Tag Archives: Zee Studios

Jumping Into Muck: Article 15 Takes on Caste

The hot sams (samosas) are for Rs. 4. It’s not a canteen. It’s a cafe. At the cafe at St. Stephen’s college in Delhi University, you might be asked to zap the chap (chapati). Denizens of this elite college can be heard discussing the G-jams (gulab jamuns) in Carol Gardens (yes, Karol Bagh for the rest of you.) And writing the IAS examinations that propel students into the elite cadre of administrators is de riguer. (But hold that thought about the Rs. 4 samosa).

Because this is the rarefied environment from which has emerged police officer Ayan Ranjan (played by an English-swearing Ayushmann Khurana) in Article 15. Ranjan is sent to Lalganj, as deputy-Chief of district police, as penance for saying “cool, sir” to a senior officer. This film could have gone in the direction of English, August: An Indian Story (1988) by Upamanyu Chatterjee that described the ennui and maladjustment of a self-absorbed Indian civil servant when he is posted in the hinterland.

Instead, it is more a crime thriller like Mississipi Burning, with stark shots by cinematographer Ewan Mulligan of two young dalit girls swinging lifeless from a tree. The lynching victims, Ranjan finds out, had the audacity to ask for a raise in their daily wages for Rs. 3 (less than that samosa in St. Stephen’s cafe.) The film is a chilling indictment of a complicit bureaucracy to a Hall of Shame. Film director Anubhav Sinha has closely paralleled multiple true events including 2014 Badaun gang rape allegations and 2016 Una flogging incident in the film. The title is a reference to Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. 

The stellar Ayushman Khurana, who has been playing the role of the slightly defective ordinary Indian guy next door, is believable in the film, if slightly less anglicised than that chap-zapping Stephanian. Manoj Pahwa does justice to a negative role as a sinister double-chinned thulla (or mama) (or cop). Sayani Gupta and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub shine as dalits who clearly see oppression, but are powerless against an entrenched system. 

A haunting image in the film is of a man jumping into a manhole and emerging from a full body dubki (dunk) into sewage. Footage of garbage piling up as dalits refuse to be treated as trash sends a clear message. Time for some upper caste brown sahibs and memsahibs to jump into the muck. Any takers?

Article 15 (2019). Director: Anubhav Sinha; Writers: Anubhav Sinha, Gaurav Solanki. Players: Ayushmann Khurrana, Isha Talwar, Manoj Pahwa. Producer: Sagar Shirgaonkar. Cinematographer: Ewan Mulligan. Production companies: Benaras Mediaworks and Zee Studios.

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.

Dhadak: Ishaan and Jhanvi shine, but the beat is missing

Dhadak lacks the unbridled consonance and passion of Marathi movie Sairat, on which it is based, but the lead pair and a compelling second half make it worth a visit. Janhvi Kapoor’s star presence is unmistakable as Parthavi Singh. She is talented, dewy, and has inherited Sridevi’s grace and easy charm. Ishaan Khatter’s Madhukar Bagla is au naturel, and gets ample space to show off his acting chops. It will be interesting to watch where the two actors go from here.

Writer-director Shashank Khaitan’s interpretation of Sairat is similar to the original in most parts, with changes to suit its new popular context. This version starts with a food-eating competition where Parthavi and Madhu fall in love at first glance. The first half is set in Udaipur and the second half in Kolkata, their living conditions are slightly better and urbanised post interval. That compromises the original’s seamless social message as well as its rural character and twinkle, and so Dhadak stays in the above-average zone. It is also jarring pre-interval and rushes through the couple’s journey towards the end. Shashank does retain Archie’s spirit in Parthavi. Of course, she is more decorous and less wild, but still spunkier and different than the average Hindi heroine, which is refreshing.

Moving on, love strikes when Parthavi and Madhu meet, both different in caste and class. Parthavi is daring, spontaneous, and assertive. Madhu is shy, smitten, and malleable. Parthavi will do what it takes to love and fight for it, unlike Madhu, who also loves but prefers to toe the line. Pehli Baar captures the first flush of his sentiments for the most part – especially with the final jump into the lake and Parthavi’s visit to the doctor. I missed Parthavi’s version – which was an important element in Sairat as it showed both sides in the culmination stage. Madhu’s father (Govind Pandey) cautions his son while his mother (Aishwarya Narkar) remains oblivious to the development. He tries to resist for a bit but gives in after Parthavi’s wicked prods. Brother Roop (Aditya Kumar) is on to them and snitches to father Ratan Singh (Ashutosh Rana). The plot is marred by screen time devoted to Ratan’s political confrontations. Gokul (Ankit Bisht, sincere) and Purshottam (Shridhar Watsar, underused) hang at the sidelines.

The movie picks up after the pair escape to Mumbai, and move to Calcutta where they rent a small room from Sachin Bhowmick (Kharaj Mukherjee) and wife (Subhavi) although Sairat‘s Suman Akka (Chhaya Kadam) was more effective. Her compassion in the slum setting had made the couple’s struggle for survival appear more profound and real. Madhu and Parthavi, in comparision, find jobs and settle fairly easily in sweet Bengal land.

Shashank doesn’t cover the wide expanse of caste and honor divides as well as economic marginalisation that Nagraj Manjule did, which is a disappointment. Sairat was richer for what it conveyed in as much screen time by respecting all its characters. Archie and Parshya’s friends, parents, and Suman Akka were treated with warmth and care despite their length, surroundings or failings. The handicapped character is replaced by a little person, with his treatment bordering on caricaturist, which is a shame.

The result is that no one makes a mark apart from Kharaj Mukherjee, Subhavi and Ankit Bisht. Ashutosh Rana is good but miscast. Vishnu Rao’s cinematography is effective, especially with making Janhvi look ethereal. Editor Monisha R. Baldawa does what she can with the material she is given.

Ajay-Atul return to rejig their tracks, with Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics, and do fine repeating tunes in the delicate Dhadak Title Track and sweeping Pehli Baar. They replace Aatach Baya Ka Baavarla with the lovely Vaara Re. Sad to report that Zingaat suffers on all fronts: the lyrics and picturisation are plain awkward. It needed a fresh tune and setting.

Both Janhvi and Ishaan seem more comfortable in the city, which shows in the ease of their performance. I loved the Howrah Bridge scene where they make up after their final fight.

Ishaan has some fine moments and just needs to get comfortable with the Hindi film hero mold if he wants to continue that journey. The actor holds his own with little glances here and there, with sincerity and an open body language.

Janhvi is hesitant in comparision but still makes Parthavi shine. If only her dialogue delivery was more consistent, she would have been the scene stealer. I loved her simple look in Kolkata as compared to the ornate one in Udaipur. In terms of acting, she is fresh and comes with her own identity. Although in some scenes, I could see and hear Sridevi in the way she turned her face or said a line. She will take time developing her skill; her mother had practice since childhood.

If you are a die-hard Sairat fan, please venture with adequate care and no expectations. If you haven’t watched the original, it is an above average watch. Sridevi fans, do watch it for Janhvi. Even if you don’t like her acting as much, you will see glimpses of what we all lost in February.

3 out of 5

 

Dhadak. Writer-Director: Shashank Khaitan. Players: Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor, Kharaj Mukherjee, Ashutosh Rana. Music: Ajay-Atul. Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya. Theatrical release: Zee Studios, Dharma Productions.

 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.