Movie Review: Aarakshan (Hindi) 137

Prakash Jha has had a track record in making movies like ‘Gangajal’, ‘Rajneeti’ among others that are hard hitting and have got something to do with issues that make news. His latest is a movie whose title ‘Aarakshan’ suggests that it has something to do with caste-based reservations in India, an issue that raised a strorm about five years ago. If the promos were to be believed, Jha had a winner in hand.

But, in reality, the title is a misnomer as the principal plot in the story seems to deal with commercialization of education which is portrayed to be somehow strangely linked to reservation. Also, while this was a burning issue following the Supreme Court that was discussed in the movie, it may not have as many takers today.

So, what’s the story? Prabhakar Anand (Bachchan) is the principled Principal of a prestigious private college in Bhopal who treats all his students equally. He coaches weaker students in his verandah for free and the classes allow enough opportunity for his favorite pupil Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) to romance his daughter Poorbi (Deepika Padukone). Sushanth Seth (Prateik) also has his eyes on Poorbi.

When the reservation issue heats up, people are divided along caste lines and suddenly the relations between them are strained. Anand has his adversary in Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai) whose commercial coaching classes clash with his principles. A twist of events puts Prabhakar Anand’s beliefs to the test. And in the meantime, the film loses its way completely on what it wants to talk about.

The very fact that caste inequality persists even decades after independence is shameful. But, it is sad to see that a sensitive issue has been used only to promote the movie. Well, the movie does not take sides; whether pro-reservation or anti-reservation since it would not have been without commercial repercussions. Obviously the title and some provocative language were meant to only rake in the moolah.

On education its commercialization, if Prakash Jha wants people to believe that the proliferation of coaching classes has its origins in the nation’s reservation policy, he has definitely lost the plot. As a result, what you get it a ‘Baghban’esque lengthy film that seems to go nowhere. It has lectures on principles, conniving villains, treacherous friends and some kind hearted souls who attempt to engage you with some drama.

To its credit, its actors do a good job. Amitabh Bachchan successfully plays the idealistic disciplinarian and a committed teacher who is complemented by Saif Ali Khan as the feisty youngster working his way though a biased system and Manoj Bajpai, as usual is a bankable actor to play the villain. As usual, Deepika Padukone sleepwalks through her role and the script didn’t have much in store for Prateek.

I’d recommend that you let this one pass. It neither has a consistent storyline nor memorable songs nor a tight script. So, don’t reserve your seats for Aarakshan!

Rating 3/10: The film doesn’t know what it wants to tell