By anuj2303, Jun 14 2016 04:00PM
In an era when Bollywood movies were dominated by brain-numbing, logic defying, mawkish travesties, Ardh satya, released in 1984, came as a welcome change in the world of Indian cinema. The movie is a grim portrayal of social reality in India, and it is a very intense experience. Although, the bigger theme of the movie is the endemic problem of corruption in India, the film uses personal characterization to depict the emotional nuances of a man fighting both the system and his own demons. It is a movie that unfolds at a quiet, unhurried pace despite the urgency of the themes it addresses.
The protagonist, Anant Velankar, wants to do an MA in literature, but his father wants him to join the police service, as he himself had served in the police force before retiring. So, against his will, Anant joins the police force as a sub-inspector, even though he hates the idea of being in the police. As a child, Anant saw his father mercilessly beat his mother, even when his mother suggested that Anant didn’t want to join the police, his father beat her. This has a deep psychological impact on Anant. In the movie we see that whenever Anant is in charge of a case in which a woman is a victim, he beats the convicts black and blue. The anger and deep-seated frustration of not being able to help his mother and speak out against his father is palpable and manifests itself regularly.
The department officers are often seen cracking jokes about being upright and they reiterate the importance of being obsequious. An upright officer who fought against the system ends up being suspended and lives as a great drunkard on the streets. That officer fought against a seasoned criminal, Rama Shetty, who operates illegal businesses, has top political and police contact in high places, and gets away with all sorts of crimes. Anant runs into him, he personally hates this man. Upon obtaining a proof, he sets out to arrest Rama Shetty, but is chastised and abused by his senior on the phone in front of everyone. He is left shattered, furious and deeply hurt. He questions his manliness, self-worth and his male ego. He takes to drinking.
There is a bank robbery in the town, a national crime bureau officer is sent to take charge. Along with this officer, Anant conducts a raid on the robbers’ hideout. Anant is the one who bravely, without fearing for his life, catches the robbers. And as a result, he is promised a President’s medal on Republic Day. His father joins him for a drink. There it is seen that Anant abhors his father and when his father tries to hug him, Anant pushes him aside angrily reminding him how he used to beat his mother.
However, due to favourtism, the award goes to that bureau officer. Frustrated, Anant drinks too much alcohol. The same night a juvenile delinquent is brought into his custody for a minor crime. Anant, in an inebriated state, takes his frustration out on him. As a result, he dies in Anant’s custody. The next day, Anant is suspended from his duty. His senior officer offers him advice, and asks him to contact Rama Shetty, his nemesis, as he’s the only one who could help him now owing to his political contacts. So, Anant unwillingly goes to Rama Shetty. There Shetty agrees to help him, but on one condition. He wants Anant to work with the police, but as his man. In Anant’s mind, this is tantamount to being a pet dog. Unable to take another dent in his self-esteem, Anant loses his mind, and in blind rage, he kills Shetty.
Brilliantly acted and directed, Ardh Satya still stands the test of time. It depicts very subtly and poignantly the impacts of violence, corruption, injustice and the callousness of society on an honest and sincere man. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since 1984, and corruption still remains the bane of Indian society. It’s a film that is hard to get out of your head days after you’ve watched it, and which challenges viewers to think and question the very fabric of society.