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)

 

‘NFDC Film Aaj Kal’ – A Marathon of NFDC Classics In Mumbai To Begin From July 15

NFDC India is coming up with its Cinema Outreach Initiative, Film Aaj Kal, a radio show as well as the Ground-Activation event – Film Aaj Kal Screenings and Conversations to build film communities and empower the viewer.

As part of the 360-degree initiative, NFDC collaborates with 92.7 Big FM for a weekly radio show named, ‘Film Aaj Kal’ on Cinema Education and Awareness program which has the filmmakers discussing about the classics, bringing these films back to the fore.Continue reading “‘NFDC Film Aaj Kal’ – A Marathon of NFDC Classics In Mumbai To Begin From July 15”

The Ghazi Attack Movie Review: Thunder Down Under

It is rather surprising that with all the war movies that have been made in India, not one has ever focused on our naval forces, let alone one set in a submarine. Therefore, the promos of The Ghazi Attack brought with them a sense of intrigue. When one thinks of movies set on a submarine, the mind goes to the dark and claustrophobic Das Boot, the tense Cold War thriller, The Hunt for Red October, the gripping Crimson Tide, and the classic, Run Silent Run Deep. The question here is, can debutant director Sankalp Reddy make an impact, through the narration of a war tale, long forgotten, the tale of the sinking of PNS Ghazi?Continue reading “The Ghazi Attack Movie Review: Thunder Down Under”

Viceroy’s House: Trailer

viceroys-houseViceroy’s House is an upcoming British-Indian historical drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini, and Chadha. The film stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Om Puri, Sarah Jane-Dias, Neeraj Kabi etc. It is a tale that depicts the  inside life of the Viceroy’s House in 1947 during the Partition of India. The music of the film is composed by A.R.Rahman.Continue reading “Viceroy’s House: Trailer”

Actor in Law: Trailer

Actor in Law Poster 2Actor In Law is an upcoming 2016 Pakistani comedy film directed by Nabeel Qureshi, co-written and produced by Fizza Ali Meerza. The film is scheduled for release on September 13 in Pakistan. Featuring Fahad Mustafa in the lead, the film also has Mehwish Hayat, Om Puri and Alyy Khan.
Continue reading “Actor in Law: Trailer”

The Jungle Book (2016): A Quick Review

THE JUNGLE BOOKIndian population can be divided in to 2 groups: Those who have watched Jungle Book on Doordarshan and those who haven’t- Only because they weren’t born then! This animated story originally written by Rudyard Kipling was synonymous with the 10 AM Sunday slot and most of us woke up ‘early’ with the song- Chaddi Pehen Ke- as the alarm clock.

While the song composed by Gulzar saab and Vishal Bharadwaj is retained as the promo song, the animated characters are beautifully brought to life by Jon Favreau. The simple story of a human-kid  Mowgli ( Neel Sethi) brought up by wolves (Akela and Raksha) and supported by his friends – Baloo (Bear) and Bagheera (Panther)- battling odds to defeat their arch nemesis- Shere Khan (Tiger) is a treat for the eyes and ears. Kaa (Snake) and King Louie (Orangutan) add to the fluctuation of the emotional graph with some tense moments and action to give this family movie a UA rating by the Censor board.

Continue reading “The Jungle Book (2016): A Quick Review”

Ghayal Once Again Movie Review: Ghayal Returns, But It Is Not Ghatak (Dangerous)

Ghayal Once AgainI must begin this review by stating that director Rajkumar Santoshi‘s stunning debut feature Ghayal is one of my all time favorites featuring one of the most explosive climax ever, that lasts for a good thirty minutes before Ajay Mehra (Sunny Deol) kills his nemesis Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri). I had seen this film on the first day at Metro talkies in Bombay and had paid almost double the amount in black compared what I paid today for the ticket of Ghayal Once Again. Indeed those were the days 🙂

Now 26 years and several delays later, Sunny Deol returns with a sequel to his vigilante classic and also dons the directorial responsibilities for the film.

Ghayal Once Again begins exactly where Ghayal ended. After completing his life sentence, Ajay starts a newspaper called Satyakam, making a credible name for himself in investigative journalism and earning a credible fan following in the process, especially among the youngsters. Four of his teenage fans, accidentally record a murder on camera whilst on an expedition, and it shows two of the city’s most powerful people involved in it. The kids get entangled in this mess and find themselves on the run from the most powerful man in the city. Whether Ajay is able to save these kids from the impending danger or not is what forms the crux of the film. 

