Thoughts Provoked by Aarakshan
Usually on Fridays, if there is a good Hindi film on, we make the effort to go watch it, even if just one of us wants to see it. It’s a family-bonding thing that also keeps us connected to India. I’m normally the fusspot, as I have very little patience for conventional Indian cinema, but was glad I made it to this one.
Aarakshan tackles the controversial subject of the reservation system in India. The reservation policy stems from the biggest social issue in our country, the caste system. 24% of India’s population is Schedule Cast Schedule Tribe, and an estimated 32% falls under Other Backward Classes category. So basically, over 55% of our population faces caste discrimination and / or are extremely poor; all of them are considered Below the Poverty Line, which means, according to the Indian Government, they earn Rs.10 a day.
It is this 55% for whom the reservation system has been put into practice. The system was actually put in place by the British back in 1937, when they called this sector the “depressed class” and chose to recognise them so they could play a role in self-rule government they were trying to instill in India.
Overall in India today, there is a 27% quota for these people in schools, universities and the workplace. Numerous questions arise as a result of this, that are put forward very well in the film: Is this fair? What about those who have worked hard and do not get a place because of the reservation system? If there is no reservation system for those genuinely in dire social and financial straits, is there any hope for them? How can India even begin to get any parity if a quota is not allocated for those less fortunate? But is the quota really helping? Or is it being abused? If reservation is not part of the solution, what is?
The film brings to light a well-balanced debate on the issue, which I think will remain a debate until India sees real change. Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai’s acting is exceptional. Amitabh represents an exemplary level of courage, strength and maturity, and puts forth principles we all must to aspire to; and Bajpai represents everything wrong with the Indian system. He brings you to disgust as he portrays a sick amount of greed and corruption that is engrained in our country. Also, the strength of the family union and love-story within the film really tug on emotions. I cried twice!
It’s a film worth watching as it entertains, educates and makes you think. You must excuse the slight Bollywood flair in the beginning with some songs inappropriately inserted into what is otherwise a strong script.
It made me wonder what my stance on reservation is. Truth is, as much as I don’t think as a policy it is fair to those who miss out because of it, however, I see it as necessary, the only way to start getting some equality in society, as perhaps the only ounce of hope for those less fortunate in our country. What do you think?
Photo Courtesy: HindiMovies.org