In Anubhav Sinha's Article 15, three Dalit girls were gang-raped by a bunch of upper caste men in a village in Uttar Pradesh. Two of them were killed and hung by a tree, with the police claiming they died by suicide after they were caught by their family members in a forbidden affair. Instead of the real culprits, the family members are taken away, and the corrupts police officials try to bury the matter. It is only through the investigation of the missing third girl that the horrifying truth stumbles out. Although we were kept in the loop about it right in the start itself. Article 15 Movie Review: A Brilliantly Cast Ayushmann Khurrana Pricks Your Conscience in Anubhav Sinha’s Gripping Social Drama.
But what made Article 15 scarier is when it digs out the nexus between these criminals and the cops in charge of the investigation, and we see the lines being blurred. Even more, it shows an uncomfortable glimpse of the caste politics still deeply entrenched in our society, especially in the interiors, of how the privilege of being born in an upper caste becomes your kavach and kundal. The last point angering many of the film's rightwing detractors, quite obviously.
At the time of its release, Article 15 received positive reviews and performed decently at the box office, though not up to the kind of performance an Ayushmann Khurrana movie usually does.
Article 15 actually received more attention when it began streaming on Netflix. Now, an year later, the movie is being remembered by Twitterati, in the wake of the horrifying crime that happened in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. Hathras Gangrape: Girl Raped by 4 Men in UP Dies at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.
Sure, what's shown in Article 15 and what happened with the brave but doomed victim of the Hathras gangrape may have run differently. Instead of three, we have one victim, who we lost a few hours back in a shocking display of apathy. There is no benevolent 'Brahminical' saviour in the form of ASP Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana), who wants to provide justice to the victims come what may. Instead, we have a group of hard-working ground reporters trying to uncover the truth, instead of another bunch back in Mumbai chasing after celeb cars.
But we also cannot dismiss the similarities. Sadly, there have been plenty of atrocities committed to women in not just Uttar Pradesh, but also all over the country. What made Hathras horror being singled out for outrage is not just the revelation of the brutalities being committed to the victim, but also how the system allegedly trying to cover up the incident. From an MLA claiming there was no rape to the police allegedly performing the last rites of the girl's body without family's permission, what's happening in Hathras feels something out of a film. The scary part is, it isn't.
Watch the Trailer of Article 15:
We also have been hearing certain murmurs that the culprits might go the Vikas Dubey way. BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya even hinted at that on camera in his statement to the media.
#WATCH The accused have been arrested. The case has been sent to a fast-track court. The accused will be sent to jail... Yogi Ji jo wahan ke CM hain, main jaanta hun ki unke pradesh main kabhi bhi gaadi palat jati hai: BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on #Hathras gang-rape case pic.twitter.com/ksSERx3nu0
— ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2020
Which once again brings us back to Article 15, where Manoj Pahwa's Circle Officer Bhramadutt Singh, a corrupt officer also part of the crime, kills two of the underground culprits and stages them as encounters.
What's more shocking about the tragedy itself - as if that's even possible, oh yes it is - is how some of the pro-BJP supporters have reacted to the crime. Some have tried to downplay the caste angle, when it is clearly a caste atrocity, while others have even tried to deny that rape has happened! Hathras Gang-Rape Victim Cremated in Dead of Night; Kin Allege Police Did It Forcibly.
Did I also mention there was also a protest held to release the arrested culprits?
When Article 15 came out, like I mentioned before, it fluttered the wings of many staunch right-wing radicals, most of them belonging to upper castes. Many called the film a 'caste propaganda', accusing Anubhav Sinha of overselling the ground reality there. Interestingly, just recently, Kangana Ranaut had tweeted, "Cast system has been rejected by modern Indians, in small towns every one knows it’s not acceptable anymore by law and order its nothing more than a sadistic pleasure for few, only our constitution is holding on to it in terms of reservations. (sic)". But just because you want to live like an ostrich who blissfully buries its head in the ground, there is no denying the stench of the caste politics around you.
Now people are truly drawing parallels with Article 15 to that of the Hathras tragedy.
Check Out The Twitterati Who Were Remembering Article 15:
Article 15 is 'Just a Movie'! Haah!
And you thought Article 15 is 'just a movie'! Haah!
— Sania Ahmad (@SaniaAhmad1111) September 30, 2020
There were many who used to say that the movie 'Article 15 was a total exaggeration, and that Caste doesn't matter in 21st century India.
Sadly, Article 15 is replaying in real life at Hathras.
Casteism and Savarna pride is real in India, whether you believe it or not.
— Advaid അദ്വൈത് (@Advaidism) September 30, 2020
Lower caste girls gang-raped and murdered.
By upper-caste men.
Then: Article 15, a movie.
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) September 30, 2020
Article 15 was so true to real life. Nothing changed. The caste equations, the police involvement, the govt apathy. Nothing.
— Cool Mess (@alkagurha) September 30, 2020
Not A Movie
Article 15 is not a movie.
— Hipster (@Hipsterrrific) September 30, 2020
When @anubhavsinha’s Article 15 came, many so called Twitter “nationalists” and idiots like @sumitkadel talked negative about it and said the movie is a propaganda. Now the movie script has turned into reality in #HathrasHorror wonder what these “Nationalists” have to say.
— Avinash Jha (@____Avinash____) September 30, 2020
Not a Mere Routine Crime
You forgot to mention the actual underlining problem. Casteism. Jaatiwaad. This wasn't a mere routine crime. She was subjected to such brutality because she belongs to a particular caste. Watch Article 15, if you haven't yet. https://t.co/5mxscG2BrM
— Vaibhav Kumar (@vaibhavkr86) September 30, 2020
Some of the big and powerful has been silent over this crime. A dialogue in Article 15 also sums up these characters for us, when Ayan Ranjan says the below to CBI Officer Panikar (Nasser), during a probe.
Interestingly, while Sinha has been vocal in criticising over many issues affecting the country, the lead actor has been silent over what's happening around them. Despite the fact that he was recently chosen as the youngest Indian in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
Before I conclude, let me take a page out of Khurrana's character in the film, and remind you once again what Article 15 in out constitution stands for.
I remember the little dilemma I had when I was to compile the best scenes of 2019 in Bollywood. Two scenes in Article 15 stuck with me the most to qualify for the list. One was the very powerful, almost nauseating scene of a closeup scene of a Dalit sewage worker coming out of a sludge-filled manhole.
But I am generally a hopeful person, so I went with the other scene. It was the finale of the film - of all the cops in Ayan's man-hunt team sitting together regardless of their caste and creed and sharing food, as a truck drives by with a board 'Mera Bharat Mahaan'. In these times, such a scene feels as if it belongs to a fantasy film, and yet I do have a hope for humanity, for its inherent justice and belief in the prayers for those wanting justice for Bharat Ki Beti. Or rather, Betiyaan.
(The opinions expressed in the above article are of the author and do not reflect the stand or position of LatestLY.)
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Sep 30, 2020 08:35 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).