Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra
Director: Anubhav Sinha
What’s it about:
Based on the controversial Badaun gangrape case of 2014 in India’s Uttar Pradesh, Article 15 is story set in a fictional Indian town called Lalgaon. It lays bare the caste divide rampant in rural India through a chilling incident that involved minor victims and powerful accused.
It’s a rarity in Bollywood that a film with a documentary-like subject is made with a gripping and suspenseful narrative. Article 15 manages that brilliantly with support from a stellar cast. Director Anubhav Sinha, who has dabbled in fluffy romances like ‘Tum Bin’ or debacles like ‘Cash’ and ‘RaOne’ seems to have finally found his genre. With Article 15, Sinha (also the co-writer) grabs your attention from the very first scene and doesn’t let go right until the end. He doesn’t waste time in setting up the premise but seamlessly leads us into rural India’s fatal caste divide through one crime that lays bare just how deep-rooted the problem is. In them are caste politics, gender inequality, socio-economic disparity and access to justice for those who have led a life of marginalized existence.
Without digressing much from the real incident, Sinha takes us on a dark journey of finding a missing girl after two others are found dead hanging to a tree. Leading this mission is the film’s hero, thankfully, minus the heroics. He is Ayan played by the very dependable Ayushmann Khuranna, who once again displays an effortless restraint in portraying the role with conviction. Khuranna shows the vulnerability of his character’s lonesome fight and his compromised authority. But much of the realism comes from the two other fantastic supporting actors – Manoj Pahwa and Kumud Mishra. They truly live their respective characters with utmost honesty. The scenes of their confrontation are pure gold. Rest of the cast performs well too.
Film’s tone remains decidedly dark and grim throughout, thanks to brilliant cinematography. Dialogues and accent are real. There are a few one-liners for sarcastic comic relief that are delivered so effectively that they totally drive home the intended irony.
Thankfully, there are no songs (or an intermission), but it’s the background music that makes the tension and thrill so palpable, you can almost feel the chills. Film’s pace is relentless except for a few bumps towards the end where it drops due to unnecessary digressions into Ayan’s personal life.
This is a layered film with many complex characters, so it needs your undivided attention. India’s Article 15 spells out country’s constitution of 1950 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, sex or place of birth.
But is it followed in letter and spirit? - Article 15 effectively poses this question, in bold.