Kallakaduthum Kolapathakavum

>> October 19, 2010

On an ordinary day, Aakrosh is not the sort of movie I would pay money to watch at a multiplex. Despite my unconditional affection for all things Bollywood, my prudence has always insisted that the surround sound extravaganza with buttered caramel pop-corn is to be entirely restricted to big budget, high drama and star studded movies. On this occasion, however, J insisted on watching the movie. He had his reasons – an interesting and recently apparent social issue, Ajay Devgan playing a cop and of course, one of his favourite directors, Priyadarshan.
Even though I am a proud fan of Malayalam cinema and particularly of Priyadarshan’s style of movie making, I have never really seen him demonstrate his ability in Hindi cinema. Restricted largely to remaking his Malayalam movies after contextualizing them for a Hindi audience, he has, to my knowledge, hardly ever forayed beyond the realm of comedy as was the case in Hera Pheri, which eventually spiraled down to mere slapstick in his later sequels of the same movie. In fact, tracing his career graph in Hindi cinema, I find it difficult to reconcile his film making with the extraordinary scripts and performances which necessarily characterize Priyadarshan in Malayalam cinema. This is the man who, having met Mohanlal while they were at college, went on to cast the latter in some of the best Malayalam movies ever - Thalavattam, Midhunam, and Chithram.
Priyadarshan’s brand of films came of age in the late eighties and early nineties, contributing in no small measure to the glory that Malayalam cinema relished in the period. His favourite subject was the story of the young lower middle class educated young man struggling to make a life and shackled down by bureaucracy and social obligations, drawing upon issues that plagued Kerala – like poverty and unemployment. This was why, perhaps, long before I recognized the merits of Hindi cinema, I enjoyed and appreciated the stories and lives featured in Malayalam films. I am, admittedly, a fan of formulaic Hindi movies – but what set the film makers in Malayalam apart was that there was no formula to begin with, or even if there was, nobody followed it. Some of Priyadarshan’s biggest box office successes have had the leading man eventually die at the end of the movie. His movies essentially took after the Shakespearean tradition of tragic-comedies, with the pathetic and tragic lives lead by the hero always being studded with comic interludes.
In any case, the point I was making is that when going in to watch Aakrosh, I had lowered my expectations to an all time low since Priyadarshan in Hindi only reminds me of some laughable attempts at humour along the lines of Hungama and Garam Masala. Taken aback at finding the cinema hall almost entirely filled up did nothing to make me change my mind either. In all fairness, however, after the movie I found myself pleasantly surprised.
Aakrosh is, without doubt, a movie that will find itself in the range between decent to good. The opening shot is vintage Priyadarshan, reminiscent of some of the beautiful cinematography that made Thenmavil Kombathu win the National Award for Aesthetic Appeal and Art Direction in 1995. No surprises, for Priyadarshan signed up none other than the master Sabu Cyril for production design. The movies also displays bullet sharp editing and excellent shots – but then again technical finesse has always been one of Priyadarshan’s strongest assets – having been among the first Indian directors to introduce rich colour grading, sound clarity and quality dubbing.
The treatment of the subject definitely merits some consideration. The issue of honour killings at the hand of khap panchayats has been particularly rampant in the media lately, although what political steps have been taken to combat the issue is anybody’s guess. The movie begins with a series of unexplained disappearances from the village of Jhanjhar, and the deployment of a Special Committee by the Central Government to investigate the issues. Ajay Devgan and Akshaye Khanna, arrive at Jhanjhar suited and booted, and eventually get down to the bottom of the crimes in the village. Communal differentiation and politics, and perpetual fear that silences people are the overarching theme of the movie. The issue, I thought, was dealt with more lightly that it deserved to be. After a slow first half, however, the second half of the movie takes off from nowhere and rapidly gains momentum to culminate in the climax.

…..to be continued…if at all....

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