Aurangzeb stands for the megalomania that unchecked ambitions can lead to. Set in Gurgaon, possibly the most shining gaon of the country, the film talks of people who are game to sacrifice kinship to have a shot at kingship. It marks the return of Yash Raj banner to Trishul, Deewar mould.
The difference here is no brother is on the side of law. Nobody can claim moral high ground here. And the ones that even think of it are silenced quickly. After a long time the banner shuns the conflict in romance and makes family fracas a leitmotif. Maa and baap are back in business and so are matters of illegitimacy, which used to be the staples in the 1970s.
The difference is that the drama is not allowed to go overboard and Atul Sabharwal doesn’t provide props to his performers to accentuate the situation. It is the writing and acting that does most of the talking and not the stylish cuts and costumes. The dialogues are not thrown at us without the expectation of whistles. They define what the film stands for and perhaps that’s why nothing sounds exaggerated even when the basic plot of twins with one of them replacing the other sounds dated. Atul has immaculately turned an old-fashioned yarn into something that is relevant even today.
The intricacies of land grabbing and the manipulations that go with it are deftly handled. Atul is talking about an India where only two types of people hold sway: the politicians with power and the corporates with money, and everybody want to hold on to one side. But the way conscience spirals in the second half you start to feel even for the villains of the piece. In the 70s and 80s ‘melodrama’ was not such a bad word because it emanated from reasons that demanded unbridled commotion. Here you feel such turmoil all over again. Even before you begin to find a loophole, Atul addresses it and comes up with logic. It may not be convincing all the time but you go home with a feeling of watching an honest effort.
Known for his television series Powder, which was too stylish and complex for the dumb medium that general entertainment channels have become, it is not that Atul has given style a miss here. Watch out the dance of a man when he is shot from a close range. It is a disturbing marriage of style and reality!
The film could have easily been called Arjun. Not just because the mythical figure faced similar dilemmas that Aurangzeb did centuries later but also because it is a film that marks the arrival of Arjun Kapoor, as the boy who can handle both testosterone and dopamine with flair. He has delineated the double role rather well. In Ishaqzaade, he showed that he has knack for ‘irritating’ in a good way. Here again he starts in the same vein but along the way we discover that he is not a one note actor. He stands up to the veterans with flourish. Malayalam superstar Prithviraj excels as a stoic police officer, struggling to come to terms with his identity and morals. If Arjun is all about expression, Prithvi lets his silence do the talking. At times, he sounds a little too careful, but you can’t make out that this guy doesn’t belong to the region.
Rishi Kapoor once again enthrals with a gutsy performance as the police officer who is drunk with power. The good man has come out of the cardigan, shunned the trees and is now romancing the gun as if there is no tomorrow. Jackie Shroff is always a treat to watch when he internalises more than he expresses and Atul seems to know the strength of his actors. The girls have very little to do in this show of virility. Saasheh Aga is expected to escort us to ecstasy but her talent is as skimpy as her outfits. Swara Bhaskar shines in a minuscule role. But it is the seasoned ladies: Tanvi Azmi, Deepti Naval and Amrita Singh who provide the bulwark for the men to fire.
If you want your rich masala fare sans the unnecessary garnishing, Aurangzeb is worth paying a visit!
Director: Atul Sabharwal
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Prithviraj, Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Amrita Singh, Tanvi Azmi
Storyline: A family of police officers attempts to bring down a real estate empire for vested interests.
Bottomline: The ideology of a Mughal emperor comes alive in a contemporary concrete jungle.