Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Article 15 movie addresses one of those deeply rooted pivotal issues that still has India by its balls. Even after 72 years of independence, the country is still broiling in the muck of casteism and groupism. They are turning blind eyes to everything that surrounds it as if, as Ayushmann’s character Ayaan Ranjan puts it –
As if everything has been happening in a different country altogether.
Apart from addressing several pressing issues, Article 15 movie inscribes plenty of allegories and one-liners to show the pointlessness of our countless acts, of how Dalits have accepted their oppressive fate, how people in rural areas treat them differently to date, and how without them work stalls.
Primal Theme of Article 15 Movie
The movie is loosely built on 2014’s Badaun gang rape case where the police and CBI’s incompetency, in trying to provide justice to the family of the victims, had ended up smearing their names in the press. What it also does is implore the countrymen to disown their deeply rooted parochial image to pave way for some open-minded thoughts, and to think rationally, be unfazed by myopic ideas.
It allots a young rational IPS Officer Ayaan Ranjan, behind an ugly case to help us understand the ill-treatment meted out to the rural unfortunates first-hand and all the repercussions that follow that take them down, even more. They drown submissively to the tyranny of the people in control and it forces you to think if their lives ever really mattered?
It is one of those movies that brings out in the open our crooked criminal system too, (brings to mind Talvar movie), of how corruption is literally seeping through the veins of incompetent policemen. There is a reason why the Indian Police department is still finding it difficult to get rid of that amoral image. Examples are all around us. It is hard not to see that.
The Indian Hypocrisy
The biggest hypocrisy of India resides in people who pretend to follow laws laid down by their constitution. Agreed, there have been laws stated by the government that people are supposed to follow. But what about the laws that dwell inside their very own heads? If it were a one-time thing it would have been easier to rectify but to get rid of an age-old habit, that’s where things become a lot more tricky.
Take dowry for example or the girl child issue. People put on a mask just to concur to things that are morally right but secretly they are wishing against it. People cheat themselves of their conscience, mould the rules to their own liking, and then they form their very own law based on what the majority thinks. Indian constitution becomes a joke then. But who is laughing?
Treating people as not people, that’s our biggest problem. Fighting on that very account, resorting to dirty politics and ignoring issues that are literally screaming for attention have been hollowing out this country from within from time immemorial.
Bramhdutt Singh in 15 Article
Anubhav Sinha chooses to depict Manoj Pahwa‘s character Bramhdutt Singh in Article 15 movie as one of those quintessential villains who is hiding under the aegis of the Indian government, specifically behind the Police uniform, smearing its name by being corrupt to the core. There are instances aplenty wherein he forces you to shake your head as you witness his duplicity go deafening loud like a bullet shot.
He gives a superb performance as a police officer who tries invariably to shut down the case even before it tries to spread its wings. There is lethargy galore and unwillingness to work, avoidance to file reports, and the falsification and framing of alibis that literally define him. As a man who is riddled with such despicable qualities, he carries a natural inclination toward anger, and the wrath he unleashes every now and then on people he could stomp on, that has been well enacted. His sudden spurts of emotions are priceless whenever he finds himself surrounded by the truth.
The way he is shown treating dogs better than Dalits once again brings to attention our very own hypocrisy. We don’t even treat humans as humans. Dogs are better off!
An educated rational man with a conscience is our hero Ayaan, something similar to the character of Newton, who finds himself smacked in the middle of a hell he doesn’t understand. All he is trying to do is his job and the right thing, but the right thing remains smothered by the people with power. It’s when these people begin misusing their power that things begin to go out of hand.
Ayaan is that inevitability that has to hit the system or nothing ever changes. He is a force that gets affected and awakened by passion. As he tries to do his job, he becomes more aware of things that dictate rural places of India – that lives only matter if you are privileged. The frustration goes to the peek when everybody around him keeps calling Dalits as ‘these people’ as if they are not their very own.
It riles you when you get acquainted with this ugly truth. There are still so many villages out there, where lower caste people still believe their place to be on the ground. It is the belief that has been hammered in them upfront that can’t force them to think otherwise. They are deemed untouchables because of the job they do. They have their own utensils, their very own inventory that they carry along with them so as to not peeve the upper caste. It is so very sad to acknowledge. Grown men behaving as if they would get cooties! That’s pathetic!
Isha Talwar as Aditi
Aditi in Article 15 movie is like that sane voice in the head of Ayaan Ranjan, a guiding force, something that tries to make him better at every step. Her voice is akin to a riot in his mind as he constantly strives to be a reformist with her help. With the aid of some scoffing remarks made to amuse Aditi on a messenger chat, the director occasionally paints a conventional picture to help us understand various views people still carry in their hearts, despite having ushered in the new age.
