Article 15 isn’t just a movie, it’s a protest. Not the in-your-face kind of jingoistic protest; but one that’s symbolic enough to prod our visceral fear of change, and bold enough to question our inherent apathy towards the status quo, which still remains unyielding in many ways. The two songs played at the beginning of the film (‘How many roads’ by Bob Dylan, and the folk song by the Dalits) are seminal in capturing this sentiment.
The story begins with a glimpse of the gruesome crime, which later unfolds little by little, sucking each character in its web. Ayushmann Khurrana plays a London-return IPS officer, whose posting at Laal Gaon reveals to him a side of India that still resides in the dark ages. As he investigates the case of three missing girls, two of whom are murdered and hung from a tree; he finds himself grappling with the deep-rooted casteism that permeates every level of societal existence in Laal Gaon. As he trudges through a complex mire of lies, corruption, and deceit to find the truth, he becomes aware of the primaeval mindset that is still dominant in many parts of our country.
Khurrana packs a punch as IPS officer, Ayan Ranjan. He puts forth a gutsy performance, restrained and still powerful enough to make us root for him. He is definitely emerging as one of the most dependable actors of this generation.
The supporting cast is just as adept. Each and every character shines through, whether it’s Isha Talwar’s Aditi, Zeeshan Ayub’s Nishad, or Sayani Gupta’s Gaura. Manoj Pahwa, who plays the disingenuous Brahmdutt, is absolutely spellbinding. His constant forewarnings to Ayan, telling him not to disturb the delicate ‘balance’ that holds the social hierarchy together, depicts how ignorant and prejudiced we still are in the 21st century. Kumud Mishra as Jatav also deserves special mention. He plays a lower caste constable who is initially apprehensive to go against his upper caste colleagues, but later turns out to be a crusader in his own right.
As a directorial venture, this is probably one of Anubhav Sinha’s finest. He maintains a judicious tone throughout the film – one that never gets uncomfortably preachy, but still manages to make a gut-wrenching impact on the viewers. For instance, the scene where a low-caste villager drinks water falling from a jug because he dare not drink from a glass before an upper caste member; or the scene where a worker comes out of the manhole, covered in filth, brilliantly showcase the division and hypocrisy in our society without a word.
The scene where Ayan puts up a copy of Article 15 on the noticeboard of his office, makes viewers swell up with emotion. There are also several subtle moments in the movie that effectively showcase the ideas that are entrenched in our minds since ages. For instance, the scene where Jatav forbids Ayan from eating from his plate and offers to get a new one because he belongs to a lower caste. Then, the scene where each of Ayan’s colleagues mentions their caste; and in turn, their place in the social pecking order.
Some of the dialogues remain in our minds even after the film ends. Case in point – when Ayan’s girlfriend, Aditi tells him that not heroes, but such people are needed who don’t wait for a hero. Also, the conversation between Ayan and the CBI officer (Naseer) where the former informs him that the three girls were raped and murdered because they demanded a meagre three rupee-raise in their income.
The cinematography is top notch. Ewan Mulligan does a splendid job of capturing the grim and murky hinterlands of UP. Every shot looks picturesque – even the ones that are meant to unsettle the viewers. The background score, just like the direction, is absolutely spot on. It matches the rhythm and pace of the film, building up the tension gradually and stealthily.
In all, this movie is a must-watch. A reality-check, especially for urbanized, ‘educated’ people like us, who live in our own glass bubble, choosing not to see what doesn’t affect us.
Review written by Amrita the winner of this week’s #YourReviewOnFC contest