Sunday, November 6, 2011
Angst. Anger, Aggression… Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh (1980) is a dark and disturbing film set in the heartlands of our country where there is little regard for law and order and the men in power have all the powers of the world in the true sense. Based on true events, Aakrosh tells the story Bhiku (Om Puri in one of the most acclaimed roles of his career) who is accused of killing his own wife (played by Smita Patil), and how he remains silent-suppressing his cry of outrage due to his distrust and disbelief in the system.
This helpless and defenseless peasant, who refuses to tell his side of the story to the lawyer who has been appointed for his defense, is an enigma for the people around him as he literally stays mute all the time. The Lawyer Bhaskar Kulkarni (Naseeruddin Shah in a remarkably restrained and uncharacteristically powerless role) is utterly disappointed by his client’s lack of support (read speech), and in an attempt to salvage some pride in his first case, makes some investigations on his own. In the court, his professional adversary is his real life mentor- Public Prosecutor Dushane (played by Amrish Puri).
Before I go on about my mumblings on the movie I have an interesting observation to make. The basic plot of this movie is replicated in Puneet Issar’s Salman Khan Starrer Garv (2004). Despite having the same thread throughout the movie- one cannot have two more diametrically different movies. While Aakrosh is given a really realistic texture- Garv is full on front-bencher pleasing commercial cinema with a hero at the helm of the affairs. Needless to say, in Aakrosh there is no hero.Also while Garv doesn't let the evil prevail over the good in the end, Aakrosh does not fall in any such trappings and takes a realistic look at story.
Aakrosh has a narrative that does not flow unrestrained. It is multilayered and has many political and social points to make- which it does by giving due importance and care to each and every scene. The story is told from the eyes of the young advocate Bhaskar. It is his fears, his apprehensions, and his persistent efforts at knowing the truth that bring out the tension in the plot. Bhaskar Kulkarni represents the educated and grounded youth of the country, fresh out of their studies, and having very little idea of the malice in the society. He makes his efforts not in an attempt to save Bhiku, but because he considers it his moral responsibility being the lawyer assigned the case. He never gives up, despite facing resistance from not only his detractors, but also from the people he tries to defend (Bhiku and his family).
Although Amrish Puri’s character is not very important to the central plot, his Dushane is very important to the points that Govind Nihalani intends to make with the movie. Dushane is respectable man in the society who, despite being from the lower caste, has managed to gain acceptance from the people around him, by the very strength of his professional achievements and legal acumen. He is also an impassive observer to the whole dirty politics that is being played out in the village. On his level of involvement in the swamp, the director remains non-committal. However he is shown to be a regular at the get-togethers of all the powerful people of the village (who are also the villains in the plot- to use the conventional lingo). Also, Dushane is the only source of comfort and also a confidante to the young Bhaskar who lives alone in the village infested with criminal elements. All this lends him a very ambiguous position, which Amrish Puri justifies very well with his polished portrayal of the character.
The director shows no hurry and treats the story with a touch that is reminiscent of his mentor Shyam Benegal’s cinema. It is the harsh reality- take it or leave it. There are no efforts to please on set of people over the other. I guess such movies aren’t banned by the authorities as they know hardly anyone would watch them. There are many powerful scenes that stay with you once you are done watching the movie, but none is more stark than the climax scene when Bhiku finally abandons his silence with a heart-wrenching cry of outrage. His savage act which precedes this cry makes a very pessimistic statement (which is unfortunate), but it manages to put across the point that the director is trying to make effectively.
Parting Note: Aakrosh is a dark, disturbing, and hard to watch (despite it being really well made) mainly because of its serious content. For people who like their cinema all grim and true to life (that too the dark side of life), this is a mandatory viewing.