There is grim reality, and there is grim reality made grimmer by the futility of action. That the powerless will continue to be trampled over by the powerful, that the narrow-minded will continue to be bigoted, that the law will never be able to protect the right people, and that people who inflict cold-blooded crime will never realize they were wrong. And that by the time these wrongs are righted, the meek will be too dead to gloat.
And that is how optimistic Aakrosh, Priyadarshan's mirror to the universe of honour killings, is. It's a sensible stance to take, and the film remains pretty faithful to its theme. Only, it doesn't quite work as a healthy outing for those who've come to have fun at the movies.
Pratap Kumar (Ajay Devgn) and Siddhanth Chaturvedi (Akshaye Khanna) are CBI officers who are sent to Jhanjhar, a district in the North, to investigate the case of 3 missing medical students that the national media has raised a hue and cry on. They reach the place to find inept, corrupt, cackling policemen headed by the worst of them all - Ajatshatru (Paresh Rawal).
They also realize that there's more to their case than 3 murdered kids - there's an entire blanket of tension in the region, thanks to the fear that Dalits there have to live in. There's no one to complain to, since everyone's in this together - the police, the Collector, the local netas. Crime is a way of life here, and blowing the whistle doesn't help, since it keeps costing the down-trodden their lives and their right to dignity of death.
Aakrosh is single-mindedly dedicated to portraying how evil the administration is and how helpless you are if you don't think like "them". It's a frightening portrayal, really, and true as it may be, it doesn't succeed much in shaping a solution. There's negativity all through, and even sub-plots like that involving Pratap and his ex-flame Geta (Bipasha Basu) who is now married to the heinous Ajatshatu, are tragic.
Plus, it's not encouraging to see the CBI being shown as impotent. Siddhanth Chaturvedi is an utterly tactless officer who conducts his investigations so openly that he's unaware of the risks he puts his already-agonized witnesses through. Then, just as he's made some real headway into the case his boss wants him to call it off since there's too much "pressure" on him.
Ajay Devgn, who plays Siddhanth's junior officer, who is more clued in to facts of life than the latter is, has much less to talk than Khanna. Devgn, however, has emerged as an actor who doesn't need to do much other than smouldering and just being present in a scene for it to make sense. He's a solid anchor to the proceedings, despite the fact that Khanna leads a lot of the scenes. Khanna is good, too, but stuck in a rather shallow role.
Paresh Rawal laps up his role as the loathsome policeman. The women - Bipasha Basu and Reema Sen - are in bit roles of tortured victims.
A musty look to the visuals adds to the effect, and Pritam's serious-toned music score helps along.
Aakrosh is a decent effort, but not recommended for those who're not looking for grief at the cinemas this week.