Aarakshan Review – Half-Baked Look at Reservations

Aarakshan (Reservations) turned out to be a disappointment for us.

Directed by Prakash Jha, one of India’s rare political film-makers, the much hyped movie is supposedly centered on the hot-button issue of reservations aka affirmative action that allows less qualified candidates from lower castes to get government jobs and seats in colleges via special quotas. (By the way, a corporate bootlicking American politician named Barack Obama got into Harvard University through a similar Reservation program for Blacks.)

Story Flounders

But the reservations subject occupies center-stage in Aarakshan only for the first 1 hour or so.

Then the reservation train derails and the movie is all over the place turning its gaze one moment on the commercialization of education, the next moment hinting at corruption and moments later focusing on personal enmity between two individuals.

Reservation is a vexing issue in India and there are no easy solutions on a matter that has often led to severe violence and occasional deaths, particularly in North India.

But the movie never even makes an effort to explore the topic in depth or treat the subject with the gravity it deserves.

And that’s a shame!

Since Prakash Jha and Anjum Rajabali are responsible for the screenplay, responsibility for screwing up the story must lie at their feet.

Decent Acting

On the positive side, the key actors have done justice to their roles.

Amitabh Bachchan as the sincere college principal Prabhakar Anand, Saif Ali Khan as his student Deepak Kumar, Manoj Bajpai as the greedy and scheming Vice-Principal/Principal Mithileesh Singh, Saurabh Shukla as the Education Minister, Deepika who plays Prabhakar’s daughter Poorbi, Prateik Babbar as the upper caste student Sushant and others have handled their roles with aplomb.

Aarakshan is one of the few Indian movies where it’s hard to slam the actors for a bad job.

Playing a college principal with 35 years of experience and the recent recipient of a two-year extension, Amitabh Bachchan handles his role of a principled man caught up in the turmoil of the Supreme Court order on reservation for backward castes with considerable restraint marked by occasional flashes of anger.

The anger, the excitement, the melodramatic actions and the adrenalin rush come from the younger generation that includes Vice-Principal/Principal Mithileesh Singh, Poorbi, Sushant and the backward caste teacher Deepak Kumar.

The confrontations involving the young turks Saif Ali Khan, Manoj Bajpai and Prateik Babbar have come out well.

In a surprise, Deepika Padukone managed to avoid peeing over herself as she’s wont to do in most of her movies. Perhaps, a bit of the acting talent of her colleagues rubbed off on her in Aarakshan.

Happy Ending

True to most Indian films, Aarakshan too comes with a happy, albeit, extremely unrealistic ending.

Hema Malini in a special appearance turns up at the crucial hour, restores the wronged man Prabhakar’s honor and a special remedial program is established at the college for the poor and less privileged sections of society.

Of course, that’s not how things work in India where the cost of education has shot through the roof lately making it highly unaffordable for a vast chunk of the population and where the little man always loses in his clashes with the powers that be.

Also, what disturbed us a lot was the way Manoj Bajpai’s character Mithilesh Singh was handled. We’re told initially that he’s a sharp, clever fellow and, hey, he does provide ample evidence of his mettle through his scheming tactics that put him on top and his former boss Prabhakar Anand on the street.

But by the end of the movie, we see Mithilesh Singh losing his mental balance and screaming like one possessed by the devil. Absolute nonsense. Still, within the confines of a poorly etched role, Manoj Bajpai throws in a decent performance.

We were not particularly swayed by the music or any of the dances that are standard fare in Bollywood films.

Bottom line, Aarakshan could have been a lot superior with a better set of writers but ends up, alas, as a merely average film.

Related Posts:
Aarakshan Box Office – Buddah Bachchan Fails to Draw Crowds, Again

11 Responses to "Aarakshan Review – Half-Baked Look at Reservations"

  1. rama dasa   August 13, 2011 at 8:38 am

    as if caste was a hindu thing,i wonder if the indian christians and muslims are willing to give up their caste too,hindus over here in usa,especially the whites,we dont have caste,well some have unfortunatly landed themselves in some kind until their bones heal.

    • Naveen   August 14, 2011 at 2:11 am

      @rama dasa – ‘hindus over here in usa, especially the whites” Interesting! Is that a significant number? I didn’t think Hinduism spread that well…

  2. Rajarajan   August 13, 2011 at 11:01 am



    had a look at this?

