Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

August 13, 2011

No reservations

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 5:30 am

August 12, 2011

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Manoj Bajpai, Deepika Padukone, Prateik Babbar

Director: Prakash Jha

After Raajneeti, director Prakash Jha once again holds a mirror to society, taking up the issue of reservation in the education system with Aarakshan. The film takes different perspectives; showing us that really, the victims of the politics of reservation are the students themselves. Yet where Raajneeti was structured into a narrative based on The Mahabharata and The Godfather, Aarakshan drifts away without any anchor. It’s a script stuck in a 70s locker, taken out and dusted, but you still can’t shake off the feeling that it’s dated. That sadly has much to do with the filmmaker’s treatment of the subject. With endless, lofty speeches and idealistic melodrama, Prakash Jha turns Aarakshan into a deathly boring slog.

Amitabh Bachchan stars as the upright Principal (is there any other kind?) of an esteemed college in Bhopal, who sees the point behind reservation because he believes it’ll bridge the gap of opportunities between the haves and the have-nots. An educationist to the core, he conducts free tuitions for weak students in his backyard, and strongly opposes the very agenda behind paid coaching centres because he feels that colleges themselves should be conducting ‘remedial classes’ to help students. His idealistic values make him unpopular with the college board, that places the corrupt lecturer Manoj Bajpai in the position of Vice Principal, so they can get rich students with poor marks in through capitation fees. One of the junior professors at this college is a Dalit played by Saif Ali Khan, the son of a poor ironing lady in Bachchan’s basti, who gets a scholarship to the US based on merit.

Meanwhile, Bachchan butts heads with Bajpai as the whole simmering resentment over the caste divide spills over the Mandal reservation issue. The other players in this drama are the Principal’s daughter, played by Deepika Padukone, who is in a relationship with Saif; and Prateik Babbar, who is their friend and a fellow student at the college. Their friendship is tested by the caste divide when Prateik fails to get admission to the college of his choice because of seats being blocked by the quota system.

As you can see, Prakash Jha takes a bird’s eye view of the entire complicated system of education. Unfortunately, it looks as if he bit off more than he could chew because Aarakshan gets unnecessarily convoluted and grates on your nerves. When Amitabh Bachchan resigns, he finds his house taken over by the unscrupulous sons of his friend, who turn it into a coaching centre. This now spurs the ex-Principal to start giving free tuitions in a tabela, with a bunch of students nestled in a class next to a buffalo shed. Like a true underdog story, the classes run by Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone then take on the mighty coaching classes run by Manoj Bajpai.

One of the chief problems with Aarakshan is that it’s all too altruistic in its message. Everyone becomes a caricature: Bachchan’s do-gooder Principal, Bajpai the scheming, money-minded coaching class owner, and yes, the whiskey-guzzling ministers we last saw in Raajneeti are here too. With so much to say, the movie drags on endlessly, with over-written scenes, over-the-top emotions and dialogues that are so heavy, they end up being inaccessible. Of the performances, every actor seems to go through the motions and only Manoj Bajpai inserts some spark onto the screen.

Aarakshan is well-intentioned, but you can’t shake off the feeling that you’re trapped by a three-hour tirade. I’m going with a generous two out of five for Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan. If you don’t want to be lectured, stay at home.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. It is a Prakash Jha movie and No Ajay devgan So I was not sure to go and watch it.But now after your review I am not going sure.Thank you very much

    Comment by priyabrata — August 13, 2011 @ 6:49 am

  2. Dear Rajeev,
    Good Morning.
    I am your fan since your Indian Express days. I agree with you Mr.Prakash Jha has taken a very serious issue but … this is first film from Prakash Ji which has verbo-fighting not gun-stick n blood etc. In film Prakash Jha material is missing …but it may be as mr.Jha is transforming and willing to be commercial filmmaker as we can feel lots of commercial compulsions as a maker on him and this is clearly seen and felt.
    You have given 2/5 star means it is not that watchable.
    I will appreciate you if can mail me how to judge a film ,which are parameter and standard to staring a film as critic.
    Hope you are enjoying Hollywood journey and we will be gifted your experiences in book form shortly.
    Rajesh JHA

    Comment by RAJESH JHA — August 13, 2011 @ 8:25 am

  3. completely agreed mr RAJEEV MASAND
    the movie is pathetic
    prakash jha is going on the way of RGV
    after seeing this movie i feel like “MAAJHI SATAKLI”

    Comment by Dhaval — August 13, 2011 @ 10:36 am

  4. Disgaree with this review completely .. it shws wht is actually happ in India today and a lecture is supposed to be given to ppl who even after knwing this havve always kept a blind eye to the same.

    The dialogues were superb and one cant forget the power packed performances of Amitabh and Manoj Bajpai.

    Yes, the movie was a long and music unimpressive but over all a above avg fare.

