The plagiarising trend continues with this week?s second Hindi release, Aakrosh.
More than 15 years ago, I had interviewed writer Robin Bhatt on lifting stories from Hollywood. When I asked him where his talent lies, he said: My talent lies in knowing what to steal. So Aakrosh, directed by Priyadarshan and co-written by Bhatt and Akash Khurana, is a faithful remake of Alan Parker?s Oscar-nominated drama Mississippi Burning.
In that film, two FBI agents go to the American South to investigate the disappearance of three civil rights activists. Here two CBI agents go to a village to investigate the disappearance of three medical students.
The racial conflict of Mississippi Burning is converted to a caste conflict. The Ku Klux Klan becomes the Shool Sena, a hate group, which kills a lower-caste boy and his friends for daring to elope with an upper-caste girl. The two officers, one a Dalit and the other a Brahmin, one a stickler for protocol and the other a loose cannon, fight against the murderous upper-caste establishment.
Aakrosh stays on track as long as Priyadarshan stays faithful to Mississippi Burning. But trouble starts the minute the writers get original.
So Pratap, played by Ajay Devgn, must have a tedious love track with a strange, out-of-place love song. There is an item number and over-blown action sequences?one requires Pratap to stand on top of a speeding car and in another, he crosses train tracks by jumping underneath a moving train.
Even today, Mississippi Burning remains a powerfully riveting drama because it made racism and the plight of African-Americans horrifically palpable.
The villains were all seemingly good folk with a vicious streak, which made them even scarier. The menace was profound yet understated.
In Aakrosh, of course the bad guys are all obviously bad. Paresh Rawal plays a corrupt cop?in his first scene, he is discussing the virginal girl he wants that evening and giving instructions that there be no condoms.
The film?s tone is loud and inconsistent. Priyadarshan wants to marry hard-hitting drama with thrills so one minute, we?re marveling at the nicely crafted chase sequences, including one on bicycles, and the next we move into realistic mode with hangings and arson.
Also, much of the traction in Mississippi Burning comes from the constant tug-of-war between the two agents. Here that prickly relationship never comes alive. We don?t see them as opponents. And after the relentless ugliness, which includes women being brutalised, Priyadarshan constructs an end, which leaves us with little to be hopeful about.
Aakrosh has moments of power but most of these are copied, some even down to the dialogue. I recommend you see the original instead.