Caste Reservation: India vs India

Prakash Jha with actors Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Prateik Babbar on the sets of Aarakshan . (courtesy The Hindu)

KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – This is a must see film for every educator and youth minister. Here is a movie that provides a ray of hope for educationists who slog on despite heavy odds providing quality EDUCATION to the poorest of the poor both in the city slums and remote villages.

While several state governments have imposed a ban on Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’ (Reservation), many politicians watched the film over the Independence Day weekend. All the controversies regarding the film have not only generated an interest amongst the people, but also propelled their desire to watch the film.

The growing controversy around the film and a negative review that said “Don’t reserve a seat for this film,” compelled me to watch the film. Fortunately, I had company… the vice-principal and school captains who went to the show on Independence Day afternoon.

In AARAHKSHAN (reservation) social activist Prakash Jha uses the medium of cinema to tell masses the purpose of education which is being grabbed by those who see huge investment opportunities in it… and how politicians exploit inequalities in society and reservations to their end. The film, explores quotas for lower castes in the government and educational institutions, affirmative action which the upper caste see as squeezing them out of jobs and colleges. It also takes head-on the exponentially mushrooming commercial and private coaching sector, which is turning into a rapacious monster that is not doing any good to learning.

But many caste groups complained the film portrayed them in a negative light because of certain scenes in which characters say Dalits are dirty and fit to polish the shoes of their social betters.

As former member of the Central Board of Film Certification, I must add, the CBFC cleared it for a U/A certificate without a single cut. It’s really ironic that while the CBFC is becoming more sensitive, liberal and progressive, social and political forces are moving in reverse gear!

Though banned in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, the film is being screened on 672 UFO digital  theatres  across India for the week of August starting 12th August.

[UFO Moviez, the world’s single largest networked digital cinema platform, has revolutionized the way films are distributed and exhibited throughoutIndia.  The advantage offered by UFO Moviez’ digital cinema solutions lies in the fact that theatres are able to quickly source and screen alternative content in situations that call for flexibility in content and quick turnaround time.  This serves as a win-win situation for all involved in the film distribution-exhibition chain.

Incidentally, Prakash Jha’s ‘Apaharan’ was one of the early films on the UFO digital theatre network.  ‘Apaharan’ released in 62 UFO digital theatres in its first week.  With Aarakshan releasing in 672 UFOtheatres, the increase is 10 times vis-à-vis Apaharan.]

Jha is one of our most politically aware directors and even stood (unsuccessfully though) for the Lok Sabha elections from Biharin 2004 and 2009.  His films whether it is dynastic politics in Raajneeti (2010), the Bhagalpur blindings in Gangaajal (2003) or Bihar’s kidnapping industry in Apaharan (2005), he has built all his recent films around the concerns of our times.

In this film, Amitabh Bachchan, plays Prabhakar Anand the resolute Principal of a private Bhopal college who has led the institution to the very top rank while pursuing an admissions policy based on academic qualification regardless of caste. When a newspaper reporter interviews him, the resulting story ignores the principal’s careful contexting and headlines his support of the supreme court decision [49.5% of college admissions to public institutions be reserved for students from the lower castes] — although it does not apply to private institutions.

In an instant, Job-like trials rain down on Prabhakar Anand, a man of unbending principle possessed of the gift of teaching math and inspiring his students.  So divisive is the supreme court ruling that one of his prized teachers, the lower-caste Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan), ends up turning against him — and therefore alienating his beautiful fiancée (Deepika Padukone), who is Anand’s daughter.

Kumar’s upper caste classmate (Prateik Babbar) feels threatened by the court decision and takes a stand for admission on merit alone. Watch the epic movie unfolding the story of empowerment!

Cheers to those who still believe in a ‘preferential option for the poor and have embarked upon empowering the under privileged!


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Filed under Aarakhshan, Caste System, Dalits

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