Gangaajal is my favorite Prakash Jha film. I have watched and re-watched Prakash Jha films for a plethora of reasons but Gangaajal, I believe is the film that I have watched the most number of times. What is it about this film that pulls audiences from varied age groups? What is it that makes its subsequent viewings just as interesting and gripping as its first viewing? Is it only about the entertainment quotient or there is something more to it. In this review, I will try to put my fingers on some of the points that have appeared to me as I have watched this film over and over again.
The story takes place in the fictional district of Tezpur that is ruled by a vicious gang lord, Sadhu Yadav (Mohan Joshi) who successfully commands the police force by either bribing them or by threatening them. He also has a strong hold in the ministry. His son Sunder Yadav (Yashpal Sharma) is obnoxious and cruel and is someone who can go to any extent to do his heart’s will. Sadhu is at the height of his power and it is at this juncture that an honest and upright police officer Amit Kumar (Ajay Devgan) walks into the district. He starts questioning Sadhu Yadav’s authority and a chain of events finally leads him to arresting his son Sunder who has willfully kidnapped and assaulted a local girl.
However Sadhu Yadav gets his son released on bail after threatening the girl’s family and Amit is reduced to a silent spectator. That night, Sadhu’s goons lay siege on one of the localities of Tezpur and Amit intervenes by thrashing them and locking them up. On his departure, the other police officers who for so long had been quite and faced many an ordeal at the hands of Sadhu Yadav and his men are instigated by the goons and they take the matter into their own hands and pour acid on the men after blinding them. This action has a resounding effect in the whole district as many such incidents happen overnight showing how distraught people are and the angst that they have been holding in their heart for the system. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.
This film works because it has a humane story to tell. You actually identify with the tortured souls and once the cops start dispensing justice in their own way you actually applaud it. There is a scene in the film wherein after the Tezpur blinding, a similar incident occurs in a place called Shikarpur. When the mob enters the lockup and takes matter into their own hands, the Inspector in charge of the police station is shown sitting outside the lockup. The camera pans on him and we hear the conch playing in the background. Conch as we Indians know is associated with holy deities. Thus in this scene a police officer who was a while ago obscene and distasteful has suddenly risen to divinity because of his act of retribution for the people.
The film constantly addresses matters like caste and sect which are of great importance in our society. We see through the course of the film how a lower caste and an upper caste police officer who are suspended by Amit Kumar on charges of corruption find their callings and become Amit’s closest and most trusted associate. The film also shows how the might of the oppressor no matter how strong finally caves in to the uproar of the masses. The violence, no matter how devastating and cringe worthy, strangely enough brings a sense of peace and happiness not only for the oppressed characters but for viewers as well.
Ajay Devgan and every other cast members always bring their A-game to the Prakash Jha films and Gangaajal is a burning example of that. This is one of Ajay Devgan’s best performances. I dare say that this was a better act than his “Bhagat Singh” turn in Raj Kumar Santhoshi’s The Legend of Bhagat Singh. As the film progresses his character gets better and better. The finale even though a tad bit too melodramatic and with an unnecessary action sequence is still blood cuddling and one of the reasons for that is Ajay Devgan’s brooding act. Mohan Joshi is brilliant. He is the able foe that Amit Kumar’s character needed to show its true color. Yashpal Sharma is a Prakash Jha regular and here to, he excels. You will love to hate him. Mukesh Tiwari has an important role and he leaves no stone unturned to turn in a fine performance.
Gangaajal is highly entertaining. Apart from the finale it never for once gets preachy. It feed you social drama but gives you the taste of a KFC chicken Nuggets. That in turns ensures that you come back for more and more. The film is hilariously funny in a realistic sort of a way in many junctures. It has great re-see value thanks to its smoldering screenplay, heroic turn from Ajay Devgan and a burning social issue that it has at its core. Shot in the traditional Hindi film fashion and not at all hyperactively edited, the film gives you a pretty picture. The movement and the transitions are fluid and the fact that there are no flash backs and the film follows a linear path just lets you sit back and let the narrative take you over without putting too much head into deciphering the nuances.
Gangaajal is a grand Prakash Jha film which can be enjoyed at multiple levels. If there is one Prakash Jha film that is a must watch, it is this.