Monday, December 05, 2005
Us and them
Serious cinema has few takers in India and not many directors have bridged the gap between “critical acclaim” and “commercial success”. Especially those who believe that a story must be told.
Count Prakash Jha among them. Following up on “Mrityudand” and the forceful “Gangajal”, Mr. Jha takes us into the badlands of Bihar again, with his latest tour-de-force, “Apharan” which, as the name suggests, is based on kidnapping. Being a Bihari, and more importantly someone who believes in a better tomorrow for the state, Prakash Jha (also check out what I assume is his blog ) is well-placed to tell us this story that he has also researched in painful detail.
The intricate plot takes us through the various levels of corruption within the State Administration, Government and the Police all of whom are involved in the flourishing business of kidnapping. At the centre of it all is Ajay Devgan’s Ajay Shastri, the disillusioned youth who can no longer take his father’s (Mohan Agashe, restrained and subdued) Gandhism, choosing instead the path of crime. Ajay Shastri’s evolution from an ordinary youth to a hardened criminal and the clashes between father and son, particularly the denouement, all stand testimony to Mr. Jha’s abilities as an established director.
Mr. Devgan’s knockout performance is flanked by Nana Patekar and ably supported by an ensemble cast that includes the ever-bankable Yashpal Sharma, newcomer Chetan Pandit and the under-rated Murli Sharma.
So, assuming the average Bombayite chooses “Apharan” in the first place over simpler (read “time-pass”) fares, will he appreciate a movie about a state he jokes about and prefers to have separated from his country? Sorry, Bihar is as much a part of India as Bombay is.
Come to think of it, what's the difference between an educated Bombayite and a Bihari? If Ajay Shastri kidnaps people, we break the law with comparable equanimity. For example - bribing, buying tickets in black, giving a false address for a car to save on taxes, talking on our cell-phones while driving, jumping rail tracks, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. And so all of us step into some kind of crime because we prefer to beat the system to save on our time and money.
So, then what is the difference between us and them? That their crimes are “larger” than ours? That we are more educated than them? What has all the education gotten us if we still break the law and worse, have no respect for it? Or is our law in the city different than what it is from Bihar? No, don’t pass judgment. You can’t. Just think about it. And meanwhile, go watch “Apharan”. Because it’s a story that must be told.