Much is being said currently about the cinema of the 70s, thanks to the upcoming Deewali release of the Shahrukh Khan starrer ‘Om Shanti Om’. Farha Khan openly declares this as a celebration of the cinema of the 70s.
While listening to a video on CNNIBN about the impressions the films and stars of this era made on a very young Shahrukh, I was interested. Will he make a reference to the golden period of the so called parallel cinema, I waited eagerly. He failed to do so, but it was not surprising at all. May be he was too young to be able to understand then. But so was I. While I was hardly conscious in that decade, I consider the 70s as the golden period of Indian cinema. And it is not because of the two superstars Mr Khanna and Mr Bachhan.
Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Amrish Puri, Smita Patil, Vijay Tendulkar, Satyadev Dubey, Govind Nihlani. Even if these are enough evidences for good cinema, you will get much more than your expectations. I am talking about ‘Aakrosh‘ which released in 1980. One of the most underrated realistic cinema, it has all the ingredients which epitomised the real small-town India in the Seventies. And surprise surprise, it won 6 Filmfare awards in 1981. Wish the Filmfares had not gone down with time!
It is the story of the struggle of a novice idealist lawer(no metaphor there!) Bhaskar played by Naseer, to bring justice for a tribal Lahanya(Om Puri). The people from the higher echelons of a corrupt society are involved in murdering Lahanya’s wife and oppressing Lahanya. He is the accused produced in court for the murder. Bhaskar does not get support from any quarters, not even Lahanya or his tribe are talking about it. Bhaskar is not one who is giving up, he has to know the truth but even that will not suffice. He needs proof, will he get any? Is he able to help Lahanya finally? You must watch the movie to find this out for yourself. Watch out for the dramatic ending with a metaphor.
The movie centers around the internal and external struggles of two people, Bhaskar and Lahanya. Bhaskar has to struggle with the corrupt people at one hand (he is being attacked physically too), and he has to struggle to seek the truth from the non consenting tribe. Lahanya has lost his wife, he knows it is nearly impossible to get justice, but he has to take care of a young sister too. How does he manage a solution? The conflicts are shown very subtly without much dramatisation. Needless to say, Naseer and Om have performed brilliantly. Amrish Puri as the senior public prosecutor against Lahanya has done an efficient job. He is the current mentor for Bhaskar too. The scenes of conflict inside the court between the mentor and the mentee, and the camaraderie outside, are protrayed quite sensitively too. Smita has barely anything to do in the movie though.
With virtually no background score, the movie is able to portray the gravity of the situation through very subtle noises. The barking of dogs, the rustle of night, the singular cycle passing through, somebody running alone in drop-dead silence, the ring of the phone etc are quite adequate.
A word about the climax of the movie. While it is easy to say it feels incomplete, I think it was a brilliant idea to finish the movie with a question mark best answered by the intelligence of knowledged cine-goer. No spoon feeding here.
Did Govind Nihlani live upto the great expectations after a classic like this? Is it even relevant to ask this question? I don’t think so, I for one is not interested in the quantity. I will be happy to see one such movie rather than the the twenty five other movies from the Seventies, which Mr Khan mentioned in CNNIBN.