By Satyen K. Bordoloi
Film: Aakrosh; Starring: Ajay Devgn, Akshaye Khanna, Paresh Rawal, Bipasha Basu; Directed by: Priyadarshan; Rating: ***1/2
Caste based atrocity is one of the worst, chronic and a few millennia old injustice of the world. Yet its continuing prevalence, especially in India, is one of its best kept open-secrets. India's vibrant cinema has paid scant attention to it. The commercial venture "Aakrosh" comes as a late but welcome populist attempt to correct this gross neglect.
After three Delhi medical students disappear from a village in Bihar, two CBI officials Sidhant (Akshaye Khanna) and Pratap (Ajay Devgn) are sent for investigation. They encounter not just an inefficient police, but an openly antagonistic one. Their attempts to uncover the truth lays bare a Pandora's box of corruption, illicit power-play, ruthless casteism and murders and abductions to maintain the status quo.
When all official means fail to bring the guilty to book, the two committed men are left with no course but to resort to every alternate means possible to deliver justice in a failed state.
"Aakrosh" is loud and sometimes crass in typical Bollywood fashion and, as they say, its fiction. What it is not - is a lie. In its own way, it lays bare the power structures that obstruct justice and thus the true growth of India, all because of the corrupt collusion of the police, bureaucracy and politics that uphold age old casteism. The film thus uses a lie to tell the ugly truth of our society.
"Aakrosh" is also rife with analogies. The Batman and Robin team of Sidhant and Pratap is a team of an upper-class Brahmin and a lower-caste Dalit fighting for the same cause but in their own ways. When the straightforward methods of the no-nonsense Brahmin fails, they have to resort to the street-smart ways of the Dalit to bring the guilty to book. This is perhaps a message to the subjugated masses of the country that justice has to be delivered at any cost, and it is the oppressed that have to use any means available to do so.
There are factual inconsistencies, like the brazen manner in which the local police insubordinates a CBI inquiry.
Akshaye Khanna is unconvincing while Ajay Devgn is believable as the quiet but angry ex-army major who has suffered the consequences of being a Dalit. Paresh Rawal, the master-key like actor who slides into any role, plays a slimy but smiling police officer with aplomb and epitomizes the rarely acknowledged truth, that in rural areas the police is not part of the solution, but is often the main problem.
Robin Bhatt and Akash Khurana's writing is crisp and direct. They spare the audience needless preaching, thus giving the message that it is time for some action and justice instead.
Sometimes you have to like a film just because its heart is in the right place, and because it dares to say something few have said before. "Aakrosh" is one such convincing film whose demerits are swept under the carpet of its boldness.
Of course, even a commercial venture like this cannot correct a few thousand years of injustice. But at least it can hold a mirror to the disgust in our society. Thankfully, if not gracefully enough, Aakrosh holds a correct and sturdy mirror.