By Jyotsna Kumar
It stormed controversies. It faced ban in some parts of the country, and all because of its title- only if our so called ‘educated’ crass and breed of dim-witted politicians knew that the film has nothing to do with its title. Big applause for playing smart Prakash Jha, who, very diligently chose the title of the film- Aarakshan, when the film only touches upon the reservation issue and that too very partially in the first half of the film. The film is focused largely on the battle of principles which by the way ends hurriedly.
Dr. Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is a principal of an esteemed, private college. He’s a respectful man full of principles. He believes that education is a right to everyone. His approval in that regard towards reservation of backward classes isolates him from the standing committee of his private college. As a result of which, he voluntarily resigns as the principal paving way for the vice-principal Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) as the new principal who operates a parallel education system in the form of a coaching institute outside the campus. And this leads to the clash of morals between the two. And in case if you’re wondering what Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Prateik Babbar were doing in the midst of all? Is what precisely I am asking? To be fair they were the flag bearers of this issue only to fizzle out in the second half of the film. Honestly, there was no need for such ensemble cast.
Prakash Jha’s intentions have always been noble and there is no doubt about that. This time too the noble intentions were in place but the novelty was missing. The overall attempt was mediocre and was only restricted to one man’s morality v/s others. One expects the graph to rise the moment reservation, quota system was in picture. Instead what we got was an extremely vague picture of general quota v/s backward category. In fact his dealing with such pertinent issue was slightly amateur as he wants us to believe that coaching classes are an outcome of reservation.
Moving on to the other aspects of the film, performances were hard core by very actor in the film except Prateik Babbar. Don’t know why he lost his cute- charming-charisma right after Jaane Tu and Dhobhi Ghat? There, despite minimum screen space his natural charm did enough to capture anyone’s attention, especially after Jaane Tu. Here, his expressions were dwarfed. Throughout the film he looked as if he was stoned. Manoj Bajpayee performed his best as a tough competitor to Mr. Bachchan. And ladies and gentleman, only god knows what it is about Mr. Bachchan that even with a simplistic expression he owns the frame. Hema Malini gets a random entry into the frame which gives a hurried end to the film. Tanvi Azmi as Mr. Bachchan’s better half was a misfit but she came out as a confident performer. Amitosh Nagpal brought some smile through his fun antics. Also his vehemence as a deserving candidate came across brilliantly. On the music front I have no qualms with Shankar Ehsaan Loy mediocre attempt because honestly, there was no scope for music in the film except the background score which too didn’t stand out. In fact, the first 20 minutes of the redundant song- dance- and romance could have easily been chopped off.
One didn’t expect a documentary or a mocumentary out of Aarakshan on reservation policy in our education system. But it’s heartening to see that beyond the title, the film doesn’t even stumble upon this pertinent issue in detail. The repercussions, the problems were nowhere highlighted in the film. The entire theme was just used as a backdrop where Mandal Commission and quota system were just words with no brief description to it. As an audience I felt cheated!