CasteWatchUK and Amitabh Bachchan on BBC Asian Network

Many of you may have heard about a new Hindi film called Aarakshan, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Manoj Bajpai. Directed by Prakah Jha, the film is a socio-political drama based on the controversial policies of caste based reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.

Listen to CasteWatchUK and Amitabh Bachchan talk about the film and the issues it raises in this interview on BBC Asian Network:

Here is Reena Jaisiah’s review of the film:

“Last night I went to see Aarakshan. Bear in mind I am not a huge Bollywood follower so watching this film was a painful experience. I am pleasantly surprised at the Bollywood industry on tackling this issue though it was masqueraded by operatic emotive overtones and an assault to the ear drums with songs. This film successfully highlighted the socio-political struggles of India’s caste system with central focus on India’s Reservation system in education. It does indeed support the reservation system in India as there is too much disparity if there was not such a system in place. The cinema was virtually empty but it is the month of Ramadan and the other variable is that the Asian are not interested in facing issues like this and would rather see the superficial farce of glitz and glamour in Bollywood films – one of the main reasons why I avoid these kind of films as I go behind this you see,  

To keep it concise the film portrays the struggle of a college Principle’s (Amitabh Bachan)  passion for teaching children from the schedules castes subtitled ‘Backwards caste’ in the movie! The Principle is politically pushed out. Tensions in the college break out between students of the SC whom stand to gain entry into colleges because of the quota system and the higher castes who now have to contend with the reservation policy in spite of otherwise being comparatively more merit-worthy. The film did depict the counter effects of the reservations systems which supports the view that the ‘higher castes’ fall victim to discrimination. It also highlighted India’s dark realty higher caste tyranny. There was some powerful language and eloquent messages in the dialogue which was elating but not thought salubrious.  The most poignant scene in this movie was the opening scene of a job applicant (Saif Ali Khan) being ridiculed by questions into his mother background completely evading questions into the applicants skills. I do believe also a reference was made (the only reference in the entire movie) to Ambedkar though his name had no mention! However there were many scenes that had images of Ghandi of course.  The film shows the bitter journey of how obstacles come in the way of the Dalit community/ SC in their educational and career pursuits and how Indian society throws a wall in front of them and they fight. I am glad this issue was highlighted.  There was also a soppy love plot where caste conspires against love.  The film closed with a predictable happy gooey ending with no room for thought.  Go and see for yourself if only to support the message.”

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