Prakash Jha is one of those directors whose films are always eagerly awaited by the public as they always tend to touch upon socio-political issues be it "Gangaajal", "Apaharan", "Rajneeti" etc. So this time around, he has decided to touch upon the topic of reservation system. This is definitely a sensitive issue as each & every individual as their own take on the matter, with some supporting it while some others believing it's robbing many of the meritorious students of their opportunities. Since this isnt a platform to debate on it, I would refrain from making my comments. Anywaz, with a power packed star cast in the form of Big B, Saif & Manoj Bajpayee to add to the hype already created, it remains to be seen whether this will deliver at the box office???
Just as the title states, the film unfolds with Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan) being denied opportunity to work in a college just because he is from a Dalit background inspite of having certificates which speaks volumes of his academic excellence. Deepak is the favourite student of the renowned Professor & Prinicipal of the esteemed Shakuntala Mahavidyalaya, Prabhakar Anand (Big B). Prabhakar Anand was a personality of impeccable character & principles, who believed that education should be granted to one & all, rather than commercializing & reserving it as the right of the rich & mighty. This was however against the interests of the Vice Principal, Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who was heading numerous coaching classes with the support of the politicos. It's around this time that the Supreme Court ordered the implementation of the Mandal Commission, which increased the reservation quota of the ST & OBCs by 27%. This sets off a furore among the students which eventually leads to Prabhakar Anand resigning his post. What then follows is the face-off between the idealistic Prabhakar & the scheming Mithilesh!!!
Jha is assisted in the screenplay by Anjum Rajabali, which goes a long way in building up an impressive first half. The subject matter is tackled expertly with frictions creating cracks in relationships being expressed effectively with some hard hitting dialogues by Saif & the rest. However, though the first half promised a lot; the latter half was a total let down as they virtually side stepped the reservation issue & it was more about how the idealistic Big B takes on the education commercialising ways of Bajpayee. It does have some impressive sequences but it was far & few; not to mention the running time of close to 3 hours which does take a toll on the audience.
Big B as always comes up with a praise worthy performance, though it doesnt offer much of a challenge for a person of his stature. Saif, finally offered a meaty role renders it impeccably in the first half while in the latter half he wasnt offered much of screen space. Manoj Bajpayee was convincing as the money minded educationist while Deepika essays the de-glam role of Big B's daughter aptly. Pratheik Babbar's performance left much to be desired as he seemed too wooden & miscasted.
Verdict: "Aarakshan" has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, which could act as a double edged sword. This will naturally add onto the hype that the star cast & Jha's track record has generated; however being banned in UP,AP & Punjab will impact its initials hugely. I do believe that the movie might break even, but nothing more. In short, you can give it a try if you like issue based movies or else give it a miss!!!