ARTICLE 15: a fundamental reflection

How many roads must a man walk down? Before you call him a man?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist? Before they’re allowed to be free?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Though India gained its Independence in 1947 and the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950, India isn’t free from the shackles of caste, creed, religion and gender discrimination. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, one of the architects of the Constitution stated: “We’re Indians, firstly and lastly.” but unfortunately, down the years of progressive development, India is drifting backward when it comes to implementation of Article 15. Article 15 (1), (2) in the Constitution states no person will be discriminated based on his or her religion, caste, race, sex or place of birth. We’ve been inherited the quality of discrimination rooted deep down in our society and generations, Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 unflinchingly punches with a fundamental reflection. There’s a lot of oppression and atrocity inflicted upon lower caste, writers Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki vent out anger in a fundamental and radical manner through a taut investigative thriller.

Article 15 follows a Police investigation undertaken by IPS Officer Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) after three teenage girls go missing from a small village. Anubhav Sinha blowing winds of socio-political outlook with Mulk (2018) and now with Article 15 stands as a reflection of society, there’s no solution or redemption – instead, the actions will provoke a chain of thoughts pounding over as one steps beyond the dark abyss of multiplexes. Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind plays over Ayan’s introduction, an outsider whose privileged outlook at the caste system is ideal. Writers Sinha and Gaurav Solanki pen a layered Screenplay with subplots unraveling and “unmessing” (Ayan’s existential word) the intricacies of the age-old caste system. In the socio-political context of India, it’s a much-needed film which wrenches the gut and hits the conscience of Indians by making it aware of atrocities based on caste and religion – just a mere scroll down the latest news will lead towards “chants in the name of God”. With impactful dialogues for instance, “Hum Kabhi Harijan Ho Jate Hai, Kabhi Bahujan Ho Jate Hai. Bas Jan Nahi Ban Paa Rahe | We’re sometimes Untouchables and sometimes Scheduled Caste. But we’re never counted as ordinary citizens.” – Article 15 leaves a long-lasting impression questioning fundamental morality, equality and integrity. There’s black humor which inflicts an acute pain owing to contemporary situation and norms, it’s the beginning…

To stimulate interest in its symbolism, Article 15 has a subtle connotation with the four pillars of the democracy: Legislative, Judiciary, Executive, Media. Let’s consider Ayan as Judiciary, an important pillar of democracy which keeps a check on law and order ensuring fundamental rights of the citizens are not curtailed. Two girls, who died at the hands of corrupt minds stand for Legislative and Media which are people’s representatives functioning to make laws keeping public welfare in mind and ensures awareness with transparency, respectively. Article 15 collaborates by becoming the Executive which implements the laws formed by Legislative with Ayan’s character standing as Judiciary – his actions lead towards justice. While it may sound too vague and surface nitpicking, Judiciary is the only glimmer of hope for the lawful implementation of Article 15 since the other three pillars are apparently being “sold”. Article 15 disguises as an element of Media, in plain and simple verbose as well as coherent cinematic language by making the audience aware through transparent or rather, radical manner.

Article 15 isn’t just a socio-political vehicle, public service announcement or propaganda against any Government. Ironically, it has been shot in the State with major atrocities with even one of the controversial politicians being thanked in the opening credits. Anubhav Sinha’s impactful and hard-hitting venture heavily relies on its atmospherics, making sure one is drenched into the desaturated societal norms. Cinematographer Ewan Mulligan captivates the palpable tension through grim and gloomy color palette evocating perturbation of the cause. In a peculiar shot, the light bars of Police vehicles instantly denote the chaos caused by the caste system – the equilibrium is at stake. Anubhav Sinha sensitively handles the equilibrium of the ecosystem based on the Constitution, the essence lies within character development and setting. Background Score by Mangesh Dhadke gradually builds in tension while razor-sharp editing by Yasha Ramchandani contributes towards edge-of-the-seat factor. In the end, Article 15 opens the debate with it’s optimistic yet thought-provoking climax.

Ayushmann Khurrana delivers a riveting performance, his boiling vengeance against the oppression instantly resonates through the empathetic body language. As Ayan, he internalizes the undercurrents of his thought-provoking actions; much on the lines of how Ranveer Singh shaped (and internalized) Murad from Gully Boy (2019). Article 15 lies on the effective and efficient shoulders of its ensemble cast which remarkably includes the flawless Sayani Gupta as Dalit woman delivering a standout performance. Manoj Pahwa and Kumud Mishra, the two portray the opposite ends of the social spectrum deliver compelling performances. It was a relief to witness Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub playing an elegant character role after his stints as a sidekick (Tubelight, Thugs of Hindostan, Zero).

Article 15 is an important film in the realms of mainstream Bollywood commenting on caste (which never castaways). Throughout the film, a question constantly hovered on why can’t Bollywood ever produce something like Pariyerum Perumal? Nevertheless, the tone and impact of Article 15 is more than enough for consumption beyond mere entertainment. Bob Dylan’s befitting lyrics are suggestive, “Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head. And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Language: Hindi
Release: 28 June, 2019

Copyright ©2019 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.


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