Film: Article 15 Director: Anubhav Sinha Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kumud Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, M Nasser, Isha Talwar Rating: ***** (4.5/5)
Article 15 is about marginalized communities which serves as an education for Ayan whose liberal background combined with caste privilege at birth has allowed him the luxury – a luxury life does not grant Dalits – of growing up ignorant of caste.
The film is set in a village called Lalgaon in Uttar Pradesh where the IPS officer Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) is posted. Despite his good intentions, he finds himself initially at sea here because of his skeletal understanding of the caste system. In the opening scene of the film, we first see a motley group of the unwashed masses, the children of the lesser God singing a ditty.
This inter cuts with Ayan ensconced comfortably in a car with the signature Laal Batti hurtling across the new highways crisscrossing the countryside. He is on the phone with his wife exchanging messages about the unpolluted air. As Ayan settles in, he soon realizes that everything is not as it seems. Early on in the film, he gets introduced to small town rules of engagement with the caste system.
We see him being advised against buying water from a shop as the shopkeeper belongs to a certain caste. His subordinates especially Brahmadutt (Manoj Pahwa) go to great lengths to not get him too involved in local matters, lest it disrupts the status-quo or the existing arrangement.
As the police officer in command, Ayan is committed to getting to the bottom of this, refusing to buckle down despite obstacles and threats lurking in almost every corner. The images, some provocative and uncomfortable stand out, like the one where a man goes deep into a drain to unclog it and emerges soaked in the filth or the top shot of a group of policemen conducting a search in a swamp with their torch lights. The dialogues leave an impact. And the director brings out subtle nuances through his characters and setting which add to the essence of the narrative.
No doubt Anubhav Sinha, masterfully builds up the suspense, inter cutting scenes that point to the fact that something is about to open the floodgates to reality. Nishad and Gaura risk everything to battle injustice. Alongside them exist silent sufferers too as does the very believable Jatav who plays along with existing practices for his survival. And when the motivation for the rape and murder of young Shanu and Mamta is revealed, we learn that they were not “bechari abla naaris“ of Old Bollywood but brave fighters for Dalit rights and martyrs to their cause.
Overall I can say “Article 15” truly is a film that questions our constitution and promises right to equality but is rarely ever put into practice in this country. Indeed it is not a conventional film but more compelling, relevant mirror of Modern India.