Article 15 review: Tender sores of caste-divide revealed in Ayushmann film, Zeeshan deserves real praise

After the misogynist, regressive yet a hit ‘Kabir Singh’, comes a probing and disturbing film about present caste discrimination and ironic double standards about democracy and equality, Article 15

Article 15 Film Poster (Social Media)
Article 15 Film Poster (Social Media)

Pragati Saxena

Let’s first appreciate the fact that the CBFC has been kind enough to release this film without much ado. Now we come to the surprising and contradictory trend in Hindi commercial cinema. After the misogynist regressive yet a hit on box office Kabir Singh, comes a meaningful, probing and disturbing film about the present caste discrimination and ironic double standards about democracy and equality, Article 15.

As a filmmaker, Anubhav Sinha shows remarkable growth from his previous film Mulk, which, though was discussed a lot and did well on the box office was more verbose than anything else.

Article 15 is different. Everything is in undertones. It's visually very effective. The harrowing visual of the two girls hanging from a tree and a ladder which the police have kept to bring the bodies down haunts you long after the film is over.

In a desolate village somewhere in North India, the way the director establishes the caste equations with just visuals of the village. The swamp, wheat fields, smoke and mist engulfing the ominous landscape is not only moving, but it also makes you realise that the situation has not changed much since independence.

As is very typical of the director, the story unfolds slowly. But this time, it doesn’t bore you, it instead ensnares you in its grip so much so that by the end of it, you start feeling suffocated with the environment of the film. But well, isn’t this what a certain section of our society feels on a daily basis, a section so marginalised it could be compared to non living things, as if it doesn’t exist for us.

Article 15 starts as if it will be an interesting thriller, which it is, but with very strong political undertones. IPS officer Ayan Ranjan, Ayushmann Khurrana comes to his new posting in a village where three Dalit girls are missing. Two of them are found hanging on a tree the next day and the third girl is still missing. The police officer’s quest to find this girl unfolds an eerie tale of casteism, exploitation, and politics all intertwined together in an intricate jumble that our society has become.

There are apparent references to the Dalit and upper-caste politics. but more than the political references, what horrifies most you is the discrimination and repression so deep-rooted in our minds that we have started considering it our culture. The dialogues are not loud, they are succinct. In fact the film makes abundant and effective use of silences.

Ayushmann Khurrana has been impressive in almost all the films he has done whether they were box office hits or not. But till now, his films were more focused on the social topics. This one has stronger political overtones. His restrained acting makes his character impactful. Nowhere does he sound like a typical Bollywood hero rebelling against the establishment. Instead, he looks like a person who is caught between his urban and rich upbringing and the reality he comes face to face with.

But the actor who needs more than just a mention and who has still not got the role he deserves is Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub. He has a cameo as a young popular Dalit leader, but his small scene where he yearns to have a normal life is the most powerful scene of the film.

In a nutshell, if you are intelligent enough to feel that something was grossly wrong with Kabir Singh, you should definitely watch Article 15. And even if you couldn’t, you should not miss Article 15, simply because it reveals the raw reality of our society before our eyes, no matter how hard we try to escape from it.

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