In the very first scene of AARAKSHAN, Deepak Kumar (Saif Ali Khan), while giving a college interview, is made fun of because of his caste. He storms off the room, not before insulting the interviewees and the film begins on a high note. However, as the clock ticks, the graph of the film only heads South.
AARAKSHAN is about Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan), who has been the pillar of a private college in Bhopal for more than 30 years. The idealistic principal believes in merit, but at the same time is considerate towards poor students who can't score great marks. Deepak who is immensely helped by Prabharkar, is in love with his daughter, Poorbi (Deepika Padukone). Sushant (Prateik) is a good friend of Poorbi and studies in the same college.
A comment in a newspaper on the Supreme Court's order on reservation lands Prabhakar in a tough spot. He resigns from his post giving way to the scheming Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai), who's part of the institute but concentrates more on his private coaching classes. Due to his evil plans, Prabhakar and his family are even forced to give up their home. Will Prabhakar be able to reclaim his life, is what ensues.
Based on the social issue of reservation, Prakash Jha's AARARSHAN has its heart at the right place. But it takes so long to convey its message that you run out of patience. The first half, despite taking too long (two back-to-back songs) to get to the central plot, is pretty good. The conflicts between the characters make for a compelling watch. But after the interval, Prakash loses his grip as the narrative just drags. It becomes laborious and repetitive watch, with the story moving at a snail's pace. The climax is too good to be true and fails to have a great impact.
AARAKSHAN reminds one of Prakash's last film, RAAJNEETI, but doesn't match up to the finesse and drama of it. However, it does have the potential to start off a new debate on the issue of reservation by providing an alternative.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is disappointing with none of the songs making a mark. Sachin Kumar Krishnan's cinematography is fine. Santosh Mandal's editing could have been a lot crispier.
Amitabh Bachchan delivers an outstanding performance and fits the role to the T. Note the scene after he resigns and leaves college. His look just says it all. It proves that he still has the hunger left in him. Saif Ali Khan acts well and makes his character believable. Deepika Padukone is decent. Manoj Bajpai plays his subdued negative character to perfection. Prateik acts poorly and needs to improve a lot. Darshan Jariwala is good. Yashpal Sharma is effective. Hema Malini's cameo makes little sense.
You won't miss much if you don't 'reserve' a seat for AARAKSHAN.