action. 

Om Puri as Lahanya delivers one of the finest performances in his career. The anger which comes due to helplessness is solely conveyed through his eyes, and way he cries at the end of the movie is so haunting. Om went on to do another angry man role with panache in Nihalani’s next Ardh Satya

Smita Patil‘s role sadly doesn’t have much scope to offer and it is sad she is just used as an ornamental piece in the film. 

Amrish Puri cast in a role that is a far cry from his usual Bollywood roles reminds me why he is such a good actor. Naseeruddin Shah as a young lawyer is a delight to watch. But to think of a him as a Marathi Brahmin guy requires suspension of disbelief. 

Govind has cast Marathi actors for non-important roles, but surprisingly for lead roles he went with a non-Marathi cast who do not look or talk like Marathis. Not that I am holding a grouse against him for this, but casting Marathi actors in key roles would have helped the film a lot.

That aside, Aakrosh is one of the best films to come out of India. Do give it a try. 

The film is streaming on Amazon Prime India and Hotstar (in a censored version)

 

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