Amid the loud din and clamour crated by various political outfits over the release of ‘Aarakshan,’ Prakash Jha’s magnum opus tangentially touches upon the contentious issue of caste based reservation, leave aside confronting the hot potato.
Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpayee, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Prateik Babbar in seminal roles, ‘Aarakshan’ is the story of Dr. Prabhakar Anand, an upright principal in one of the prestigious colleges of India (Amitabh Bachchan) and his dilemma when he is torn between his Dalit protégé Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) and upper class student Sushant Seth (Prateik Babbar) while fighting the spawns of commercialized education system in the guise of vice-principle Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who believes in commoditification of education.
Going by the storm kicked by the film prior to its release, one expected an intense drama as it takes on the most controversial issue of the Indian society. Alas, ‘Aarakshan,’ which stars off brilliantly loses its steam midway like a storm tossed ship. Jha, who is known for its hard-hitting brand of realism, suddenly seems to be playing to the gallery as ‘Aarakshan’ fails to hit the nail on its head. The film gives no final answer to the sensitive issue of reservation. Despite all the theatricals, ‘Aarakshan’ leaves you high and dry. Instead, the film focuses more on the rampant privatisation and commercialisation of education instead of dealing with the after-effects of caste based reservation in education and jobs. This takes the whole steam out of the film, as its charts into new territory rather the one it initially embarked upon.
In fact, ‘Aarakshan’ could have been more upfront had it dealt with imminent issues ailing the Indian education system. It could have been grittier.
A word on acting, Amitabh Bachchan looks towering figure as an idealistic principle, Saif and Deepika look quite convincing and Manoj Bajpayee looks every bit Machiavellian. Even though the film has its own flaws, ‘Aarakshan’ manages to send across its message, albeit without a denouement.
Ratings: Three cheers for this one!