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Upperstall Review



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Hindi, Action, Drama, 2010, Color

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A lower caste student who had gone along with his 2 friends to a village, Jhanjhar, in Bihar, his native place, to watch Ramleela. These 3 students of Delhi University go missing in the dusty village. As 3 months go by, thegovernment appoints CBI officers Siddhant Chaturvedi (Akshaye Khanna) and Pratap Kumar (Ajay Devgn) and find out the truth under it. A person residing in Bihar himself and, Pratap understands the intricacies of race relations in small towns like Jhanjhar. Pratap tries to use his charm and smartness to crack investigation whereas Siddhant has a very no non-sense, direct approach investigation. Investigating in Jhanjhar becomes a tough task for these officers as the local police force Headed by Bhura Ram with the help of local MP's and landlords run a major branch of the Shool Sena. At the same time the two officers cannot break the ice with local Low cast community members, due to years of fear instilled in them by regular and highly planned Shool Sena attacks. Soon, the effect of their investigation causes mayhem in Jhanjhar, with riots, burning of houses and killing of peasants in broad daylight. Slowly Pratap with Siddhant's help starts cracking the case by exerting his influence upon Geeta (Bipasha Basu), a victim to the same inhumanity, who acts as a final key to the investigation...

Aakrosh is far removed from the mental fare we are used to from Priyan. The film is a surprising turn, and even though it is inspired in many parts from Mississippi Burning, it is also a well-crafted thriller, the likes of which, you realize, we don't see too often in Bollywood.

It's a strange and curious film, this. The first half is very similar in key plot points and even scenes to Mississippi Burning - Jhanhjar instead of Mississippi, casteism instead of racism, rabid right wing hindus instead of the Ku Klax Klan, the burning cross instead of the blazing trishul - and you expect to leave it at that as a final judgment on the film - after all, there's only so much to talk about a ripoff. But every once in a while, he surprises you with a scene, a gesture that hooks you right back in. These are moments of originality, and come when you least expect them. The most impressive of these is a terrific parkour chase scene where Ajay Devgn is trying to catch a goon. Walls, ladders, tiled roofs, balconies, cars, carts - it covers them all. This is in the first half, and it is thrilling, energetic and great fun to watch. We've seen a number of chase sequences in dozens of hindi films, but this stood out for its freshness. Next time you hear of a film with a parkour sequence, go watch it. Sequences like these - and there are more - help salvage the film a great deal, and if nothing else, you leave the movie realizing that this isn't your cliched, insipid, thoughtless Bollywood film.

That said, the main problem (and it's a big one) with the film is a fallout between the first and second half of the film. Even if it is the 'inspired' segment, it is the first hour that grabs you. It is tight, fast paced, and works perfectly like a Hollywood thriller would - probably because that's where it's coming from! The forced songs frustrate you, then the action comes to a halt, and you see a weakly scripted second half take over. The pace slackens, and the lack of a strong plot device to move the story ahead leaves the proceedings to forced ideas. In particular, the Ajay-Bipasha track is almost a deal breaker, and falls moronically flat. But the climax is cleverly scripted. It is tounge in cheek, with a seemingly typical ending setup only to give away to one that's not so obvious, and is one last little reminder that there is some thought at work to break away from the expected.

The clear winners here is the art direction. Priyan's always been comfortable with rural India, and manages to translate the texture of a small town easily on screen. The setting is authentic, and lends credence to the plot. The acting is good, and Ajay's silent and simmering persona works very well here. Akshaye Khanna frowns and grimaces his through the film the way he usually does, but he comes off likeable as a cop who plays by the rules. The supporting cast of villians do a good job, and are well led by a menacing Paresh Rawal.

As a filmmaker, Priyadarshan doesn't hold back here. He comes close to achieving a solid thriller, albeit with a lot of Hollywood help. There's no compromising on the nature of the film, which has a very violent and naturally raw feel to it. This violence is sustained throughout - in a way Ramu did with his marvelous Shiva - and clearly there is no effort to 'soften' the touch.

If it were not for it's aggression, I'd be tempted to call out Aakrosh as the 'sleeper' hit of the year. I didn't expect much from it, and it certainly took me by surprise in places. 'Inspired' yes, but still worth a watch, this.

Upperstall review by: Mr Care




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