Aakrosh: Subject fails to evoke empathy

Director: Priyadarshan
Producer: Kumar Mangat Pathak
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Akshay Khanna, Paresh Rawal, Reema Sen, Bipasha Basu, Amita

MUMBAI: While almost every film is being copied from a foreign source, some makers get gutsier and copy classics. The recent hit Raajneeti copied all that was best out of Godfather, while Aakrosh is a straight lift from 1988 Hollywood classic Mississippi Burning. While the latter dealt with a sensitive 1960 subject of Blacks Vs Ku Klux Klan, Aakrosh, set in a small Bihar town, deals with Upper cast Vs Backward class.

The story follows similar lines as Mississippi Burning, directed by Alan Parker, not risking diverging one bit except giving it a Hindu fanatic touch. A lower cast boy studying medicine in Delhi arrives with his two friends in his home town, Jhanjhar, after receiving an SOS from his high cast girl friend that her marriage is being fixed with a rich boy. While trying to elope with the girl, the boys vanish and are not heard of again.

Soon, two CBI officers with opposing style of working descend on the town to
investigate the disappearance of the boys! Nobody is willing to talk, no witnesses; the backward class are too scared and the high cast are in a league. And, the local police on its part feign total ignorance of any happenings around town!

While the original had Ku Klux Klan, Aakrosh has a Shool Sena, a Trishul burning brigade with the singular agenda to kill low cast folk, especially those aspiring to match their status. The subject fails to evoke any empathy because, while equal rights for black was a burning issue in the US and had its strong advocates, suppression of low cast is as much a political issue here as it is a social one. The writers have found the original sequences so easy and convenient to retain (except the one about chilly powder, lifted straight out of Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala), they have not bothered if they fit the local way of life.

There is nothing much to say about performances as Ajay Devgn has to vary between angry and suspicious look through the film, while Akshaye Khanna wears a quizzical one. The villains of the lot have a better scope to express among whom Paresh Rawal excels. Reema Sen is good while Bipasha Basu and Amita Pathak have little to do.

The cast of supporting goons is effective. As for direction, the credit should go to Alan Parker for whatever is good in the film. Music is poor. Dialogue is good at places.

Issue-based films have few takers in India and Aakrosh is as dry an entertainer as it can get to score at the box office.

Knock Out is a taut film


Director: Mani Shankar
Producer: Sohail Maklai
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Irrfan, Kangna Ranaut, Sushant Singh, Gulshan Grover, Apporva

Knock Out is a rehash of Hollywood film Phone Booth with a dash of another film, Liberty Stands Tall added. Since it is a single thread, one location film, the trick to hold the viewers interest is in unfolding the story while holding as much back to maintain an air of suspense and drama. As is his wont, director Mani Shankar employs gadgets of all sorts from satellite tracing to laser guns to miniature surveillance choppers.

Irrfan is a fixer for a particular politician handling his ill-gotten cash and running errands. Contrary to his image of a family loving husband, he is a compulsive womaniser and liar. Being in the kind of business he is, he takes his instructions from the politician’s people from a public phone booth. On one such visit to his regular phone booth, he picks up the ringing phone and, thereafter, the drama unfolds as he is held captive in the booth at gun pointed at him from a building across the booth and made to own up to all his sins as well as those of his mentors as the media is thronging the place covering this drama as it unfolds.

With little else to distract or divert viewers’ attention to, a lot depends on how the film unwinds and the performances. While Sanjay Dutt, closeted in a room pointing a gun at the booth and eliciting confessions, can’t do much to liven up the proceedings, it is up to Irrfan to make the goings on interesting; to say the least, he does it with flying colours as this role showcases his talents. Kangna Ranaut as a TV journalist passes muster. Sushant Singh is effective. Gulshan Grover and Apoorva Lakhia in brief roles are okay.

Direction is stylish. There are no songs in the film; background score is effective. Cinematography is very good and so are action sequences. Dialogue is witty.

Knock Out is a taut film with loose first half and interesting second half. Its drawbacks are in the waning following of Sanjay Dutt and release during a very dull period which will not augur well for its business prospects.

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