‘Chanting slogans, chest thumping, calling us big nationalists, but you don’t stop at traffic lights.’
‘What nationalism are you talking about?’
IMAGE: The horrifying scene in Anubhav Sinha’s film Article 15, where two young Dalit girls are hung from a tree, a crime which leads its protagonist, an idealistic IPS officer, on a journey of self-discovery.
Article 15 Director Anubhav Sinha reads an Article of the Constitution whenever he finds time during the day.
One of the most powerful scenes in his film is just before the intermission when young IPS officer Ayan Ranjan, played by Ayushmann Khurrana, pins a printout of Article 15 of the Constitution on the bulletin board of his police station in Lalgunj.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination based on caste, class, religion, sex or birth. It is a Fundamental Right from the Constitution that makes all Indians equal — but is not taken cognisance of in India every day.
Article 15 tells the story of a young officer’s quest to adhere to that supreme rule book of the Indian State. The film has bucked established Bollywood trends and has become a hit, giving Khurranna, with a string of five consecutive hits, the second-biggest opener of his career.
Anubhav Sinha had never expected that his film would resonate so strongly with audiences. He was not even sure if the title Article 15 would work — but it did.
An admirer of Bimal Roy, Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal, Sinha made popular cinema like the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Ra.One, Tum Bin, Tum Bin 2 — but Mulk and Article 15, he believes, are a homecoming.
“The world is going through its worst phase, we have collectively never behaved so badly. We are defying the basic laws of co-existence,” he says.
In a month’s time, he will start filming his next film with Taapsee Pannu in Lucknow.
“Article 15 actually is not about the Dalits. It is about us privileged people. What is it that we have done, what is it that we have been doing and what is it that we should be doing,” Sinha tells KhabriBaba.com‘s Archana Masih in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.
IMAGE: Article 15‘s ensemble cast has excellent performances from every actor that appears on screen. Left to right: Sushil Pandey as Nihal Singh, Ashish Verma as Mayank, Kumud Mishra as Jatav, Ayushmann Khurrana as Ayan Ranjan.
How many times have you seen Article 15 in a cinema hall?
Twice or thrice. I hear people were laughing at the caste scene. It was a very intense film and I wanted them to have a laugh or two.
I am happy (with the response). I am walking three inches above the ground. There have been messages, phone calls from the most eminent people in the country.
Anything in particular, a response that took you by surprise?
When a senior BJP leader appreciated the film and he got trolled. And I was like wtf!
Is there a film you have seen recently that you have really liked?
Gully Boy. I loved it. I am a shy man. I can’t call a stranger and talk. Strangely, I had never met Zoya Akhtar, but when I came out of the theatre, I wanted to speak to her and give her a hug.
The next morning I got her number and called her. I told her what a lovely film she had made.
Is it true that you read an Article from the Constitution every day?
I try to. I always have a PDF tab on my Firefox and whenever I can, I open it and read. I have been doing this since the last 8 months.
Why do you do that?
That is the rule book, no?
That is the rule book for existence on this piece of land called India.
In schools we should start telling the meaning of the national anthem.
What does Vande Mataram mean?
What does the Preamble mean?
What are the 12, 13 basic Articles of the Constitution?
We should know this by the time we are 11.
Chanting slogans, chest thumping, calling us big nationalists, but you don’t stop at traffic lights. What nationalism are you talking about?;
Why did Ayan Ranjan, the IPS officer, have to be an upper caste? Why does it need an upper caste to be a saviour of the lower castes?
Why are you looking at the caste of the protagonist? To me, that is casteist. We are looking at good people and bad people.
Then why not have a Dalit protagonist?
I wanted to look at the story from the eyes of privilege.
I took him to the top of privilege — both structural and social — and then (see) what must privilege do.
This film actually is not about the Dalits. It is about us privileged people.
What is it that we have done, what is it that we have been doing and what is it that we should be doing.
I don’t even know whether I am a savarna or not, I am a Kayasth, so I am not Brahmin or Kshatriya or Vaishya or Shudra.
Because most Kayasths are educated, they are treated as upper castes, but in the constitution of the religion, I am blowing in the wind (laughs).
If it has to be a Dalit protagonist, one of my friends will make a film. This is not the last film on this subject — I hope not.
You say your next two films are about your anger. What is it about India that troubles you at the moment?
Schools because I think it is a conspiracy that India could not build enough schools.
We did not want them to be asking the right questions. We wanted them to be swayed by the wrong questions.
Journalists — a lot of them died recently. We need some good journalists.