Lack of education is the force that emanates it. We are still way behind with our regressive mindsets, and every progress is a step wasted if we don’t work on it.
Aditi walks in at a time when Ayaan finds himself broken beyond limit, and when he needs her the most. Relief varnishes his head when he finds her at the door. It is a pleasant meeting short-lived owing to duty, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Pride swells her up with an honest confession. Her character is barely present but like a conscience loud and clear, she steers his pluck. It’s simply winsome.
Kumud Mishra as Jatav
Kumud Mishra plays Jatav, a guy who was handed over a police job after one that of a sweeper. In short, there was a hand on him (of Brahmadutt), that used him as it pleased, got its dirty work done, forcing him to keep mum.
Jatav is that quintessential element in our society who is standing at the verge of change, but can’t really do anything about it, because there are people right above him he is indebted to. Such people can’t raise their voice because their hands are tied.
Jatav is depicted in positive limelight where he begins to unspool and gradually tries to turn into himself – a paragon of righteousness. It consumes him once his eyes get deliberately pulled open, and then he isn’t scared anymore.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Nishad
In his very short cameo but a powerful one, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub does a lot. He plays the character of Nishad to perfection. A rebel who is extremely consumed in his revolt, so much that he realizes he has missed out on his life entirely.
It is a sad world of which he becomes a part of, involuntarily. Born in a lower caste family, something he doesn’t have control over, all his shrewdness and intelligence get redirected to a cause that he finds himself leading.
You feel gutted when you hear him cry when he states he couldn’t have a normal life, that he couldn’t be a writer or a scientist, owing to his revolt against the trodden. Despite having a very small role, Zeeshan Ayyub makes sure it counts.
Nishad’s revolt doesn’t go to waste. His words prick you like needles in your flesh, that makes you once again pay attention to the brilliance of the screenplay of Article 15 movie.
Moments To Watch Out For
I like to think that a spilling manhole right outside the police station that keeps aggravating every day had a deeper meaning attached to it. Every day the sewage issue kept worsening, and it was in perfect reflection of what went inside Ayaan’s life. For a second I was deceived into believing that there would be a message inscribed in there about not waiting for someone to do your job but doing it yourself. That the policemen would get their hands dirty to clean their own mess. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.
One of those gut-wrenching shots in the movie is when you see a man getting into that manhole and taking care of that clogged gutter. It eats you alive from the inside. A person who gets down to a shithole to take care of your mess, what does he get in return? How ungrateful and how low are we as human beings not to consider them above us or even as equals? How very detestable to treat a person based on their job, as if it defines them?
It’s a human tendency to seek groups. Put a dozen people in a room, they would tend to look for things that would separate them. It is something inevitable. But can’t we even try at least, to get rid of this inevitability? It’s important to educate people to help them understand they are no different. That if it’s been a rule, it means it has to be followed. It’s about changing mindsets and hammering the nail of bringing a Herculean task to fruition.
There is a scene where Ayaan, in order to understand, the caste system going on around, asks people what castes they belong to. He is blown away by the sheer futility of its knowledge. There are not only castes but even sub-castes in place, and that is simply baffling.
What the fuck is going on here?
My one complaint would be that there were many short-lived characters in the movie that didn’t get proper screentime to make you really feel for them. Nishad crying about his dreams or Gaura (Sayani Gupta) crying after his loss could have hurt more if we had a proper background story and a solid follow through. It would have become more relatable then.
The Final Verdict of Article 15
Article 15 has got a very nice raw feel to it. Acts are very natural, the way things generally are. Some humour is intermingled to take away the solemnity from the situation the movie tries to bank its plot on.
The flick ends at a high note showing winds of change in the form of some honest laughter. Hope it makes an impact.
Ayaan is new India, the voice we need today, the act we need now, to bring up the change we wish to see. Why are we lagging behind so much? It’s because of our internal regular squabbles within. We are feeding our own mob, and fighting with each other. Aren’t we forgetting we were created equal? Why did we alienate ourselves in the first place?
What is the government’s masterplan to wrong the right? A reservation that feeds a major chunk of the unfortunates. But where does it backfire? The rich become richer, whilst the destitute remain oblivious of their rights. How does that justify anything?
Article 15 serves as an eye-opener to those who think the law is made only to serve the privileged. To everyone who prejudices against a person and based on caste, creed or religion and treats them differently need to start treating people as people first. Laws are equal for everybody. Now the big question lies – how many of us really listen?
Check out the trailer of Article 15 movie here: