Business rating: 2/5 stars
Star cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpayee, Prateik Babbar, Tanvi Azmi.
What’s Good: Amitabh Bachchan’s sterling performance; turns and twists in the drama; the novel subject .
What’s Bad: The length of the film, making it boring in parts; the sermonising effect of the drama at places; the extra importance given to commercialisation of education in the second half so that the reservation issue gets relegated to the background, comparatively speaking.
Verdict: Aarakshan is an average fare but a court verdict against the ban (by three states) can act as a fantastic springboard for the box-office collections to take a leap. In other words, the film can do wonders if the Supreme Court were to lift the ban on it by three state governments.
Loo break: A couple of them in the second half.
Watch or Not?: Watch Aarakshan to decide for yourself whether it deserved to be banned.
Prakash Jha Productions and Base Industries Group’s Aarakshan (UA) is a social film based on the quota policy introduced by the government of India in the education system. The film blames the education system for not doing enough for the lower strata of society which, it says, led to the reservation policy for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes. It then shifts tracks and focuses on the commercialisation of education, concentrating mostly on the culture of coaching classes. It talks about how students are indirectly forced to join private coaching classes by paying hefty amounts by way of fees.
Prof. Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is the principal of a college and is very idealistic. He has a soft corner for the financially weaker community of students including the Dalits. He runs special coaching classes at his house free of cost for the needy students. He has a strong liking for Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan), his student, who soon starts teaching in his college as a stop-gap arrangement before he goes away to America. Deepak and Poorbi (Deepika Padukone), daughter of Dr. Prabhakar Anand, are in love with each other. Sushant Seth (Prateik Babbar), who belongs to the high caste and rich class, is one of the students of the college.
One day, soon after the Supreme Court has upheld the quota system of the government, there is tension in the college between students of the economically backward classes, who stand to gain because of the quota policy, and of the affluent class, who now have to contend with the reservation policy in spite of otherwise being comparatively more merit-worthy. This prompts vice principal Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) to call the police to control the situation, something that doesn’t go down well with Prof. Anand who pulls up Mithilesh Singh for his hasty act of summoning the police on the college premises. Close on the heels of this incident, there is a war of words between Mithilesh Singh, Deepak Kumar and Sushant Seth. Prof. Anand suspends Sushant and also asks Deepak Kumar to get out when he (Deepak) refuses to calm down and instead, emotionally hurt as he is a Dalit, speaks rather rudely to Prof. Anand, even accusing him of casteist behaviour.
The face-off between Prof. Anand and Deepak Kumar leads to a breakup between Deepak and Poorbi who asks him to apologise to her father or forget her forever. Meanwhile, the trustees of the college in cahoots with Mithilesh Singh manipulate things in such a way that Prof. Anand is asked to step down from the principal’s post when he questions Mithilesh Singh about the private coaching classes he runs as his side business in spite of the college rules not allowing him to do so. What’s worse, Mithilesh Singh teaches in his coaching classes during the time he ought to be in college. Once Prof. Anand is thrown out, Mithilesh Singh is promoted as the new principal.
Further humiliation awaits Prof. Anand. A house he owned and had, on humanitarian grounds, allowed his friend’s two sons to use to run computer classes, is given on rent by the two sons to Mithilesh Singh to run his coaching class. Prof. Anand is not just against the business of coaching classes but is also angry with Mithilesh Singh for having played dirty politics with him. But now, he has to see his own house being used by the very Mithilesh Singh for the very business he detests, which, incidentally, is flourishing. Homeless now as the accommodation provided by the college has had to be vacated by him, Prof. Anand is at his wits’ end.
He soon starts coaching students for free, in a cow shed which is bang opposite his own house (occupied by Mithilesh Singh for running his coaching class). Deepak Kumar, who has gone off to America, returns to India on learning about Prof. Anand’s state. Sushant, too, comes to support Prof. Anand when he realises that Prof. Anand is indeed a genuine man. What happens thereafter? Is Prof. Anand able to avenge his humiliation at the hands of Mithilesh Singh? How? Does he forgive Deepak Kumar and Sushant? What about Prof. Anand’s coaching classes? Can they withstand the competition posed by Mithilesh Singh’s classes? And what about Deepak and Poorbi?
Aarakshan Review – Script Analysis
Prakash Jha’s story about the education system is an interesting topic for a film and quite novel too, considering that the two aspects of reservation policy and commercialisation of education have not been dealt with together in a big-budget film earlier. However, blame it on the title and on the initial reels, in which the issue of reservation is highlighted, but the audience feels a bit cheated when, in the second half, the focus shifts to commercialisation of education. Although a connection between the two is sought to be established, the same doesn’t come across too well. Even if one were to forget about the connection, one feels that the film, titled Aarakshan, leaves the burning issue midway and changes tracks. This may not have been felt had the film had a more all-encompassing title or if the film had not been such a serious issue-based drama. There’s nothing wrong in a film tackling two aspects of the education system but for the reasons mentioned above, the audience will get the feeling of the film changing tracks and not arriving at a proper conclusion over the reservation issue, which is what the viewers would expect. What the audience might also feel is that the commercialisation of education is a stand-alone problem and, therefore, should not have been juxtaposed with the quota issue. For, once the track of coaching classes begins, it assumes so much significance in the overall drama that the reservation policy issue seems to be relegated to the background – something which surprises the audience because the film begins so strongly as one about reservation.
The screenplay, penned by Praksah Jha and Anjum Rajab Ali, has its highs and lows. The first half is quite interesting and moves at a fairly good pace. The second half has several points where the drama dips. Scenes also appear to be repetitive, especially those of the coaching classes in the cow shed. However, the post-interval portion also has some highlight scenes and some brilliant twists and turns. Poorbi’s showdown with her father and her repentance later is one such highlight sequence. Prof. Anand being accused of using Deepak Kumar to settle scores with Mithilesh Singh is one example of the several interesting twists and turns.
The climax is quite ordinary as compared to the build-up leading to it. What should have been an exhilarating finale and a tear-jerking and clapworthy ending to a strong drama turns out to be a relatively tame affair.
The drama gets preachy at places and gives the effect of a sermon at times. The pace slackens and picks up intermittently. Dialogues, penned by Prakash Jha, are hard-hitting and go well with the story.
Aarakshan Review – Star Performances
Amitabh Bachchan does a marvellous job as Prof. Prabhakar Anand. He gets into the skin of the character and comes out a super-winner. His dialogue delivery is extraordinary and his body language is just too perfect. He proves yet again that he is like wine, only getting better with age. Saif Ali Khan acts ably. He gets limited scope and is absent for quite some time in between. This will not go down too well with the youth and with his fans. Deepika Padukone performs with perfect understanding. She is excellent in dramatic and emotional scenes. Manoj Bajpayee evokes instant hatred for himself, so natural is his performance. He plays the wily vice principal, who manipulates the situation to become the principal, with effortless ease. His get-up is perfectly suited to the character he plays. Tanvi Azmi does a remarkable job as Mrs. Anand. The scene in which she tells her daughter, Poorbi, what her husband, Prof. Prabhakar Anand, means to her is terrific and draws tears. Prateik Babbar is average. The scene in which he teaches students is unintentionally funny. He has not been photographed well. Hema Malini leaves a mark in the single sequence she is seen in in the end. Darshan Jariwala is lovely. Yashpal Sharma has his moments. Mukesh Tiwari, Chetan Pandit, Saurabh Shukla, Vinay Apte, Anita Kanwal, S.M. Zaheer, Aanchal Munjal and the others provide the desired support.
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