Key Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpai
Plot Summary: Amitabh Bachchan plays the anchor role of the legendary college professor who single-handedly grows and runs a privately-run institution. His values of sincerity, honesty and giving equitable opportunities to deserving students from all sections of society land him in a situation where he is caught in the midst of a society torn apart by the issue of reservation. Set in the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgement affirming 27% of reservations in favour of OBCs (Other Backward Castes), the movie tells the story of a few lives, their interactions and the solution of a people’s conflict.
REVIEW: There are 3 things that stand out about the movie. Firstly, iconic performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Manoj Bajpai. In fact, one thing I have observed and appreciated throughout is Manoj Bajpai’s uncanny ability to pull of a negative role with immense finesse. If you remember the movie “Aks” you would love how one would get repelled everytime he got onto the screen. I see milder shades of that negative streak in his portrayal of the character o the corrupt educationist ‘Mithilesh Singh’ in Aarakshan.
The second thing that stands out about the movie is Prakash Jha’s signature style and approach to bringing out an issue into the open. He does it in a way that touches the masses and forces one to think about it and have an opinion. After all, how many Indians can avoid taking a stand on ‘Reservations’, if they see a figure as recognized as Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of the confused protagonist who, despite his sincerest efforts, is literally shunned by society for taking a stand and sticking to it.
TRUE STORY: Incidentally, a part of the movie is based on a real-life story of mathematician Anand Kumar who started ‘Super 30’ in Patna, Bihar. Anand Kumar, thanks to his deep love for mathematics, started a ‘Super 30’ coaching class in 2002 – where he would admit 30 students every year from economically backward families and train them to clear the IIT-JEE. THe first year (2003) saw 18 out of the 30 students gain entry into the IITs, but the team struck gold for 2 years in a row from 2008, 2009 and 2010 when 30 out of 30 made it into the IITs. Of course, the icing on the cake is that these classes are offered FREE of cost to the 30 selected students.
The institute has received praise from all quarters. United States President Barack Obama’s special envoy Rashad Hussain termed it the “best” institute in the country.. Newsweek Magazine has taken note of the initiative of mathematician Anand Kumar’s Super 30 and included his school in the list of four most innovative schools in the world.
My third and final observation is that in typical Prakash Jha style, the movie is centred around the ‘Hindi heartland’ of the country. Most of his movies – Gangaajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti and (now!) Aarakshan are based in the central states of Uttar Pradesh & Bihar. Aarakshan is shot entirely in Bhopal. In fact, one thing that strikes you about the movie is the way the song-and-dance sequences blend seamlessly with the movie.
I will end the review with the song “Mauka Toh De Do” – ‘Ek channas toh de de meri jaan tu, phir udaan dekhna.’ It forceully drives home the point in a very ‘grasroot’ kind o a way – just as it is. On the ground. Hats off Jha-ji – We need more like you to open our eyes and think more deeply about the issues that surround us. The video follows..