Writer: Prakash Jha
Director: Prakash Jha
I wish this move were not as violent as it is – baring that, it is close to a perfect movie. In this movie inspired by the Bhagalpur Blindings, Ajay Devgan plays an IPS officer who takes on the local gangster – Sadhu Baba, and expectedly, wins. In this he is supported by police officers, whom he manages to convert. Expectedly, he comes up against superiors and against politicians in doing his job. After an initial hesitation, people support in larger numbers and the movie ends with people mobbing the gangsters. To this extant it is a time worn plot that is recycled again and again in Indian movies. To this extant, the movie is fully formulaic.
The strength of the movie lies in the details. Ajay Devgan takes over a police station that is a web of interpersonal politics. Each policeman is connected with a different set of powerful people, and is driven by a different set of motivations. The politics is expressed through an askance here, a stare there and by complex web of conversations that are woven between characters. It is remarkable that the scriptwriter was able to put in so much complexity with remarkable clarity in the movie. This is not a regular movie between the “good boys” and the “bad boys”. There are many sets of “bad boys” co-operating and conflicting with each other on different occasions. The DIG (a top police officer) protects the goons from law – but at a price. At the same time, he cares little about them and has a disdain for them – at one point, he is seen almost reveling in their misery. The judge is willing to flex his muscles for the goons, but only when the price is paid. While this thought is not new, rarely does a movie build on a story where this complex set of relationships create their ups and downs for the goons (a father-son duo).
Creating the context
The language and dialect used in the are crafted with much care and suit the local context where the movie is situated. What is unfortunate though is that movies based on Bihar are almost always based on graphic violence and a certain sense of highly politicised lawlessness. I do not claim that there is no violence in Bihar. But it is unfortunate that the Bihari identity that is represented is either one of poverty and submission or that of criminality. There is so much more to Bihar and Bihari identities that this movie (like most others) has chosen not to emphasize.
Getting back to relationships, Gangaljal also has an interesting dimension on the relationship of the officer to his wife Annapurna (played by Gracy Sing). Despite the potential for melodrama, the director has minimized it craftily. The one mild exception is a scene where Gracy Sing has an accident during a mob fury and falls on some acid (“Gangajal”). Interestingly, this was thrown by a common person chasing a goon, and it was not the work of the villain – something that movies tend to do normally. Otherwise, she is a character mostly in the background supporting him, but agonising over his fury. Even moments of intimacy between them are understated and portrayed beautifully.
A serious movie from start to finish
Ajay Devagan and other actors have done a fantastic job in playing appropriately to the script. Barring an “item number” (song with a sexy dance – Bollywood style), the movie has no songs – and there are no comedy tracks to distract. It is a serious movie from the start to the end, and it is worth watching every minute of it. While those who understand Hindi will tend to appreciate the nuances, others are also likely to enjoy this intense movie. It’s a fantastic watch.
PS Here’s a short and nice interview with Prakash Jha before the release of the film.