Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gangajal: Worth watching again

I was watching Gangajal coming on some channel, and was so impressed again with the movie that I thought that I would write about it. Gangajal is a movie that was released a few years back (2003) and stars Ajay Devgun, Gracy Singh, Mohan Joshi, and is directed by Prakash Jha, a filmmaker who makes movie with social contexts.
The movie depicts the life in rural Bihar, and seeing it, you wonder as to whether this is what the Indian state has evolved into. The criminal-politician-babu nexus is incredible, with the local criminal having an unchallenged run of the place through his contacts in the police (essentially getting the police onto his payroll), and through contacts with the politician, who is as venal as the criminal or local mafia. Once the criminal has his run of the place, nobody can stand upto him, and with the support of the police and authority, nobody can challenge him. He takes what he wants, exploits whom he wants and does what he wants.
The police, supposed to protect people, is an equal exploiter; using their stamp of authority to do what they want. Hence you have a dual depiction of police nature, being compliant with the local don, as well as at the same time, even when they are good, having the stamp of unchallenged authority. In this obvious vacuum of good governance, rule of law reverts to the brutal, and society starts endorsing quick punishments (tantamount to a public lynching of criminals), with the mob showing the path.
The movie is about the good cop versus the bad system and his efforts to make people believe again, so in the sense it is old hat, but whereas most such movies are set in urban areas and about challenges with a genteel criminal, this movie is about the challenge in rural areas, with corrupt policemen and a suppressed society.
The movie is based to a large extent on the Bhagalpur blindings of 1979, where justice had broken down to such a degree that policemen delivered brutal justice by blinding under-trials and society enthusiastically endorsed their moves in the wake of a collapse of normal law and order. Ajay Devgun is the young SP of Tezpur district who had joined this area. He comes in, given a normal lecture on no corruption, etc which is ignored by his policeforce. But he starts walking the talk, unwilling to take things at face value.
He is not appreciative at all of the local don (Mohan Joshi) and his rowdy power-mad son. But his own police force is a divided force, with some of them bowing to the don, and others to the DIG (who has his own agenda). As the movie progresses, you can see him trying to improve things. The man brought to the police force by the don, Bachcha Yadav (Mukesh Tiwari), kills 2 local rowdies and claims them as an encounter. Ajay is not convinced, and starts putting pressure on him, this pressure makes him more resistant to the orders of the don.
Eventually, Bachcha Yadav tries to get the son of the don arrested, and then, in a move that is quite chilling, when two henchmen of the don are arrested, the police force, in the confines of the police station, rupture the eyes of the men and then pour acid on the eyes. This is the mark of the movie. Battery acid (equal to the cleaning powers of holy water of the Ganga (gangajal)), will cure the society of such criminals. It may sound good for punishing criminals for their crimes through such means, but mob or vigilante action is never good for society.
The Bachcha Yadav is likked by Sadhu Yadav (son of the don), and all hell breaks loose. The true power of the police is depicted, as they will turn the district upside down to find the killer, and even a hardened criminal knows that once he is in the police's hands, there is not going to be any mercy. And this is what happens, when Sadhu Yadav is caught before being able to file for anticipatory bail and taken to police remand room, and regularly thrashed.
Hi father is distraught, and uses the politician (the state home minister) to get Ajay out of the picture so that bail can be given. Bail is given, and Sadhu is finally out of jail, and promptly proceeds to try and force a wedding with his loved one (who detests him), with the police standing by mutely. At this point, the girl commits suicide, and a mob starts chasing the son and father and corners them. At this, the cry of gangajal rents the air, and everybody knows that they are actually asking for battery acid so that the father and son can be dealt with then and there. Ajay intervenes, admonishing the crowd for trying to usurp the power of the justice system and for equating holy water with battery acid.
This was a very powerful movie, and if such things happen in real life a lot in the interiors, you can almost start to realize why groups like the maoists and naxalites thrive. Of why people can be influenced to not contact the police, anyhow knowing that the police is equally involved.

No comments: