In pursuit of modernization and development, the Indian Government passed many bills. Among the most debated and relevant was the one that allocated higher reservations for backward castes and tribes for admission into colleges. Jha's take on the Aarakshan scenario deals with the fundamental gain for backward classes, the challenges for the rest of society, the impact on the educational system and the dilemma for an idealist principal of a renowned college in choosing sides. You are either for Aarakshan, or you are against it.
The idealist Principal behind the most renowned college, Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) has established order with strict codes that nurture students through dedicated professors while maintaining high disciplinary standards. Eager minutes pass by till we witness the typical intensity of a Prakash Jha film when the Supreme Court declares the higher reservation standards for backward castes in educational institutions. Clear lines are drawn between those who support it and those who see it as a threat to the system. The principal's apprentice, Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan), is a dalit, who takes a stand to speak out against those who humiliate backward castes over the subject of Aarakshan. Confronted by Professor Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai) and his own friend Sushant (Prateik Babbar), Deepak finds few supporters who see his viewpoint. He parts ways with his girlfriend Poorvi (Deepika Padukone) and his Principal to seek other opportunities.
This is the point where Jha's Aarakshan deviates from the subject and takes an altogether new course; that of commercial coaching classes that adversely affect the conventional education system.
Much of the story thereafter revolves around Prabhakar Anand's fight to survival against Mithilesh Singh's coaching academy through free communal teaching. The criticality of Aarakshan as the subject is now on the back-burner and through much of the film's second half, it's the battle between the two educational spheres and their mentors.
The film's strongest points remain with the subject of Aarakshan itself. The confrontations involving Saif Khan, Manoj Bajpai and Amitabh Bachchan are not only intense but thought provoking as well. This is when the three actors emerge in their best forms with realistic arguments and stand-points over the topic.
As Prabhakar Anand dedicates long hours to his free tutoring sessions, we begin to understand the relevance of supportive education and its wicked sister, the commercialized coaching classes. The theme promoted in the previews is 'India v/s India' but the two sides here are those who support Prabhakar Anand and those who support Mithilesh Singh. The controversial quotas are already forgotten....
Deepika Padukone is a complete waste if she isn't dancing to Dum Maaro Dum. She simply cannot act. Year after year of good opportunities have yet to unravel an actress in her but we might never see that come true. Prateik Babbar's future looks grey.... his voice might just be his bane apart from the look of helplessness that's his trademark. Saif Ali Khan has done a very good job in a shorter than expected role but that's because Manoj Bajpai and Amitabh Bachchan fight it out through most of the second half of the film themselves. Bajpai has truly enjoyed playing the negative character which he does so exceedingly well. Amitabh Bachchan carries the burden of a weak screenplay upon his shoulders and provides the sincerity, determination and patience that we see in Prabhakar Anand's character.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music is forgettable with just 'Achcha lagta hai' and 'Roshni' being the top picks in the album. The dialogues are nowhere near the standards set in 'Raajneeti' but they do stir emotions during the confrontational scenes. Background music, art direction and cinematography seem a little below par for a Prakash Jha film but what you do take back, are the performances.
Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpai and Saif Ali Khan make this film watchable. After 'Gangajal', 'Apaharan' and 'Raajneeti', Prakash Jha's take on reservations promoting social equality leaves more to be desired. Aarakshan doesn't take sides, doesn't indulge in portraying the fallacies or benefits of the reservation system, nor does it provide a pragmatic alternative. One cannot spend 20 hours a day in providing free tutoring when they have a household to take care of. It is a desirable idea but far too unreal and too good to be practical.
There is a lingering disbelief of Aarakshan being a true Prakash Jha film. It tries to be one, but the inconsistencies and deviations spur whatever disappointment one might experience or perhaps, the bar was set too high the last time we witnessed a political gameplay.
7.761 on a scale of 1-10.
I tell you in a nut-shell, what happens in this movie :- A Honest and Idealistic Professor and a University Principal (Amitabh Bachhan) Anand's Life turns Problematic when he comments on the new Law actioned by the Supreme Court on the reservations of Backward Class in India for Government Colleges. His job and home are replaced by a Notorious Professor (Manoj Bajpai) Mithilesh who even steals the home of the that Principal and starts a coaching Institute there.
Anand believing in the true meaning of Education, starts teaching in the Cow-Shelter just Opposite to the Coaching Centre of Mithilesh. This Cow-Home-Tutor gets Famed as time passes due to the honest Efforts of Anand and his Collegues unlike Mithilesh's Center, this sets Mithilesh on fire, forcing him to use his connections to bring down Anand's Tutor. Finally the movie ends with Anand's Ex - lover (Hema Malini) who is some Superior Government Person, setting all matters. Mercy Mithilesh is not shown arrested or beaten or being killed.
And when The movie Ends you feel that the Movie was not on the subject of 'Reservations in India' , But on the Education Pattern in India, which also it fails to show clearly.
I think it would have been better if the movie was made and titled on the Character of Amitabh Bachhan. It would be a nice Fictional Biopic on the life of a Teacher named Prabhakar Anand. But since it isn't so, what it is, is that a same old BHELPURI of Genre's has been presented, with the ingredients churned Unevenly by Prakash Jha.
Of the Performances, Saif Ali Khan and Manoj Bajpayee maintain their acting in 3 or 4 scenes, Amitabh Bachhan Of course only needs his bold Eyes and Heavy Voice to do the Job, the most upset one was Prateik Babbar - which I felt was reciting a school play and not speaking for a movie. And Also, watching Rajeev Verma and Sourabh Sukla, I felt watching a Bollywood movie form 80s and 90s.
The only one person, who looks great while delivering her Dialogues is Tanvi Azmi, as the wife of Anand, though she has very less attention among the crowded starcast, she still meets the standards.
Aarakshan mercilessly exploits prejudices against SC/ST/OBC (depressed classes) for commercial benefits. The film crew maintained false notion that it is about reservation & misguided society into a debate which is not there & created panic. Rather it deals with conflict among privileged caste Khatriya, Viashya & Brhamin. Such exploitation is irresponsible from the part of filmmaker, producer & film's unit.
I have never seen such a movie where 600 million depressed class has been made fun of. And trying to reviving only Aryan civilization. What was the purpose of personifying Seila Dixit as CM Shakuntala Dixit in the end as philanthropic. Are we poor then her? Everyone knows that she is a Brhamin and involved in Commonwealth scam. Why there are so many Brhamin teachers in the class? Is this movie from 1930 or tries to create 1930?
Film's director Prakash Jha and Amitabh continued saying that SC/ST/OBC should not shy away from debate on reservation or caste problem. But seeing the film, it is as if they are the one who used poor people's emotion to earn money. The movie sidelines SC/ST/OBC and enters in the Mhabharathaa (epic war) of Aryans (privileged caste Hindus with three castes Brhamin, Kshatriya and Vaishya). So there is no debate in the film on caste issue but inter-clan debate of Aryans, between Brhamins versus Vishyas of Gandhi versus Hindu Parishad (Hindu Organization). And thereby dilutes the presence of depressed classes in movie too as there in reality. Indian government should ban this in the favor of the nation.
Anyway... we remained untouchable in the film. Thank you Prakash Jha for telling whole India about caestist mind of Bollywood.
Hum ko chhoro hume to hazaron saalon se aise rehne ki addat padi hai. At least he could thought of our nation and its reputation. Aaaj duniyaa thook rahi hai hum par in paison ke laalchiyon ki wajah se.