Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpayee, Pateik
Directed by Prakash Jha
Rating: ** ½
Films about social issues are like primetime debates on news channels, opinionated yet inconclusive. And even 'Aarakshan' neither takes a firm stand, nor provides the way forward.
The story is about a college principal, Dr Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) who's the 'mai-baap', godfather, Big B of Bhopal. Every second cop, lawyer, bank manager etc falls at his feet, having graduated from his prestigious STM institute. He also believes that charity begins from one's verandah, since his doubles as a free coaching class for weak students who belong to faint income homes. His favourite mentee, Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan), a backward-class individual who owes his education to Dr. Anand, also helps out with the balcony classes, apart from teaching in STS. Anand's daughter, Poorbi (Deepika Padukone) seizes this opportunity to get flirty with her father's obedient disciple and they sing a song to acknowledge their relationship.
Soon, the Supreme Court announces a quota for OBC students that shakes up the city and subsequently, Deepak becomes touchy about the many pokes at his caste. Now, caste-based distinction is no laughing matter but when he begins most of his lines with "Humare logon ne/ ko", it gets a bit tiresome. He ends up in a silly brawl with a student, Sushant (Prateik), who strongly opposes the quota and gets ousted by Dr Anand. And Dr Anand himself quits the institute, as the board nails him for misquoting in the press, something he's unwilling to retract (even though he doesn't strongly believe in it!). He is replaced by the cunningly commercial, Professor Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who crushes Anand's self respect and tweaks his ego's nose, between devilish grins and chuckles.
Post interval, we move to the second evil: coaching classes that poach school and college teachers. And Mithilesh Singh is the proud owner of KK coaching classes which has one centre every 3 miles, in any direction in Bhopal. Infact, as a last straw, he manages to even convert Dr Anand's home into one of his branches, through a foolish turn of events.
The film lives up to every filmy stereotype from this point on, as Dr Anand plans to avenge his shattered image. His million-dollar idea: move into milkman's 'tabela', teach underprivileged kids and just about anyone who believes in free lunches, bring KK Classes' stock down. Predictably, Anand's 'tabela' classes does becomes the talk of the town, and some of the cows in the shed almost plan a sequel to 'Cows with guns'. The rest of the story is as dry as fodder.
Bachchan carries this movie throughout, and just like in the film, the distributers and investors of this film should fall at his feet for his contributions. Bajpayee's character is deliciously dark, a fistful of his hair drooping over his forehead isn't. It would be politically incorrect to comment on whether Saif played a flawless 'Dalit' or not, so, short pause, let's move on. Deepika is brilliantly bright and charming but even she has her share of monologues that could put you to snooze. Prateik continues to have a squeaky hormonal voice, comparable to a child who's denied a candy.
Shankar-Ehsan-Loy drum up a mediocre fare for the ears, with 'Acha Lagta Hai' clearly scoring over 'Mauka', which seems right out of the 80s. Prakash Jha has always thrown a mirror at society without caring about how it would be received or whether people are prepared for it. This one, however, seems like a more calculated, pre-meditated, marketable proposition.
Should the underprivileged be uplifted through reservation or will that rob the deserving privileged from claiming their merit? Can we take a call on something so serious with popcorn crunching inside our mouth? I couldn't.
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