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. Cheee. Tuuuu – Thirutu Lava*ai Kabaal Venkat Prabhu. 🙁

    2. Somebody teach that Korangu aka Thala to walk straight, pleaaase!

    • Naveen   August 14, 2011 at 2:14 am

      Fans kitte avan peru “Thala” aana makkal madhiyile avanukku innum oru peru irukku, “Tharuthala”.

      (Fans call him “Thala” – leader but people also call him by another name Tharuthala – useless fellow)

  3. Dr.Logu   August 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I get a feeling that Mankatha might have been ripped off from Ocean’s Eleven (atleast some parts)… Shouldn’t be surprising as Thiruttunai Venkat Prabhu is the director..

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: I get a feeling that Mankatha might have been ripped off from Ocean’s Eleven (atleast some parts)

    Ha ha ha, Thala = George Clooney + Brad Pitt + Matt Damon.

    We spilled our Guinness beer. 😉

  4. Dr.Logu   August 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Offtopic: World cup champs pummelled into submission by the poms.


    The magnitude of defeat shows the way how both the teams have played through out the series.

    England had the desire and were on a mission to be No 1 whereas the champs just played like chimps.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    S H A M E ! 🙁

    Good, we didn’t subscribe this time.

    Seeing just defeats would have tempted us to hurl our remote at the TV screen.

    • Naveen   August 14, 2011 at 2:05 am

      The #1 ranking was good as long as it lasted. This is one awful series after a long long time. It is a throwback into 20th century when India used to struggle every test abroad… maybe the boys were just being nostalgic. 😉

      This team went there physically and mentally unfit. In my opinion it is case of collective burn out.

  5. Naveen   August 14, 2011 at 2:32 am

    SI appreciating bollywood actors is rare and for that reason alone I will watch it if it is still running next week.

    By the way, I saw the Ape movie a few days ago, it wasn’t bad at all for its genre but the end didnt go well with me. Too touchy and melodramatic.

    Pinto and Franco displayed same level of acting talent which was far surpassed by Caesar (Andy Serkis + special effects) 🙂

  6. rama dasa   August 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Apparently India is the only country on the planet where you cant switch occupations otherwise why dont the so called dalits get some job working at mac’d’s or pizza hut (i cant think of any Indian restaurant franchises) and work their way up to asst.manager and then to become a local small business owner?

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You write: why dont the so called dalits get some job working at mac’d’s or pizza hut

    Was Mary ‘if they can’t afford bread, let em eat cakes‘ Antonitte your great-great-great grandmother?

    You really need to make a trip to India before sounding off.

    65% of Indians still live in villages where Mac means the same as bac or tac or quack or tac or any meaningless jumble of letters.

    Most villages don’t have a single toilet, let alone a Mac or Pizza Hut. Yes, a lot of Dalits still live in villages.

    Within those villages, Dalits are at the bottom of the social and economic order barely surviving.

    Why don’t you ask your local Church to send you to India.

    Promise them you’ll convert a 1,000 Heathens/Hindus to Christianity and the idiots will readily sponsor your trip. 😉

    2. In the Urban areas, there’s severe competition for jobs.

    With most Dalits looking like Maureen Chao’s Tamil friends, they stand a fat chance of landing a job in Mac or Pizza Hut given the ugly Indian fascination for fair-skin.

    Now, get to work on your church for a trip to India.

    • rama dasa   August 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

      I know BAPS and a couple other sects sponsor villages in India and also sponsor boys/girls education


      also i do in fact know a church (parkview christian church) near my college that does in fact send missionaries over to east india (orissa) but one has to be selected from the list of those who apply, otherwise i would go that route. answer to naveen prabhu’s question, yes that many, mostly due to paramahansa yoganandaji and swami chinmayanandaji and subramuniyaswamiji. also back to the subject I think if India would give tax breaks to small businessmen/women(they do this now?) and also make a law banning any child slave trade (and strictly enforce this law) India should be alright until a semi decent PM takes over

  7. araj   August 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Why haven’t U reviewed RGV’s ‘Not A Love Story’?

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Because RGV no sending his masterpieces monsterpieces to Amreeka no more.

    Not A Love Story did not make it here.

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