ARTICLE 15 | 29 June, 2019

Zee Studios and Benaras Mediaworks’ Article 15 (UA) is about Article 15 of the Constitution of India.

Despite Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution laying down explicitly in Article 15 that there will be no discrimination among individuals based on caste, creed, sex etc., caste-based differences are a part of the Indian ethos.

Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) is an upright police officer who is posted in a small town where caste differences define life. The Brahmins there still don’t touch the Dalits or eat food prepared by them.

Ayan is shocked to see the bodies of two Dalit girls, both cousins, hanging from a tree one morning. The people of the town as well as his deputy police officers Brahmdatt Singh (Manoj Pahwa) and Jatav (Kumud Mishra) dismiss it off as a case of honour killing and accuse the fathers of the two dead girls. Another sister, Amli (Sumbul Touqeer), is missing and it’s not known whether she is dead or alive.

Being the conscientious police officer that he is, Ayan is unwilling to close the case without thorough investigation. It turns out that the two Dalit girls had been raped by upper caste contractor Anshu Yadav (Veen) because they had dared to demand a hike of merely Rs. 3 in their wages. Dr. Malti (Ronjini Chakraborty) confirms that the DNA of Anshu Yadav matches that of the rapist. Even as Ayan prepares to nab the influential Anshu Yadav, the case is transferred by the higher-ups to the CBI.

CBI officer Panicker (Nasser) comes to the town to interrogate Ayan. It is clear that everybody, except Ayan, is in a hurry to close the case. But will Ayan let that happen?

What does Ayan do after the case is transferred to the CBI? There are a couple of more startling revelations during investigations. What are they? Is Amli traced or was she dead? Does Anshu Yadav have to pay for his crime?

Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki have written a story which seeks to underline that almost 70 years after the Indian Constitution was written, India still revels in caste differences. The thought is disturbing but so is the reality. The duo’s screenplay is quite engaging and keeps the viewers involved. However, the track of Nishad (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub) somewhat dilutes the main issue. Even the track of Ayan and his wife, Aditi (Isha Talwar), serves only to distract the audience. They have their differences but to what avail? Also, the audience does not experience a high because the culmination of the drama is not as earth-shattering as the build-up. This may probably be because rather than everything happening in the climax and very dramatically, things happen in phases. All said, although the screenplay is engrossing, it is not fantastic. By its very nature, the drama becomes serious and depressing after some time. The writers have not made an attempt to balance the seriousness with light moments except in the initial part (when Ayan uses the ‘F’ word which is misinterpreted by Jatav).

Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki’s dialogues are good but should have been outstanding.

Ayushmann Khurrana is splendid in the role of the principled and no-nonsense Ayan Ranjan. He performs wonderfully and makes his character completely believable. Nasser does a fantastic job as CBI officer Panicker. Manoj Pahwa shines as police officer Brahmdatt Singh. Kumud Mishra is extraordinary in the role of Jatav. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub leaves a fine mark in a brief role as Nishad. Sayani Gupta stands her own with a natural performance as Dalit girl Gaura. Isha Talwar does a good job as Ayan’s wife, Aditi. Subhrajyoti Barat (as Chandrabhan) and Sushil Pandey (as Nihal Singh) provide good support. Aakash Dabhade leaves a mark as Ayan’s friend, Satyendra. Ashish Verma is supremely natural as Ayan’s PA, Mayank. Ronjini Chakraborty is effective as Dr. Malti. Veen is alright as Anshu Yadav. Sumbul Touqeer (as Amli) is okay. Others do as desired.

Anubhav Sinha’s direction is sensitive but also caters to the classes more than the masses. Music (Anurag Saikia and Piyush Shankar) goes well with the mood of the film. Lyrics (Shakil Azmi and Rashmi Virag) are good. Jayesh Pradhan’s choreography is nothing to shout about. Mangesh Dhakde’s background music is fair but could’ve been better. Ewan Mulligan’s cinematography is decent. Riyaz-Habib’s action and stunts are nice. Nikhil Kovale’s production designing is realistic. Yasha Pushpa Ramchandani’s editing is fairly sharp.

On the whole, Article 15 is not as hard-hitting as it promises to be in the initial reels. It will do fair business at the box-office.

Released on 28-6-’19 at Regal (daily 2 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay by Zee Studios. Publicity: not upto the mark. Opening: okay. …….Also released all over. Opening was fair at places and below the mark at other places.