Prakash Jha has, most of the times, attempted realistic, hard-hitting films. The films seem straight out of life, as if you're watching a real-life incident unfold right in front of your eyes. Such socially relevant films act as an eye-opener since the films at least make an effort to prick your conscience.
If Jha's previous endeavor GANGAAJAL presented the Bhagalpur blinding on screen, his new offering APAHARAN talks about the spate of kidnappings in Bihar, which has become a parallel industry. The film also talks about the deteriorating law and order condition in the state and how, right from ministers to politicians to cops to the youth, a number of people are lured into the world of crime.
But there're two sides to the coin...
If the attempt to recreate a realistic atmosphere is most laudable, with the talented director taking pains to present the goings-on with utmost precision, what emerges resultantly is so grim, dark and disturbing that you actually start feeling depressed at the end of the show. That indirectly indicates that the director has succeeded in his endeavor of producing a thought-provoking film, but in these times, when the general audience isn't too keen on watching hardcore realistic films, a film like APAHARAN would find it tough to find universal acceptance.
Also, since the film is set in Bihar and throws light on the conditions in the state, the identification will be more in the U.P.-Bihar belt rather than in Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan or South India. Its reach would, therefore, be curtailed to a major extent.
At best, APAHARAN succeeds in making you aware of the spate of kidnappings in Bihar, though the politician-police nexus has been beaten to death in Bollywood and hence, not a novel experience anymore. A theme that may find some supporters here and there, not everywhere!
APAHARAN tells the story of a tumultuous and complex relationship between an honest father and son, set against the backdrop of a thriving kidnapping industry in Bihar. Ajay [Ajay Devgan] is a man burdened by the expectations of his deeply principled and self-righteous social activist father, Prof. Raghuvansh Shastri [Mohan Agashe]. However, circumstances compel Ajay to charter a path that is completely divergent from that of his father.
Ajay desires to join the police force, even raises money to bribe the higher-ups, but in vain. To repay back the loan of Rs. 5 lacs, Ajay decides to kidnap a government official and settle the account. But the plan goes awry as the main kidnapper develops cold feet at the last minute. Subsequently, Ajay is arrested.
Slowly, Ajay finds himself getting lured into the world of crime along with his friends [Ayub Khan and others].
Tabrez [Nana Patekar], a minority political leader, runs an empire, a parallel government that encompasses the political, the criminal, the bureaucratic, the mercenary, the philanthropicï¿½ He is instrumental in calling the shots, while his trusted lieutenant, Gaya [Yashpal Sharma], plans murders and kidnappings from within the bars of a jail.
APAHARAN makes an honest attempt to portray the state of affairs in Bihar. And director Prakash Jha succeeds in projecting the life of a youth who is slowly sucked into the world of crime. The director has studied the issue [kidnappings] minutely, which is why every sequence, right from the start of the film, manages to grab your attention.
Although a number of films have successfully projected a similar theme [the youth losing focus], APAHARAN does it in the most realistic fashion. In APAHARAN, the hero is as helpless as anyone of us, he doesn't have extraordinary powers to realize his dreams, he is not larger-than-life... That's precisely why Ajay's character is easily identifiable.
Although there are several twists and turns in the plot, the viewer starts feeling restless after a point since barring the kidnapping part, there's not much novelty in the script. Besides, it's too grim and dark and there's no respite from the heavy goings-on. Even the romance between Ajay and Bipasha is subtle and doesn't really balance the proceedings.
There's no denying that Prakash Jha is in his element, giving the right shades to the subject, but as pointed out at the very outset, a film like APAHARAN would appeal more to the thinking audience rather than the hoi polloi. Also, the film gets too slow in the post-interval portions, which dilutes the impact of the first half considerably. Besides the Bihari dialect which is region-restricted, even the lingo used in the film isn't the type that would gel well with ladies/families. Overall, it's a one-dimensional film.
Cinematography is excellent. Although the film has been shot in Wai [Maharashtra], not once do you feel that it's not Bihar. Another aspect that deserves brownie points is the soaked-in-acid dialogues. The lines that Nana gets to deliver are noteworthy. The background score [Wayne Sharpe] sounds different to the ears.
The performances in APAHARAN are, by and large, of superior quality. It's a delight to watch Nana in complete form after a long time. In between, one strongly felt that Nana was getting theatrical, just not looking the character he was asked to portray, but he's controlled in APAHARAN. Ajay Devgan is equally competent. His transformation from a simpleton to a criminal is amongst the high points of his performance. Bipasha Basu is passable.
The film has a number of characters, but those who stand out are Mohan Agashe [first-rate], Yashpal Sharma [effective], Mukesh Tiwari [perfect] and Murli Sharma [excellent]. The actor enacting the role of the Home Minister is very good.
On the whole, APAHARAN is an honest attempt that looks at the spate of kidnappings in Bihar, but the dry, grim and dark subject would appeal to a tiny segment of viewers. At the box-office, it has some scope in U.P. and Bihar [thanks to the identification], but will otherwise face rough weather.