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Chhichhore Is Not The Best Hindi Film Of 2019, Article 15 Is



 Many in the  film industry feel Anubhav Sinha  has  paid his price for being a vocal opponent of  Government policies. His  brilliant political drama Article 15  from 2019, hands-down the finest film of that year, has been  overlooked  in the National awards in favour of Nitesh Tiwari’s  Chhichhore a  relatively  tame look at  student  life . 

While no  doubt the sympathy vote for Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic demise  must have  played  an important  part in tilting the  scales in  favour  of Chhichhore,  the qualitative difference  between  the two  films is so  high  it  couldn’t have been  a close shave between   the two films.  Not by a long shot.

I tried   getting in  touch with  jury  head  N Chandra  (who hasn’t  made a film  in 12  years) but he chose not to  respond. Anubhav Sinha brushed it off with a laugh. But a close friend   of Anubhav spoke,  “Obviously the criteria  was something  other  than  merit. Run through the list of winners, and you’ll know what I mean.Article 15 was undoubtedly  the  best  film of 2015 not just in Hindi  but in  any  Indian language. To not honour  it  is like giving the  best  music award to  a film called Beimaan  during the year  of  Pakeezah.This actually  happened with the  Filmfare awards in 1972.”

In one word, Article 15 is spellbinding. It is everything that cinema was always meant to be. Though provoking, questioning, disturbing and ultimately cathartic because the cop-hero (played with a simmering intensity by Ayushmann Khurrana) succeeds in getting justice for the wronged.

 I must say it is hard to believe the level of political credibility and social conscientiousness Anubhav Sinha’s cinema has acquired after Mulk. Article 15 goes even further than Mulk in search of the truth that lies underneath the veneer of fairness and justice for all.

Sinha’s stunning film says a lot of things we don’t really want to hear about social discrimination in the cow belt areas. Article 15 takes us to a dusty little town in Uttar Pradesh where a sophisticated liberal cop (Khurrana) joins duty and immediately stumbles onto a horrific caste crime whereby two girls are gang-raped and hung from a tree. A third girl is missing.

Sinha imparts to the search for the girl a ‘thriller’ element that in no way over-dramatizes the film’s incessantly grim mood. The director has no songs even in the background because there is nothing to sing about. Not now. Not here. The film has an exceptionally astute sense of pitch and tone. Though the background score is a wee flashy, Anubhav Sinha never over-punctuates his drama. He is not afraid to let the world he recreates glisten with the sweat of inhuman conduct. The actors are all so clued into the director’s kingdom of the damned that they blissfully slip into their roles with no apprehension of tripping over the abyss of self-conscious authenticity.

Article 15 is a film that must be seen by every Indian. Not because it tells us something new. But because what it tells us ought to become irrelevant to our society by now. But oppression, like the films on oppression, have a knack of coming back when we feel it is gone.

At one point the hero confesses he needs to “un mess” the mess created by social discrimination. It is a mean savage world out there for women and men of meagre income. That Anubhav Sinha takes on the onus of splitting wide open the debate between the haves and have-nots is no small achievement. The director deserves a standing ovation for putting the cinema of social awakening back on screen without any self-congratulation.

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