Friday, March 4, 2011

Aakrosh Response

Aakrosh contrasts the different power relations that exist within the caste system. It is set in a small village in Bihar, a state where the hierarchical structure of caste is highly enforced. Three students from Delhi go missing, and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are there to investigate. The local police refuse to corporate, hiring thugs and gangs to kill and intimidate any witnesses. The people in the village are powerless and voiceless against the abuses of their local policemen, who are supposed to protect, not prey, on the weak. The movie illustrates different kinds of power struggles: rural versus urban, local versus national and lower versus higher caste.

Even through this movie was about inter-caste violence, I felt like caste took a back seat. Most of the movie was focused on how the local police force committed crimes against the villagers with such impunity that any attempt to stop them would mean blood. Nicholas Dirk, in his book Castes of the Mind, talks about how caste no longer conveys a sense of community but an expression of local identity. That is the reason why the residents of the village, both the poor and the policemen, responded negatively to the presence of the CBI officers. They felt threatened by modernity and its potential for change. For the villagers, cooperation with outsiders meant danger. For the local police force, interference from the national government can potentially weaken their influence over the region. It’s true that the whole murder investigation revolved around honor-killing and caste differentiation, but the locals desire to maintain their way of life was more about protecting their identity than about caste itself.

The complexity of the caste system in India cannot be encapsulated in a Bollywood action movie. Aakrosh is overshadowed by over the top action sequences. This remake of Mississippi Burning shared more resemblance to Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour. It was directed in the style of a buddy-cop movie (good cop, crazy cop) with plenty of outrageous chase scenes (bicycles, really?). The movie lacks the gravity to depict the power clash between the privileged and the disadvantaged in a serious way, rendering it entertaining yet forgettable.

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