The movie starts with scenes of Ghayal playing in black and white and immediately grabs your attention. It unfolds slowly as a thriller, making the patronizing Ghayal fans glued to their seats in anticipation of another explosive and long climax. The film keeps moving briskly and before the interval, we are rewarded with a heart-pounding chase sequence, but that is no match to the climax chase or the fish market chase witnessed in the original.

One of the best characters in the prequel was that of the no nonsense serious cop ACP Joe D’Souza played by Om Puri, who provided the right balance in the mayhem that ensues in the climax. But here he returns as a retired funny officer, who loves eating butter chicken with his wife. The villain here is played by the suave Narendra Jha, who plays Raj Bansal –  a powerful man having a strong nexus between media, politicians and police. One couldn’t help but notice uncanny similarities Raj Bansal and Mukesh Ambani. However withAntilia’ doubling up for Bansal Mansion made me root for Ajay Mehra. 🙂

Ghayal Once Again 2

Sunny Deol chews up the scenes with his dangerous frown, flaring nostrils and the dhaai kilo ka haath. Honestly, I don’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed watching him with such glee, while destroying the villains.

The film tries being true and faithful to its original and is therefore engaging, though it may appear clichéd to the average viewer for this very reason. But for a diehard Ghayal fan, these cliches doesn’t matter and neither does it dampen their viewing experience.

But sadly, post interval, the curse of second half’ continues. The film has a gripping start and then everything goes haywire. This happens very often in the movies now a days and now I wonder why.

Ghayal Once Again is very clichéd and silly, but honestly I feel  in its current form, it would not have been possible even for Raj Kumar Santoshi to match the thrill of original.

We have always loved the Sunny of the JP Dutta, Santoshi and Rahul Rawail films and here we only get glimpse of it. Go, Watch the film in the hope that it may work for you and also for Sunny who badly needs a hit.

Rating – ***

Manish Rathore

Jai Ho Democracy: Trailer

Jai Ho Democracy is a satirical comedy from the veteran writer of Jaane Bhi Do Yaara (1983).Continue reading “Jai Ho Democracy: Trailer”

Breaking Bard: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean Trilogy

In early 2000s, when a music director, known mostly for his work in niche Hindi films, began travelling to festivals for his exposure to international cinema, he chanced upon his nephew reading a “children’s version” of Shakespeare’s works. Little did he know that what began as a leisurely reading exercise, would, almost a decade and a half later, culminate into one of the most accomplished trilogies on Shakespearean literature ever.

What is interesting to note here is that what the world saw as a master stroke, with the Kingdom of Scotland being replaced by Mumbai’s underworld and the witches by corrupt policemen, to contemporarize Macbeth, was born largely out of ignorance. Had the creator felt intimidated by Shakespeare’s standing in world literature then perhaps we wouldn’t have witnessed this ‘chutzpah’ in his adaptations.

Today when we see Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Omkara & Haider, unless told otherwise, we might not even think of them as adaptations of Macbeth, Othelo and Hamlet respectively. As his frequent collaborator, Gulzaar, points out “Vishal simply uses the name of Shakespeare for marketing gimmick. They are all but original works” This remark garbed with sarcasm is perhaps the best compliment one can give to his trilogy. 

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

“Shakti ka santulan”

Like most trilogies, it is very easy to notice a similarity in the screen-writing pattern in all the 3 movies. We are already familiar with the names of his characters sounding similar to the ones in the play (Gertrude becomes Ghazala, Iago becomes Ishwar ‘Langda’ Tyagi). The supernatural elements get conveniently replaced with their contemporary avatars (King Hamlet’s “ghost”  becomes a man carrying Ghost IDs – aptly named Roohdaar). The major plot points in the play always make way into the final adaptation (Desdemona’s handkerchief makes way for Dolly Mishra’s Kamarbandh but nevertheless remains pivotal to the final doom)

The "grave-digger" scene from the play & the film
The “grave-digger” scene from the play & the film

However, the similarity does extend to minor character peculiarities as well. The central character always gets a closely cropped haircut (while Irrfan & Saif got a Caesar cut, we saw Shahid’s head getting a complete shave-off). There is slight touch of an english song or a phrase to add the quirk to a narrative rolling out mostly in local dialect (much before the wordplay between Chutzpah & AFSPA we saw Kareena’s hindi medium educated Dolly learning to sing ‘I just called to say’ for Omkara always addressed as ‘My dear O’ in her love-letters).

And if you thought we had exhausted all the points, take note of how every romantic ballad, between the lead pair, paves way for the first in the series of events that would finally culminate into the tragic climax. (Nimmi lays the germ of killing Abbaji in Maqbool’s mind after ‘Rone Do’ | Indu steals the cummerbund towards the end of ‘O Saathi Re’ | Haider discloses his plan of avenging his father’s death to Arshia after ‘Khul Kabhi To’)

There might be many more similarities. We just need to keep looking!

 

“Ya to tu bahut badi lool hai. Ya bahut badi chudail.”

The two-faced Shakespearean lady
The two-faced Shakespearean lady

When Haider looks at his mother’s reflection on a broken mirror, split into two, he rightly points out her two-faced nature. The classic Shakespearean lady, whose desires and ambitions always leads to the crime. And it is her guilt of the same that consumes everyone at the end.

Does she really love her husband’s godson or is she simply looking for a means of escape from her sexless and hapless life? Why does she steal the cummerbund at the slightest prodding of her husband, without questioning him about it?  How can she, still a half-widow, sit and smile beside her new lover, basking in the glory of his electoral win; or are those dark glasses concealing her guilt-ridden eyes?

She is also the innocent victim, torn between her loved ones. She might scream out to push away her enemy. But mostly she weeps and surrenders – taking away her own life or letting her loved one take it away from her.

 

“Bewakoof aur ch***ye mein dhaage bhar ka fark hota hai”

Vishal really indulges himself in fleshing out the minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. The witches, the spies, the courtiers are not just mere sidekicks in larger scheme of things. They are instrumental in influencing the protagonists, taking the story forward and also providing the much needed comic relief in what everyone knows is going to end up in a tragedy.

Naseer & Om’s Pandit & Purohit in Maqbool, Deepak Dobriyal’s Rajju in Omkara and, the latest addition, Salman & Salman, played by Sumit Kaul & Rajat Bhagat, in Haider have some of the best written scenes in the film for them.

If it has been a while since you watched Omkara, we can recap one such scene for you.

And to all those raving on the performance of the two Salmans in Haider here is a small scene from the film for you.

 

“Hummara ishq to paak tha naa miyaan”

What is it in the forbidden love, that attracts us so strongly towards it? The very boundaries of relationship that one is expected to safeguard, end up getting violated first. It inebriates us with such a toxic strength that the lines of right and wrong get blurred.

The different shades of forbidden love
The different shades of forbidden love

Why else would Maqbool end up putting bullets into his Godfather when he has risked his entire life saving him from those very bullets? What came over Dolly to defy her father and elope from her own marriage for a hard-core criminal, lower to her in both caste and status? Was Ghazala actually in love with her brother-in-law or was just running away from her son lest she starts reciprocating his Oedipus complex?

The forbidden love doesn’t expect the world to understand it. It is continuously judged and condemned, but it continues to be giving till its last breath. Sometimes it is in form of a last peck to her son to salvage his years of desire before blowing oneself up to quench his thirst for vengeance. Other times it is just abject surrender to one’s beloved only to be smothered by him on your wedding night. As mentioned, it continues to be giving till its last breath.

 

“Hum hain ki hum nahin”

Last, but not the least, Vishal’s films are also about existential crisis. A half-brahmin continuously jostles with those who have been ridiculing his caste to gain power over them. His second-in-command forgets years of friendship when what rightfully belongs to him is usurped away by a greenhorn only because of differences in their social standing. His insecurities are not very different from a Mumbai gangster who continuously feels threatened by a lad much younger to him simply because he is soon going to qualify as his Godfather’s son-in-law. And in a world much more complex than theirs, millions of Kashmiris take sides in a war for reasons that are anything but ideological. Some are avenging the death of their closed ones. Others are following their lines of duty. Most of them are confused and are willing to sideline with anyone who can promise them safety and purpose in lives.

While love, greed, lust and redemption remain integral to the plot, it is the continuous struggle towards protecting one’s own existence that forms the core of all of Vishal’s stories. It propels them to do the unthinkable only to realize the truth when it’s too late. The truth that recurs in all the 3 movies. Whether it is by showing Maqbool giving up arms at the sight of his son being adopted by his enemy or by having Haider forgive his uncle to honor his mother’s last wishes. The truth- that has been articulated with great simplicity in Haider “Jab tak hum Inteqam se aazaad nahi ho jaate… koi Aazaadi humein aazaad nahi kar sakti”.

Here is leaving you all with the Faiz Ahmed Faiz song that is played through the movie. Set to music by Mehdi Hasan, it is the first instance of Vishal using someone else’s composition for his films. “Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka karobaar chale……”