Andolan (Aziz Sajawal, 1995)
Andolan, initially, was SO INCREDIBLY LIKE several other films of its type that I've seen that to begin with, it took me a while to figure out if I had actually already seen it and just forgotten.
Obviously, that's not a great start: being seemingly entirely forgettable or just particularly mediocre, despite a the star factor presence of a slinky, scowly, bemulleted Sanju Baba
and a wholesome, beaming Chi Chi (inexplicably dressed in baggy pastel V neck jumpers like a granddad for much of the time);
despite opening with a bang: it's Hindustan, outlined in FIRE!
That...subtle...visual, and the title Andolan (meaning Revolution) clues us in fairly early that although the first third of the film wastes a bunch of time with a college romance comedy plot that LITERALLY GETS COMPLETELY DROPPED AND APPARENTLY HAD NO REAL POINT, this is actually one of those wildly idealistic, patriotic films about uniting the country against the corrosive force of corruption. No wonder I thought I had seen it before. I've seen SO MANY of those films.
The third of a trio of films starring both Sanjay Dutt and Govinda (Taaqatwar and Do Qaidi are the other two; if you are going to see just one of them, my personal pick would be Taaqatwar, but all three films suffer from the curse of being pretty much interchangeable), Andolan completed filming in 1994 and was slated for release in 1995. In the intervening time period, Sanjay Dutt was arrested in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bombings, and began serving a 6 year jail sentence (he would serve about 16 months between his arrest in 1994 and his eventual release in 1995) and thus was unable to dub his role in post production. IT'S NOT EVEN HIS VOICE IN THE FILM (to be fair, the voice artist filling in for him is a pretty good substitute).
From the perspective of watching this film as part of my vastly neglected Govinda Project, this is worse: it's a film featuring Govinda pretty near the peak? (okay maybe nearing the tail end of the peak) of his popularity, and Chi Chi is, to be honest, relegated to second hero (this film really is Sanju Baba's) and SANJAY DUTT DANCES MORE IN ANDOLAN THAN CHI CHI DOES. (I swear. Govinda only gets one proper dance, and it's wedged in as a nonsensical dream sequence, because it really has NO PLACE in this film).
So here's the story:
Aniket (Govinda) and Adarsh (Sanjay Dutt) are, for all intents and purposes, brothers. Aniket was actually a street orphan who was taken in by Adarsh's kindly father after he fainted from near starvation in the street and Adarsh's father's social conscience kicked in hard; henceforth, Aniket (meaning “he who is detached”) and Adarsh (“the ideal one”) shared everything and were as close as if they were related by blood. When the two graduate college (following a brief, pointless but sweet comedy/romantic plot taking place on campus that is NEVER revisited, and really only there to establish that Adarsh is the more cheeky, confident and forthright brother; Aniket the more serious, shy, academic one) Adarsh follows his father into working as a manager at the local factory, while Aniket heads overseas to London on a scholarship to further his studies in engineering.
And while Aniket is gone, the shit hits the fan.
Basically, the guy who runs the local factory is crooked, the local cops are crooked, the local politicians are crooked, and all of this combines into one big horrific mess. The crooked factory owner hires a local mob don to rile the unions up – the plan being that they will torch the factory and he can collect an insurance payout; that the crooked police will turn a blind eye AND murder the older factory workers in the ensuing riots (err, win win?). What nobody counts on is Adarsh – an idealistic young graduate, standing up to the don attempting to start the union riots.
Adarsh gets hired by the factory, but makes an enemy for life of the mob don for daring to stand up to him. The union workers decide, with Adarsh's father, to start their own factory, a move that ends in tragedy when the mob don exacts his revenge on Adarsh against his father.
So all the while, working at the crooked factory, Adarsh grows more and more disillusioned (seeing your father cold-bloodedly murdered in front of you for having principles will do that to you too, I guess) and corrupt, so that when Aniket returns from London, as wholesome and idealistic as ever, we have this situation on our hands:
Noble idealistic principles versus weary acceptance of eternal corruption.
Good brother versus bad brother.
CAN ANYONE SAY DEEWAR?
Honestly, there were two films I kept thinking of, all the way through watching Andolan. BETTER FILMS, on the same basic theme. Satyakam – for the exploration of disillusionment and idealism post-Independence, and the portrayal of the struggle of living without corruption in a corrupt society; and Ghayal, the Sunny Deol story of a wrongly imprisoned man fed up with a corrupt system, using violence to fight for revenge when the system fails him.
I won't lie, a third film did flit acriss my mind. Khatta Meetha. Mainly for the similarities in BORING DETAIL ABOUT UNIONS AND ENGINEERING STUFF AND BLAH BLAH UNSUBTLE DIG ABOUT CORRUPTION. Khatta Meetha has better songs:
but remains to this day THE WORST FILM I HAVE EVER EVER SEEN, so please NEVER WATCH IT.
The thing is: Andolan isn't a bad film, it's just...been done before, and done better, and brings nothing at all new to a genre that can be kind of tiresome at the best of times. And this is coming from ME. I will defend mediocre 80s and 90s films till my dying day, especially ones like this that have a clear (read: amazingly unsubtle) social message and insight into the social history of the time. I am kind of fascinated by the bizarre mixture of idealism and gory vengeance that plays out on screen here, the way it suggests that in some segment of society, people had had enough of the pervasive corruption in Indian society, and were extremely disillusioned with what society had become following the glittering promise of Independence. If you want to get into analysis, and give the film some meaning, look at what happened the year prior to it being made: the Mumbai bombings in 1993. You can read a lot of frustration and anger and disillusionment with how it could come to that, into the events that play out on the screen = or you can look at it as another one in a long line of pulpy, lurid, mediocre melodramas.
But I am also extremely confused with how this film ends (SPOILER ALERT): amid burning bodies, with the heroes drenched in blood, dispatching of the corrupt bad guys in what looks to be a murderous – if not justified – rampage. As the last of the villains is thrown alive onto a burning pyre, the heroes embrace (ahh, brothers reunited!) and we see this:
WHAT?! DIDN'T WE JUST SEE VIOLENCE SOLVE EVERYTHING, NOT JUST AT THE END, BUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE FILM?
Like when Sanju Baba would abandon his office job and randomly (AWESOMELY) just go APESHIT?
Like when Chi Chi decided that FUCK IDEALISM, IT GETS YOU NOWHERE, I'M GONNA CUT A BITCH AND LET THEM BLEED ALL OVER ME AND MAKE SURE I'M WEARING WHITE SO EVERYONE KNOWS I'M A BAD MOFO.
Like, seriously, Andolan? WTF?