Kabhi Hum Harijan ho jaate hain…Kabhi hum bahujan ho jaate hain…
Bas kabhi jan nahi ban paye, jisse Jan Gan Man main hamari bhi ginti ho…
A wishful revolutionary played by the mercurial Mohd Zeeshan Ayub sums up the plight of the untouchables, the last broken rung of the caste system, in our country. Stats say that 70% of the population of India constitutes of the people, who are labeled as scheduled caste, tribes and other backward castes who are trampled by the rest 30% of the so-called upper caste people. For them, article 15 of the Indian Constitution is a mere written passage which claims that a nation or its citizens cannot distinguish fellow citizens on the basis of caste, color or creed. For them, the basic fundamental rights are a luxury to have. Director Anubhav Sinha, through his movie ‘Article 15’ uses the infamous 2014 Badaun rape case as his background to highlight the existential crisis of the ‘Others’ who remain invisible to us, in plain sight.
A young and dynamic IPS officer Ayan Ranjan enters into the UP badlands with the tune of the Bob Dylan classic ‘Blowin’ in the wind’. As he asks his driver to fetch a bottle of water from a nearby village, the driver respectfully refuses, citing the village being infested with lower caste people. The answer is indeed blowing in the wind. It remains to be seen when Ayan can actually feel it. And he does see it, as he gets to the murkier depths of the suicide of two minor girls, of which his fellow officers and colleagues are eager to dismiss as an open-and-shut case. Beneath the death of two girls, a closet of old skeletons tumbles down, which reeks of casteism, racism, and denial of the fundamental rights.
Director Anubhav Sinha, the man behind the critically acclaimed ‘Mulk’ weaves his story, along with fellow writer Gaurav Solanki to let the viewers know that under the shining, fast food eating, living-in-the-time-of-their-lives Indians, lies another India where some innocents only exist to get oppressed by the group who calls themselves the majority. He gets to his point pretty quickly as the lens of cinematographer Ewan Mulligan focuses on a police station, where despite being the keepers of the law and order, the cops themselves identify on the basis of their castes. The protagonist Ayan, a man who from his rose-tinted glass of righteousness aims to get rid of the societal scums is flabbergasted at his force of officers, who time and again, pleading him not to destroy the centuries-old equilibrium of their society. For them, he’s an outsider who will probably leave or be suspended on the account of his actions. But they’ll be paying with their lives, for tearing apart the prevalent social fabric.
Director Anubhav Sinha gets a terrific ensemble cast for ‘Article 15’. Kumud Mishra plays Jatav, a lower caste cop, Manoj Pahwa adds another feather in his hat as he plays the dubious cop Brahmadutt who believes in maintaining the equilibrium. Sayani Gupta is fabulous as Goura. Not many dialogues but her forte remain her eyes with which she expresses her anguish. Sushil Pandey as Nihal Singh has an interesting character arc. Subhrajyoti Bharat as Chandrabhan, the driver leads the film as the narrator who keeps telling stories from the past, which in a way, matches with the present state of affairs. Ashish Verma plays Mayank, the PA to Ayan, who feels that the change is in the air. Ayushmaan Khurrana, who seems to have a knack for uncanny and unconventional scripts, underplays his character of IPS officer Ayan Ranjan, whose idea of justice and fairness take a back step with the crumbling law and order of the state. His scenes, especially with the CBI officer Panicker, played by the fabulous M Nassar is something to watch out for.
Sharing its ideological roots with the Gene Hackman starrer ‘Mississippi Burning’, director Anubhav Sinha’s ‘Article 15’ is an important film for the times we are living in. A must watch!
The Cinemawala Rating: 3.5/5