Releasing this Friday is Prakash Jha’s socio-political drama Aarakshan, which focuses the camera on the controversial policy of reservation in education in India. The film looks at the policy both in broad terms with the commercialization of education, but also how it affects the characters in the film on a more personal level. In our exclusive interview, Mr. Jha gave us some insight into the story saying, “It’s an emotional journey of a man who is principled, who believes in equal opportunities for everybody, and who is the Principal of a college where the principle of reservation doesn’t apply. His clash is with the education mafia, which has taken education and made it a business.”
That principal is played by esteemed actor Amitabh Bachchan. Talking about his role Mr. Bachchan said, “My character (Prabhakar Anand) is the principal of an institution where the higher class can avail education. He is an idealistic man and would rather impart education for free to those children who cannot otherwise afford it. Somewhere in his life he tries to bring a balance between the two and believes that every capable person should have the chance to progress in his or her life through education.”
As to what attracted him being a part of a film like Aarakshan, Mr. Bachchan said there were many reasons and one of the main ones was the chance to work with Prakash Jha, “For me it’s always the script and then when you pair it with a director like Prakash Jha it’s very difficult to say no. Prakash is a great director with a very unique vision and I have been keen to work with him for some time and was waiting on the right opportunity to present itself, which has happened with Aarakshan.”
However, it was not only the director, it was more the important and relevant story Aarakshan had to tell that made him want to be a part of the film, “The subject matter was very appealing to me and the challenge of understanding it equally. I do think a film like Aarakshan can really help to make a positive change in our society and at the very least, draw attention to a subject matter that needs to be conveyed to the public.”
Mr. Bachchan feels this is an extremely important issue that needed to be brought to the forefront. “These issues have to be raised and we were lucky to convey this message through the highly powerful medium of film and through this the film has potential of having a global impact through its far–reaching distribution. Yes, film does have to entertain and engage audiences, but I think we also have to take into account the powerful impact that the film industry can have on a global scale and use this to our advantage to facilitate positive change.”
Ask him if he still finds he is challenged as an actor and his answer may surprise you, “Yes, all the time and I hope it stays that way. Taking Aarakshan’s script as an example, it really made me address a subject matter that is so inherent in our society, but I had previously been oblivious to. It’s very important to experiment as an artist, push the boundaries and step out of your comfort zones. If you are passionate and enthused by a role, then your audience will feel this too.”
Mr. Bachchan says that Aarakshan is a must see film for audiences the world over, “This is such a poignant film with a strong message that needs to be delivered to the public. Discrimination is a universal phenomenon, which the common-person encounters in his or her everyday lives all over the world, so it is a film that can appeal to a mass audience on a global scale. This film transcends background and divisions based on gender, class, ethnicity and so forth. A must see film!”
Aarakshan starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Prateik, Manoj Bajpayee and Deepika Padukone is in cinemas on Friday. Be sure to check out our exclusive interviews with director Jha and Deepika Padukone too!