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Crossing the reel to real



KIDNAPPINGS AND CORRUPTION : Apaharan

Apaharan

Genre: Political drama
Director: Prakash Jha
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Nana Patekar, Bipasha Basu and Mohan Agashe.
Storyline: All about corruption and crime-police nexus in a State.
Bottomline: The film scores with its subject

He is not a flawless man. Nor are his films a work of genius — they depict the reckless passion, the overweening honesty of the man, not the brilliance of the irresistibly talented. He can also be angry to the point of irradiation. But he has had much to be angry about. Yes, the gentle guy answering to the name of Prakash Jha who once gave us "Hip Hip Hurray" now uses cinema as a tool for amelioration.

Now, he dabbles in politics of cinema, the politics of life, and comes up with films that are a mirror to the modern day society where unprovoked aggression is often not an exception, where money changes people just as often as it changes hands.

His latest "Apaharan" is an addition to the book he opened with "Gangajal" and somehow down the line managed to cross the reel to real by contesting elections too.

"Apaharan" has all that Jha could have aspired for in the first few frames — his Bihar is not too far removed from the State often depicted in our media. There are kidnappings, there are palms to be greased for a Government job, there are top cops who hobnob with the criminals, there are parties who protect and promote the guilty. And of course, there are guys in jail who run a parallel empire from there, even stepping out once in a while to settle scores, before quietly heading back to the bastion!

Jha packs in all with a straight-for-the-jugular approach, compromising on nothing. There are no soft landings, no velvet gloves.

All that is in the first half, bringing with it a higher level of expectations for the latter part. Not to be. Jha suddenly loses direction, and a film that is neat, taut with barely an inch extra in the first half, suddenly becomes a bit of a drag with the scenes of crime-police nexus attaining a degree of monotony. There is even an item number thrown in, much to the chagrin of those who like their political drama without a dash of the sensuous. Yes, Jha does retrieve a bit of the lost ground but ends up with a film that falls short of the potential.

Still, in this season of silly jokes and juvenile dances, do take time out to watch "Apaharan." There are not too many tales of blood and gore at the ground level going these days — they have made everything so stylised, so upmarket in many films that even crime seems to be a white-collar occupation in Bollywood.

"Apaharan" scores with its subject, as indeed it does with the performances of Nana Patekar and Ajay Devgan. The former as Tabrez, a politician-criminal — interchangeable — shows the indefatigable spirit that has carried him from "Ankush" to this one. The latter scowls, simmers, smashes. Yes, Devgan has done all this in the past and does it one more time with the confidence of a man knowing what is expected of him.

There is Bipasha Basu too, supposedly de-glamourised if wearing a sari or salwar-kameez is a definition of simplicity. She comes on the screen and departs before one can blink. Unlike Mohan Agashe, who as a Gandhian leaves his imprint.

As for Santosh Mandal, the editor of this film, did he go on leave? He reduced a possibly must-see film to a watchable one.

ZIYA US SALAM

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