Irony about Ayushmann Khurrana's new film

Article 15, based on a rape & murder in the heartlands, tries initiating viewers to sordid truths. However, do such films reach their intended audience?

Vinayak Chakravorty June 11, 2019 23:17:21 IST
Irony about Ayushmann Khurrana's new film
  • Ayushmann Khurrana plays a cop in the hardhitting Article 15

  • The film is said to be based on the Badaun gangrape of 2014

  • The film also looks at gender and caste politics in the heartlands

The first trailer of the upcoming Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer, Article 15, has looked promising. Beyond the caste-driven controversy the trailer has already garnered, it suggests director Anubhav Sinha is ready with yet another uncompromising drama based on reality after last year’s Mulk. The plot of Article 15 bears resemblance to the 2014 Badaun gangrape and murder case, and the crime thriller is an effort to use that brutal incident to dissect caste and gender disparity in the heartlands. The trailer, which crossed 10 million YouTube views in just three days, has roused interest on social media.

Irony about Ayushmann Khurranas new film

Article 15

Therein lies the irony. Article 15, like Mulk, or dozens of other well-meaning efforts that Bollywood is attempting lately, will invariably struggle while reaching out to the core audience where its message actually needs to be delivered.

Let’s face the awful truth. Sinha’s film, no matter how accomplished a piece of work it may turn out to be, is ultimately marketed to cater to a small section of the urban multiplex crowd that reacts positively such tales of realism. The film has been budgeted keeping in mind that notion, and — given the fact that crossover star Khurrana essays his first-ever cop role in Article 15 — it is clearly making no attempt to reach out to the grassroots market. The film is likely to stick to a restricted distribution and exhibition pattern in the B and C centres, and the producers will be happy counting quick returns after a (probable) good show among an audience base that is already aware of these societal maladies through news reports.

Of course, Bollywood cannot stop initiating such efforts because of this. What the industry needs to do is to devise better ways to take such films to the grassroots market. Participation of commercial superstars could help — although the massive weight of image such actors carry on their shoulder could become a hurdle. All the same, the makers of Article 15 have tried to hitch a ride on the superstardom bandwagon by attaching the film’s theatrical trailer with the Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif biggie, Bharat. That, however, may not be enough to get Salman or Katrina’s fans to come and watch their grim film.

The more pertinent effort must, perhaps, come from the film trade. Multiplexes have changed viewing patterns in A-centres of India by letting smaller theatres accommodate films such as Article 15, which bank on hardhitting and realistic content. However, even though multiplexing is gradually replacing single screens in B and C centres, the form of exhibition has not wholly managed to change audience mindsets in these places, since even multiplex screens in smaller towns continue to be dominated by big-ticket Bollywood and dubbed Hollywood potboilers.

Khurrana in his debut cop act will be gunning to change that system.

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