Ayushmann’s winning presence backs a story that must be told and discussed- Vijayalakshmi Narayanan
The latest Ayushmann Khurrana starrer restores the sanity at our movies that has been amiss for a while in 2019. Fresh off the success of his last venture, ‘Mulk’, director Anubhav Sinha offers a scathing critique on the Indian society that has been plagued with the redundant system of caste-based prejudices. For those who do not know, Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination of Indians on basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Set in Lalgaon, Uttar Pradesh, ‘Article 15’ begins with the transfer of IPS officer Ayan Ranjan (Khurrana) from New Delhi to a remote village that is sitting on a ticking time bomb. Three young girls have gone missing after reporting absent from their day job, following their request for a hike of Rs.3 in their daily wages being denied. Two days later, two of the girls are found dead, hanging from a tree while there are no clues about the whereabouts of the third girl. Ayan finds himself in the midst of a botched up investigation where his subordinates have failed to act upon official complaints, dissing them on the pretext of phoney cases being filed. Ayan confronts Gaura (Sayani Gupta), the sister of the missing third girl, who confronts him about the chain of events. Ayan has two challenges at hand. One, to seek justice and the other, to fix the ‘imbalance’ amongst his peers. Infact, his immediate subordinate Bhram Dutt (Manoj Pahwa) insists that the murder of the two girls was an act of honour killing as they indulged in a same-sex relationship. He even coerces the local doctor Malti Ram (Ronjini Chakraborty) to fake an inaccurate post-mortem report. Will Ayan’s quest see the light of the day? And what are the repercussions on the society at large, following a crime of such nature?
Written by Sinha and Gaurav Solanki, ‘Article 15’ is not an easy watch. Shot by Ewan Mulligan and replete with background score by Mangesh Dhakde, the film’s audio-visual narrative is gut-wrenching and chances are you will find yourself contemplating on how your actions or words have inadvertently contributed to the malice of caste-based politics. An outstanding scene where Ayan discusses about the categorization of castes amongst his peers is whistle-worthy. Edited by Yasha Ramchandani, the proceedings are crisp and thankfully, songs are not infused to deviate from the story. Infact, tense moments are lightened with cleverly infused humour.
Coming to the cast, Ayushmann leads from the front and one cannot be thankful enough. The actor proves his mettle yet again when it comes to backing good scripts. He makes the right noise even in his moments of melancholy. Sayani Gupta as Gaura offers a heart-breakingly moving portrayal of hope and despair in unjust times. In an extended cameo, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub as a local revolutionary Nishad is an absolute hoot. His words will hit you like a ton of bricks. Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Ashish Verma and Sushil Pandey as the subordinates offer heft and dignity to their parts. Isha Talwar as Ayan’s wife Aditi makes for a pleasant watch as well, though she has precious little to do.
‘Article 15’, eventually is mandatory, recommended viewing for each and every Indian citizen, given the current socio-political climate in the country. For those dissenting it, please know that this is not about anyone or a community in particular. The director holds a mirror to our collective conscience as citizens, giving us important and burning questions to ponder about.