    Rating 3/5

    Comment by Sagar Balani — August 13, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  5. watched the film today.. dont agree with the review.. amitabh, saif, manoj all have acted very well and the movie is pretty much watchable.. good change from the regular comedy and romance.. amitabh’s eyes still convey what he’s going through and his powerful screen presence is paisa vasool.. arakshan once again proves big b is still the baap of bollywwod

    Comment by nitin — August 13, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  6. First half is 2.5 stars second half is 1 star.
    Prakash Jha is unable to conclude the movie after raising the issue.
    The way it is concluded, ” Coaching Centers” would have been an apt title for this movie.

    Comment by srini — August 13, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  7. wait for bodygaurd……:-)

    Comment by Amit — August 13, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  8. Agree completely with Rajeev. Had a lot of expectations from this movie after watching Rajneeti. However failed to understand if this movie was against Reservations or against Coaching classes. The only 2 characters to stand out were Big B and Manoj Bajpai.Rest all were pathetic and its boring
    It happens….but better luck next time .. All the best for the next movies.

    Comment by Amey — August 13, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  9. I wish Prakash Jha could have focused more on the presentation and coverage the subject matter so that it could make an impact on the society.

    on the personal side, i was expecting at least a nominal change or some response so that the public could realize and act accordingly.

    Comment by capital west advisors — August 13, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

  10. Its too rude to rate 2/5, the movie is meaningfull, Amitabh, Manoj, saif, deepika did a great job, But i wonder the acting of pretiek, he was so immatured for the role, But i like movie, paisa vasool…..

    Comment by Nibin — August 14, 2011 @ 12:15 am

  11. I rate 3/5

    Comment by Nibin — August 14, 2011 @ 12:16 am

  12. Just saw Arakshan. I think you have totally got it wrong like you also have in the past.
    Didnt even realise the movie was three hours long. Each one of the actors have done a wonderful
    job and hats off to Jha for making such a wonderful movie. In the future would love to see movies
    that are rated so low by you because they are bound to be good. I do hope people dont take your
    review so seriously and do go on to see the movie and enjoy it

    Sandeep Samtani

    Comment by Sandeep Samtani — August 14, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

  13. Hi,
    It was a real nice Movie, I liked both the topics being raised here.
    Only those people can understand the depth of the issue who have studied in ‘A’ class government colleges but no Professor taking the classes. The students ultimately irrespective of their economical status have to join the Coachings given by the same Professors.
    As far as Reservation is concerend, he has raised a concern that the Indian Student are facing since the time it was initiated. He can’t come to a conclusion as its not such a simple topic where he can conclude in a 2.5 hrs movie.
    Mr. Jha rocked again, in his own style….!!!!

    Comment by Vishal — August 15, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  14. I donot necessarily agree with the rating coz what you wrote is what you saw. i think given the sensitivity to the topic, Jha has done a remarkable job of subtly passing the message across on the eduction system and reservation. What i would appreciate if you could have thought of any other way he could have handled the issue. This is not one of those masala entertainer we come across but meaningful cinema…I was not even aware of how the reservation system worked so could never appreciate the nuances associated with it but after watching the film atleast i understand a bit of both sides of the coin…I am now looking forward to Jha making a similar informative movie on elections and election criteria – what impact does it have on the people, the elected and the country as a whole….3 cheers to Jha and Mr. Bacchann…

    Comment by Manjit — August 15, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  15. I do not agree with your review. I have watched the movie, and it has got a meaning. If I would have rated it, it would be 5/5. This story shows the real glimpse of the situation these days. Myself being a student I know the reality. Story of Aarakshan says that there should be a same starting line for all the students who are going to face the competition. And this should start at the primary level. So that there should not be any controversies among students of different categories. They should be given equal opportunities and facilities so that they can also show that they are equally talented. In the second half of the movie Amitabh Is trying to do this, and this gives us a message that we all being highly qualified should help the needful people. Coaching classes are ruling over the future of the next generation. And the fees which these people ask for that’s pathetic which is not bearable by the poor student.

    I appreciate the effort of film-maker for such a fantastic movie, which make people think over it. This movie says that if a person is doing his job with honesty and hard work no power in this world can stop him to give his services. It also talks about unity of country.

    I would like to thank Mr. Prakash Jha to show the reality and this movie is an eye opener for all of us.

    Comment by Shilpi Khare — August 15, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  16. Hello Readers,

    Recently I have watched this movie without reading the reviews. But I liked it very much. I am going 3 1/2 out of 5 points. Its not one man show like amitabh its a team work. I will recommend this one….sorry Mr.Rajeev.


    Comment by Sateesh — August 15, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  17. poorest work of prakash jha in recent times…..

    Comment by Jahnu — August 15, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  18. Rajeev,

    I can suggest you something, be a TV show host, anchor, talk show or chat show …even if u want be a judge in a reality show but please don’t try to be a movie reviewer. have you seen the movie, did you understand a single part of it ?
    I doubt else you can’t give such superbly misleading review.
    Hats off only you can do so.

