Article 15 Movie Review : A poignant story that plays like a murder mystery
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Isha Talwar, Sayani Gupta, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub
Trigger warning: The movie draws some inspiration from the 2014 Badaun gang rape allegations. If these kind of elements make you uncomfortable, I would suggest not watching the movie, or be appropriately prepared if you are planning to.
The story of Article 15 is based around the murder of two girls, belonging to the Dalit community of this small village in rural Uttar Pradesh, Laalgaon. Director Anubhav Sinha, along with co-writer Gaurav Solanki have masterfully layered their commentary on social discrimination with this "whodunnit" type story. Much like Taapsee Pannu's character in Mulk, who was a Hindu in family of persecuted Muslims, our protagonist, IPS Ayan Ranjan, is an outsider to his surroundings. He is the kind of naive policeman who can debate you on social issues for hours on end but is blissfully unaware of the realities of our society, and who thinks he has been posted in this obscure place as a punishment.
The most compelling part of the movie in my opinion, was the fact that it questioned the belief system behind the minor rules regarding caste/class based discrimination that are still prevalent in our society. For instance, when the fathers of the missing girls appear before Ayan to seek his aid in looking for their daughters, they are not offered glasses to drink water in. This, had it not been questioned by our protagonist in the movie, it would not even have crossed half of the audience's mind as being weird or out of place. Another example is when Ayan is trying to understand the hierarchy of the caste system in India (again, because he has been portrayed as an outsider), and his reaction to the whole thing is as genuine as it can get, partly due to Ayushmann Khurrana's brilliant acting.
Another thing which I liked about the movie is that the story plays like a murder mystery. Two girls are found hanging on a tree by their necks, and one girl is missing. The audience has an idea about what happened, based on what has been shown already, but as the mystery starts getting solved slowly, we see our protagonist's eyes open just a little wider to see what the core of the problem is. Of course, as his lens grows wider, the audience is made to realise that the narrative around this case is so much bigger than just Laalgaon.
Everyone in this movie knows more than they let on, whether it is Inspector Brahmdutta (Manoj Pahwa), constable Jatav (Kumud Mishra), the missing girl's sister (Sayani Gupta) or the Dalit leader (the ever-amazing Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub). Towards the end of the movie, yes, the missing girl is found, but there are no real resolutions. We are only made aware of the rampant corruption /discrimination that runs through our society.
The questions raised by the movie, I feel, are important, and should be asked more often.