Showing Society for What it is
Jha, one of the leading directors in Indian cross-over cinema,
is a relieved man.
has bought peace with flamboyant politician Laloo Prasad
Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which rules the eastern
state of Bihar, after the release of his latest feature
film Gangajal was stalled for a week in Patna, capital of
August 29, at the first day first show of the film, RJD
activists, particularly its controversial leader Sadhu Yadav,
brother-in law of Laloo Prasad Yadav, had vandalized two
cinema halls in Patna protesting that the name of the film's
villain resembled that of
stand-off between Sadhu and the director continued for a
week before Jha flew from Bombay to Patna and met the RJD
supremo and his brother-in-law for two hours and brought
an end to the drama.
stars two-time national award winning actor Ajay Devgan
in the role of an honest police officer caught in the vortex
of crime and corruption at a village in Bihar. It opened
to full houses in the first week in other parts of India
but the director was particularly keen that people in Patna
get to watch it because Bihar is his home state.
is an irony that Sadhu Yadav and RJD activists are giving
the clean chit to Jha's film. They, as the director complained,
had taken objections to the naming of the villain in Gangajal
without watching it. Jha repeatedly denied the reel Sadhu
has any resemblance with real Sadhu or that he had Laloo
Yadav's brother-in-law in mind in giving the name.
Prasad Yadav's brother-in-law withdrew his objections, also
without watching the film even though Jha had arranged for
its special screening in Patna.
fact, said Jha, he had named the villain in his film after
a small-time criminal he had met in a Bihar jail 13 years
is more than one reason why Jha has high stakes in ensuring
smooth release and good response to Gangajal which also
features actress Gracy Singh, (who shot to fame through
Aamir Khan-starrer mega movie Lagaan), in the role of Devgan's
Prakash Jha is himself the producer of Gangajal and makes
a comeback to film-making after a break of two years.
his flirting with mainstream commercial cinema by making
immensely forgettable films like Dil Kya Kare and Rahul,
ended up in box-office failure and Jha badly needed a hit
stage a strong comeback.
director has succeeded in bouncing back as Gangajal has
earned rave media reviews as much as has Ajay Devgan who
produced another fine performance in the film.
story of Gangajal has taken cue from the infamous real incident
that had unfolded in Bihar's Bhagalpur district two decades
ago when a group of criminals were blinded by irate villagers
who poured acid in their eyes.
Kumar, a police officer (played by Ajay Devgan) is transferred
to Tejpur, a small town in Bihar, dogged by criminals and
corruption that has not spared the local police also.
tries, with partial success, to inspire honesty among some
his subordinates but soon he finds himself fighting against
a virtually insurmountable wall of criminalised and corrupt
strict follower of law, Amit soon finds that to cope with
criminals he has to bend rules of the game. The police and
residents of Tejpur pour acids as they go about tackling
the criminals of Tejpur. In local parlance, acid is called
Gangajal, a symbol of purification of society from criminals.
Amit tries to assure the people of Tejpur that law will
punish the criminals, he is confronted with the question
"what law you are talking about?"
Jha himself explains, Gangajal the dilemma of police and
its relationship with society.
Jha, the Bhagalpur blindings went on for 17 months and there
were over 30 cases relating to criminals being blinded in
custody. When the news broke out about this, people of Bhagalpur
took to the streets and threatened to fight against the
local administration if the policemen responsible for the
incidents were not punished.
crux of my film is this dilemma" -- are social and
moral correctness one and the same thing?" Jha told
The best thing about Gangajal is that in dealing with a
complex issue, Jha has not go ne for a black-and-white presentation
of the characters.
is interesting to note that every time Prakash Jha has set
the story of his film in his native state of Bihar, he has
met with success. One has only to recall his two earlier
successful films Damul, dealing with exploitation in a feudal
society, and Mrtiyudand in this context.
which has Prakash Jha's ex-wife and actress Dipti Naval
in its central role, was adjudged the best feature film
several years back while Mrityudand, starring Bollywood
superstar Madhuri Dixit, was a box-office success. The story
of both the films are set in Bihar and deals with the dark
sides of society.
has not succeeded in portraying human relationships and
emotions on screen as evidenced by Dil Kya Kare and Rahul.
But his delineation of harsh social realities has made an
Damul, Jha set out as parallel film-maker but he seems to
have moved over to cross-over films with films like Mrityudand
and Gangajal which packages the subjects in the language
of the prevailing mainstream market to reach out to a wider
this is desirable or not is a debate that has hardly ceased.
One wishes Prakash Jha goes on.