They spend hours just lazing around at the corner of the street, unfazed by the scorching heat, and oblivious to the snide remarks about their idleness. Every now and then they go and haggle with the roadside ‘paanwallah’ for a cigarette or two. Sometimes they make do with ‘beedis’ to go along the cups of teas they manage to drain into their vacuous selves. Every few minutes they spot a lady going to or coming back from work. Their eyes follow the lady till she gets so far away that their eyes start to water from the strain of straining. The daily news is just an excuse to vent their frustrations- on the Government, on the system, on the society, on themselves. When someone tells them to look for a job, they ignore that someone, they ignore their inner voice, and they ignore the possibilities. Every other day they pick up menial fights with other idle ‘dadas’ of the other streets of their parts of the world. Come the ‘Ganpati’, come any festival- they are the ones who make the most noise- they are the ones who dance with the most gusto…
They are the four protagonists of Ankush, an award winning movie by N Chandra (who later made films like Style and Excuse Me). OR they can even be someone you know. In fact they are the same as thousands of unemployed youth who start their days without having any clue about what they are going to do in the next twelve hours of the day- before they go to sleep again late in the night. In the movie these four are tacitly led by Ravi (Nana Patekar in a characteristic hard hitting avatar).
The story is set in a Mumbai ‘Chawl’ and takes a realistic look at how people with minimum means lead their lives in the busy city that Mumbai is. On the surface they all are busy in their own worlds. But in reality their lives are interconnected and from their hearts they all care for each other. The movie starts with ‘Ganpati visarjan’- one of the biggest days in the year for a ‘Mumbaikar’. And that proves to be a good omen as the movie grows from strength to strength in the scenes to follow. The screenplay for the first thirty or so minutes paints a snapshot of the lives of the four, and sets up the characters and the mood wonderfully. Things take a turn with a young lady and her grandmother coming to live in the ‘chawl’. The movie then basically looks at how these two women change the perspectives of the four idle men and instill a sense of purpose in their lives. Towards the end the movie takes a rather dramatic and tragic turn, and culminates with a thought provoking commentary on the system of justice in India.
“Itni Shakti Humein dena data- mann ka vishwaas kamzor ho naa’
This is one prayer (‘prarthna’) that we all are familiar with. It plays a crucial role in bringing about the transformation in the lives of the four. In the movie it creates a stunning impact, and even I as a viewer was really moved by it. There was one more song in the beginning of the movie which celebrated the wastefulness of the four young men.
The performances are good from everyone. Nana Patekar won the national award for his portrayal of the anguished Ravi. The rest of the cast has no other known names. But more than the performances it is the brilliant dialogues and screenplay by N Chandra that shines through. To conclude- this is very relevant movie from the 1980s when unemployment was rampant in urban cities and lacs of youngsters were wasting away their lives. Even today its relevance has not diminished, although there have been some drastic changes in society. It deserves to be seen by people who like realistic cinema- as it paints a very accurate picture of the society in the 1980s.