One of the burning issues of the country is casteism. Despite the relevant laws and provisions against casteism, casteism still exists in the country. And sometimes it turns into serious crimes. And the political class takes advantage of these struggles and it adds fuel to the fire. There are very few films made in Bollywood that revolve around the issue of casteism. But Anubhav Sinha, inspired by his previous film Mulk, accepted the challenge and made the film Article 15, which is releasing in theaters this week. Does Article 15, starring Ayushmann Khurrana, which portrays a burning issue like casteism, wow the audience or does it fail in its endeavor? Let’s review. Article 15 is the story of a just and honest policeman who tries to solve a crime related to casteism. Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) is an IPS officer from Delhi who is transferred to a village called Lalgaon in Uttar Pradesh as a punishment. As he joins duty, he comes to know about a case involving three missing girls from the Dalit community in the village. The police did not investigate the matter, saying that the matter was not serious and the community often filed false complaints. However, the next day, the bodies of two of the missing girls – Shalu and Mamta – are found hanging on a tree. But the third girl Pooja among them is still missing. Gaura (Sayani Gupta), one of the girls from the community, tells Ayan that these three girls used to work under Anshu, a local contractor who used to pay them Rs.25 a day. The three girls asked Anshu to increase their wages by only Rs 3 which Anshu rejected. And so the girls protested and left the job after that. Gaura alleged that Anshu may have killed the girls to teach them a lesson. Ayaan decides to investigate the matter as he finds somewhere that Gaura is actually right. But Brahmadutt Singh (Manoj Pahwa), an officer working under Ayan, secretly tries to change the narrative of the crime. He writes a story in a newspaper that the two girls were in a same-sex relationship and that is why their father killed them. He also forces Dr. Malti Ram (Ronjini Chakraborty) to change the post-mortem report, although it is clear that Shalu and Mamta are repeatedly gang-raped and then hanged on a tree. Amidst all these challenges, Ayan tries to solve the case and find Pooja. Nishant (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a Dalit underground leader, attacks police officer Jatav (Kumud Mishra) and Ayan’s PA Mayank (Ashish Verma) and sets their jeep on fire. What happens next will be known only after watching the rest of the film.
The story of Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki is very powerful and it deserves to be told. It is somewhere inspired by incidents like the Badaun rape case and the Una clash. The different characters, their dilemmas, and of course their caste are well placed and used. However, for a moment it seems that the film should not have so many characters that it is difficult to understand. Also the different characters don’t contribute that much to the main plot. Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki’s screenplay is engaging and keeps the audience hooked from start to finish. A lot happens in every minute and the writers try their best to keep the audience hooked. Although some scenes should have been written in a more entertaining way. Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki’s dialogues are one of the pillars of the film. He takes many scenes to a different level. The names of different castes are mentioned boldly and thankfully CBFC has not cut these references. It’s a pleasant surprise that even the F-word is retained. In one scene, some characters even discuss the symbols of political parties and it is easy to understand what they are referring to.
Anubhav Sinha’s direction is excellent in many parts. This is a very sensitive issue, so many filmmakers are afraid to raise it. But Anubhav Sinha not only makes a film on such an issue but also presents it in such a great way that no community gets offended or hurts the sentiments of anyone. People were easily attached to Anubhav’s previous film Mulk but not everyone would be able to connect to Article 15. In many scenes, this film looks like a documentary. Though some moments are very memorable and remain in one’s mind for a long time. The scenes in which sewer cleaners enter the drain without any safety equipment disturbed the onlookers. Another brief but powerful shot is how political activists put up banners of the upcoming rally on the same wall where posters of missing pujas were pasted. It is quite an interesting way to easily tell the audience how the priorities of the society take place.
The opening scene of Article 15 is quite surprising and the interest towards the film is negligible. The first 10-15 minutes are spent in setting up and identifying the characters. The film starts picking up when the dead bodies are found. The complications are very well placed and that is why interest keeps growing as to how Ayaan goes through these challenges and manages to get justice. The scene is worth watching when Ayaan asks his fellow employees for their caste and the film sequence progresses. The best scene of the film comes at the intermission point and this scene will surely be greeted with applause in the theatres. This scene gets the audience excited for the second half. However, the film gets a bit complicated in the second half. The subplots of Nishant and Mahant ji are interesting and even realistic, but do not match well with the main plot. At the same time, the good thing about the film is that the twist in the film is completely unexpected. The visuals of Nihal Singh and his sister give goosebumps. Also, the CBI’s interrogation scene with Ayan is fascinating. The climax of the film is quite interesting and impressive. The film ends on a grand note.
Ayushmann Khurrana once again stuns. Although he is mostly known for quirky characters but last year, he surprised everyone in his film Andhadhun. However, in Article 15, he goes a step ahead, as there is no room for comedy here. And once again he sets the flag off with his stellar performance. Even he speaks a lot with his silence and the gestures of his eyes. In Article 15, he has not disappointed his fans in the slightest. Manoj Mahava leaves an indelible mark. Anubhav Sinha succeeds in getting him to do his best work. After Mulk, Manoj once again stuns with his role. Manoj is worth watching in that scene when he accuses Jatav and confronts Jatav in the second half. Kumud Mishra is like a surprise in the film. His role is very well crafted and with his fine performances, he takes it on a high note. He has a clapping scene in the second half. Apart from this, he also brings laughter in the film. Sayani Gupta is skilled. He sure did Jolly LLB 2  I also played a similar role. But in this film, he has done such an acting which does not remind at all of his previous performances. His crying scene is chilling. Isha Talwar (Aditi) is decent and her chemistry with Ayushmann looks quite fresh. Akash Dabhade (Satyendra Rai) has an important part and is well cast. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub delivers a powerful performance and suits his character. His character is well written. Ronjini Chakraborty is very confident. Nassar (CBI officer) is apt. The actors playing the characters of Anshu, Amala Dasi, Nihal Singh and Mahant suit their roles.
There is no scope of music in the film and it has not been changed in the background either. ‘Kahb Toh’ is played in the opening credits and the lyrics are quite sharp. While ‘Shuru Karein Kya’ is played during the end credits and while it is quite catchy, the rap track seems a bit odd considering the theme of the film. Mangesh Dhakad’s background score is not consistent but the exhilarating music enhances the effect. Evan Mulligan’s cinematography is quite raw and matches up with a film of this genre. Nikhil Kowale’s production design is realistic. Overall, the look of the film is quite rich. Vishakha Kullarwar’s costumes are directly related to life, especially those worn by marginalized communities. Yasha Ramchandani’s editing is apt.
Overall, Article 15 is a powerful film that tackles the issue of casteism prevailing in the country. At the box office, the film will be able to draw the audience to the theatres, owing to its strong storyline and Ayushmann brand.