Directed by Anubhav Sinha, and starring Ayushmann Khurrana in the lead role, Article 15 is a crime drama that shows the story of a cop, who investigates the murder and possible rape of two young girls from 'lower caste', in a village where caste divide is the norm. From the time the trailer was released, the story had piqued my interest.
The early reviews of the movie further hinted that the movie was as intelligent as it was impactful. And yet, I was unprepared for the effect the movie had on me. Because how do you prepare yourself to be disturbed and impressed at the same time?
That uncomfortable sense of realization about Indian society is just one of the many reasons why this movie deserves to be watched. Here are the other reasons:
1. The movie raises questions on a very important subject - India's widespread and age-old caste problem.
Despite 'progress', caste divide is still a 'natural' part of India's socio-political climate. For people belonging to the so-called 'lower caste', life is either an act of rebellion or a life-long acceptance of an inherent sense of 'inferiority' - one that is illogical and amoral on grounds of humanity but acceptable on grounds of India's caste system. All this and more is presented through well-developed characters and a story that appears to be inspired by the 2014 Badaun rape case.
It raises the point that 'caste' and the disadvantages and advantages that come with it are 'absurd' only to those who've never had to face the consequences of it.
2. The actual hero of the movie is indeed the story, and not Ayushmann Khurrana.
Despite his flawless performance, Ayushmann Khurrana alone does not steal your attention away from the movie. Because the story is developed so wonderfully, that every scene is a culmination of the actions of all characters, the situational setting, and the action taking place.
Writers Gaurav Solanki and Anubhav Sinha deserve complete credit for penning such an important story, and not letting their lead hero's 'star power' be any sort of factor in the way the movie was developed.
Another thing that sets the movie apart is that despite being a set in a fictional universe, the picture presented is not far away from the reality that a large section of the society experiences daily. A reality that dictates every aspect of a person's life - job, marriage, right to worship, social standing, and whatnot.
3. The brilliantly thought-provoking dialogues leave you shocked, without appearing sanctimonious or preachy in any manner.
There is a very thin line that separates a dialogue or statement from appearing relevant and appearing as propaganda. The movie never crosses the line. And yet you have goosebumps when you listen to the statements, because they may be delivered matter-of-factly, but their impact is long lasting.
4. Flawless performance by the complete cast, but especially Kumud Mishra and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub.
The movie actually brings about a fine group of actors together, including Sayani Gupta, Manoj Pahwa, and Isha Talwar, who do complete justice to their roles. But Kumud Mishra and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub deserve a special mention for making their characters so realistic that you can't help but be invested in their stories.
Kumud Mishra is a constable from SC who has managed to earn his way through the ranks, and yet who is always aware of his 'position' in the society. He balances his character's conflicts wonderfully, and there is not even a single false note in his performance.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays the role of 'Dalit rebel'. And despite limited screentime, he leaves an impact - because he raises the question of how the fight for equality robs people of the 'lower caste' of even the simplest of joys.
The two characters - despite a similar upbringing - are on the opposite spectrums in their 'fight' for equality. But the two actors fall in the same pool of brilliant talent that Bollywood should definitely give greater credit to.
5. It is a film that disturbs you and rightly so. Never does it shy away from hard-hitting facts in the garb of 'political correctness'.
There's a scene in the movie where Ayan - highly disturbed by the events that have occurred and the way the investigation is shaping up - questions his own sense of pride in India. But he does not shirk away from the current condition by giving up on the nation - he instead talks about 'unmessing' the mess that's been brewing up for years.
That's the beauty of the movie. It holds a mirror to the society but not in a way that distorts the reality, or serves only a fixated purpose. But in a way that makes you aware of the reality that you are a part of but might have, consciously or unconsciously, turned a blind eye to.
6. This is the kind of movie that will leave you with a stark realization of the privilege you've perhaps unknowingly enjoyed - and guilty of the same.
There's a scene where Ayan (Ayushmann Khurrana) is agitated by the way his peers are governed by their caste - but for everyone else, it is a 'natural expression' of who they are as people. And that best explains 'caste privilege' and the lack of it.
Everything in the movie, from its crisp runtime to the effective cinematography, serves the ultimate purpose of the movie - the message that cast IS still an issue in the country, that we NEED to be aware of it, and that we can't live in the society with blinders on. It's a bitter pill to swallow indeed, but one that is much needed in the current socio-political climate of the country.
Kabhi hum harijan ho jaate hain, kabhi hum bahujan ho jaate hain. Bas jan hi nahin hote, ki 'Jan Gan Man' mein gine jaa sakein'.
It is hard to forget words like these. It is hard to come to terms with the privilege that 30% of India enjoys - the same privilege that 70% of India is denied. The privilege to be treated as human - nothing more, but nothing less either.