Many in the film industry feel that Anubhav Sinha paid the price for being a vocal opponent of government policies. His brilliant political drama Article 15 from 2019, hands down the best film of this year, was overlooked in the National Awards in favor of Nitesh Tiwaris Chhichhore, a relatively tame look at student life.
While sympathy for the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput must undoubtedly have played a significant role in tipping the scales in favor of Chhichhore, the qualitative difference between the two films is so high that it could not have been a close shave between the two films. Not by far.
I tried to get in touch with Jury Leader N Chandra (who hasn’t made a film for 12 years) but he chose not to respond. Anubhav Sinha swept him away with a laugh. But a close friend of Anubhav spoke, obviously the criteria were more than merit. Go through the list of winners and you will know what I mean. Article 15 was without a doubt the best movie of 2019 not only in Hindi but in any Indian language. Not honoring it is like giving the award for best music to a movie called Beimaan during the year of Pakeezah. This happened with the Filmfare Awards in 1972.
In a word, Article 15 is spellbinding. It’s everything cinema was ever meant to be. Thought provocative, questioning, disturbing and ultimately cathartic because the cop-hero (played with quivering intensity by Ayushmann Khurrana) succeeds in obtaining justice for the injured.
I have to say that it is hard to believe in the level of political credibility and social conscience that Anubhav Sinhas acquired after Mulk. Article 15 goes even further than Goods in search of the truth hidden under the veneer of fairness and justice for all.
Sinhas’ amazing 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 the service and immediately stumbles upon a gruesome caste crime where two girls are gang raped and hang from a tree. A third girl has disappeared.
Sinha gives the girl’s search a thriller element that in no way dramatizes movies of an endlessly dark mood. The director doesn’t have any 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.
Although the background score is a bit flashy, Anubhav Sinha never punctuates his drama too much. He is not afraid to let the world shine, which he recreates under the sweat of inhuman behavior. The actors are all so knowledgeable in the director’s realm of the damned that they happily slip into their roles without the apprehension of stumbling over the abyss of self-aware authenticity.
Section 15 is a film that must be seen by all Indians. Not because it teaches us something new. But because what he’s telling us shouldn’t be relevant to our society now. But oppression, like oppression movies, has a knack for coming back when you feel it’s gone.
At one point, the hero confesses that he must unravel the mess created by social discrimination. It’s an average wild world for low-income women and men.
For Anubhav Sinha to shoulder the burden of widely dividing the debate between the haves and have-nots is no small feat. The director deserves a standing ovation for having brought social awakening cinema back to the screen without any self-congratulations.
the Raids, awards for the Worst Cinematic Achievement of 2020, were announced last month. For those who arrived late, the Razzies celebrate the best of the worst every year. Last year’s unanimous winner was the disgusting meow of a movie titled Cats who did to the legendary Broadway musical what Kamal Amrohi did to Razia Sultan.
This year’s nominees for the Razzies include smelly gems like 365 days and Fantastic island in the Worst Image category. Both films are indeed shameful in the extreme, horrible indeed. But you have to remember that 365 days made Michele Morrone (don’t read the last name too much) an international star with women all over the world wanting to be kidnapped and sexually assaulted by him, as the heroine of the films was shown.
What I mean is bad movies are becoming hits all over the world. The best thing to do is laugh at their inferior quality. This is exactly what the Razzies do. And stars in America are sporty enough to enjoy trashing and thrashing without getting mean or silly about it. Some of them even attend these devaluation functions. It’s good for the ego.
The Razzies this year feature renowned stars like Anna Hathaway (double nomination for Worst Actress for The last thing he wanted and The witches), Kate Hudson (for Music, a movie and performance that I personally loved) and Glenn Close who, ironically, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the same film and role in which she is shortlisted for a Raid in Hillbilly Elegy.
How would our own Bollywood react if last year’s worst movies like Coolie No 1, Gulabo Sitabo and Laxmii were nominated for the Indian equivalent of the Razzies? We had them a few years ago and we called them the Golden Kela Award. Its organizers were two intrepid gentlemen named Anant Singh and Jatin Verma.
I remember during 2014 they were asked about why Katrina Kaif was not nominated in the Worst Actress category for Dhoom 3. Because we don’t even think of her as an actress, they joked.
Try saying this out loud if you are a Bollywood awards organizer. Chances are, the aforementioned star will never attend your awards show, never dance for her, and never invite you to her birthday party. A few years ago, an award ceremony was taking place when one of the best nominated actresses who was about to attend the function, learned that another actress had won the award.
She called to tell organizers that she should win or that she wouldn’t dance. Caught in a sweaty situation, they complied. But really, what kind of satisfaction does an actor get after intimidating an award from the organizers?
If I were Robert Downey Jr., I would also be happy about my Razberry nomination this year for Worst Actor in Dolittle like the Oscar for Chaplin in 1993. Because the Razzie nod is an acknowledgment of everything one expects from an actor. Kiara Advani in Indoo Ki Jawani cannot disappoint. There is no expectation.
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