    PS :
    To all reader…guys don’t go by his review. Watch the movie you will love it.
    Attn: People who prefer to watch , couple of fight scenes and romantic songs only in a movie this movie is not for them.

    Comment by Raunak — August 15, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  19. I completely agree to Rajeev sirs review.The most pathetic movie i have ever watched.its a close competitor to NO SMOKING which too was going no where.There was nothing focused on reservations nor anything close by.the director should learn how to narrate a script and conclude it by watching shivaji movie which delas with black money.I cant digest this fact that how did BIG B accept such a subject after doing a nice entertainer buddha hoga tera baap.Deepika and saif have made a mistake in their careers as there is a huge charisma loss from their previous hit.
    All the talents were wasted and not to mention Mr.Jha please join as a reporter to any news channel and stop directing movies.

    Comment by AmarReddy — August 15, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  20. You missed a major point that the movie shifts majorly from the quota issue in the first half (which is what the movie was supposed to be based on, right?) to the coaching class issue in the second half.

    Comment by R — August 16, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  21. Yeah, the movie is shitty alright. I mean, the first half was good and was addressed to the topic but the movie diverted COMPLETELY from the topic of reservation in the second half. It became Prabhakar Anand’s fight from the reservation fight.

    PS – Prateik Babbar’s acting is horrendous, to say the least

    Comment by Tushar — August 16, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

  22. This movie is an overdose of socialist righteousness. Anyone who has ever read an Ayn Rand novel will watch this movie with an expression of disgust on his/her face for the better part of three miserable hours.

    Comment by Amit — August 16, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  23. @Raunak:

    Movie started off well but they lost the plot after like 20-30 mins into the movie. It was all about commercialization of education then on-wards, and that too totally half cooked. All good were super good and all bad were super bad-complete caricature of characters. And how long we gonna see AB in ‘upright old man’ character ?

    The movie is very simplistic and boring. I wonder what they see in such scripts that they start filming with full enthusiasm.Bollywood needs some good script doctors. ASAP.

    Comment by PBS — August 16, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  24. I donot agree with Rajeev , This is an amazing movie

    Comment by jimmy — August 17, 2011 @ 9:59 am

  25. Dear Rajeev
    i am an avid reader of your reviews and have always been judgmental about watching a movie after reading your reviews..
    sadly, i think i did a good job by turning up for aarakshan without first reading your reviews or else going by your reviews i would have given it a miss.
    i completely disagree with your view that except manoj bajpai, every actor just goes through the motion. Amitabh is fabulous throughout whereas bajpai in the closing scenes acts pathetically.
    the tabela and free teaching concept shown in the movie is actually little bit in place if you would have cheked up with facts. you should be knowing about Super30 classes of patna which is actually on similar lines. so this doesnt seem like a hard to gulp down story.

    Comment by Priyanshu Jha — August 17, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

  26. i totally agree with rajeev masand. its a totally bulshit movie. i think 1 star is more than enough for this movie. prakash jha has failed completely. the editing of the movie is so bad, that many times you feel as if some shots are left unfinished as it is. the sad part is not a single character(excluding amitabh and manoj) have been given any justice by the director. all other characters just come and go. rajneeti was much better. but this one is totally waste of money

    Comment by joy — August 21, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  27. Hi Rajeev sir, i totally agree with u and moreover the topic of reservation could have really been dealt in more details.Specially the second half on the movie had nothing to do with “Aarakshan” it was more about Commercialization of the education system .The movie could have been more clear about reservations, maybe, by not trying to be politically correct, it would have done better if was a kind of Madhur Bhandarkar’s movie . who cares for a happy ending with such a subject?! An intense ending would have really loaded the script and performances.

    Comment by veena — August 21, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  28. well to enjoy this one the catalyst is you oughta dispise delhi belly as a vulgur and offensive flick which if in any case you do then aarakshan will be a smooth ride for you but my case was different i loved delhi belly so this one proved to be dead boring,Nothing really happens to make me wanna like it and then those tabela classes take you for a ride and i was fast asleep till the usher told me that the movie was over and its time for the next batch to come and see this movie.Should ‘ve known better right 4m the start that this is a boring film as the opening titles were suggesting.The title sequence itself was very boring , god i miss james bond movies ,reliance is financing such movies and there is no bond film since 8th nov.2008 coz the studio is short of finances.O GOD WHAT A PARADOX

    Comment by shobhit — August 26, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  29. Well, I have seen the movie without reading his review. And I would like to congratulate Prakash Jha for making a Brilliant movie, with the danger of hurting India’s emotions and bunch of politicians bugging him.

    this is a awesome movie, very neutrally written.
    Its not only touching the subject of reservation, but also the stigma of paid coaching.
    Must watch…..

    Comment by Ankush — September 11, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  30. It is a wonderful movie Rajeev. Must watch for every Indian student.
    Rajeev you are too harsh with ur rating.. It deserves a 3!!

    Comment by Ajay Kisshor — January 26, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

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