Article 15 is a 2019 Indian Hindi-language crime drama thriller film co-written by Gaurav Solanki, written, produced and directed by Anubhav Sinha, and produced by Zee Studios. It stars Ayushmann Khurrana, Nassar, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Isha Talwar, Sayani Gupta, Sushil Pandey, Veen Harsh and Sumbul Touqeer, and follows a police investigation that commences after three teenage girls go missing from a small village.
The film deals with Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. While not based on one specific event, the film is inspired by multiple true life events, including the 2014 Badaun gang rape allegations and 2016 Una flogging incident. Principal photography began on 1 March 2019 in Lucknow. The film's soundtrack was composed by Anurag Saikia, Piyush Shankar, Devin Parker and Gingger with lyrics written by Rashmi Virag, Shakeel Azmi, Slow Cheeta, Dee MC, Kaam Bhaari and SpitFire, and released under the banner Zee Music Company.
Article 15 was the opening film for the 10th edition of London Indian Film Festival, premiering on 20 June 2019. It was theatrically released in India on 28 June 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics for the sensitive portrayal of its subject matter, and grossed over ₹931 million (US$13 million) worldwide to become a commercial success
In the village of Laalgaon, two Dalit girls are seen trapped in a school bus by some men. Ayan Ranjan, a St. Stephen's College, Delhi graduate and an Indian Police Service officer, is assigned to Laalgaon as the Additional Superintendent of Police and is warmly welcomed by officers Brahmadatt Singh and Kisan Jatav. Ayan encounters various forms of caste discrimination as soon as he arrives in the village, and periodically shares what he observes to his wife, Aditi, over the phone. Local villagers come to Ayan's reception asking the officers to find the missing girls, but are turned down. Ayan reunites with his college friend Satyendra Rai, who behaves suspiciously throughout the night.
The next morning, the girls are found hanged from a tree, while a third girl, Pooja, is reported missing. Ayan orders Brahmadatt to file a FIR and to obtain the postmortem report for the deceased girls. The girls' autopsy yields evidence that they were gang raped, but Brahmadatt prevents the release of this information and instead pushes a narrative suggesting that the girls, who were cousins, were intimate and thus hanged by their fathers in an honor killing. Meanwhile, Jatav and a junior officer are threatened and their vehicle set on fire by followers of Nishaad, the leader of a group of activists within the village who seek speedy justice for the crime. Ayan questions Jatav about this the next day and becomes determined to solve the case.
Gaura, Pooja's sister, informs Ayan that the girls used to work for a local builder named Anshu Naharia, who slapped Pooja after the girls asked for a raise in their salary of 3 rupees. Ayan decides to call Anshu for inquiry, even though Bhramadatt tries to persuade him not to do so, as Anshu is the son of local Minister Ramlal Naharia. During his interrogation, Anshu says that he slapped the girls to remind their entire caste of their place in society. Ayan, disgusted by the moral corruption of the village and its police force, posts on the police bulletin board a copy of Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, caste or birthplace.
Ayan meets with Dr. Malti Ram, the assistant coroner who performed the autopsy, and finds out that contrary to her official report, the girls were raped and then murdered. He asks her to go to Lucknow to examine the DNA samples and to contact only him, realizing that local law enforcement is conspiring with Ramlal Naharia to cover up the case. Meanwhile, Mahantji, a Brahmin politician vying for a local election, has formed an alliance with the head of the Laalgaon Dalit community in a show of inter-caste unity, but Nishaad sees the display as a disingenuous political ploy and plans to protest it. Ayan tries to persuade Nishad to call off the protest so he has men to help search for Pooja; Nishaad refuses, but allows some of his men to aid Ayan's search.
Ayan soon gets a call from Malti, who confirms that Anshu was the one who gang-raped and murdered the two girls. Ayan gets an arrest warrant for Anshu and raids his house, but Anshu is not present. However, Ayan spots a school bus that was seen by local villagers around the time of the girls' disappearance, and investigates the nearby school (which is owned by Anshu), where he finds evidence from the scene of girls' torture and rape. Elsewhere, Anshu is staying under protection from Brahmadatt, who is revealed to be one of the rapists. Brahmadatt kills Anshu to save himself.
Panikar, a high-ranking CBI officer, arrives in Laalgaon and suspends Ayan from the case. Ayan refuses to give up his efforts and tracks down Satyendra, who admits that he was at a party hosted by Anshu the night of the crime, and that he witnessed Anshu, Brahmadatt, and police officer Nihal Singh (who works closely with Ayan) rape the girls while severely drunk and later hang their dead bodies. Ayan confronts Nihal, who commits suicide out of remorse.
Jatav arrests Brahmadatt on Ayan's command. Panikar attempts to threaten Ayan into dropping the case, but Ayan reveals he has already submitted all his evidence to the Home Minister, and sharply criticizes the bigotry and injustice against people of lower castes among Indian law enforcement. Ayan then leads other officers through a large swamp in search of Pooja. They emerge on the other side in a jungle where they find a severely dehydrated Pooja hiding inside a pipe. They rescue her and with her statement, Brahmadutt gets eleven years of imprisonment as punishment. Mahantji wins the election hands down.
Article 15 received critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 89% based on eighteen reviews, with an average rating of 7.56/10.
Anna M. M. Vetticad of Firstpost concurred with Sengupta and Sharma, gave four and a half stars out of five and found 'Sinha's unfaltering direction' was backed by Ewan Mulligan's 'unsparing cinematography' and a 'strong cast'. Concluding, she wrote, "Watching this film is an overwhelming emotional experience," and she opined, Article 15 is the best that Indian cinema can be in these troubled times if it chooses to hold a mirror up to our society..." Raja Sen writing for Hindustan Times rated the film with four and a half star out of five and opined that the film is a tribute to Alan Parker the director of 1988 film Mississippi Burning. He praised Solanki and Sinha for honest writing, haunting shots by Mulligan and performances of ensemble. Ending his writing, he said, "Article 15 is not a film in search of easy answers. Instead, it is a reminder that we already know the questions but don't ask them enough. 'Not cool, sir'." Vijayalakshmi Narayanan of Radio City gave the film four and a half stars out of five, and said "Coming to the cast, Ayushmann leads from the front and one cannot be thankful enough. The actor proves his mettle yet again when it comes to backing good scripts. He makes the right noise even in his moments of melancholy."
Sreeparna Sengupta of The Times of India gave the film four stars out of five, praising performance of Ayushmann Khurrana, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and background music and cinematography of Ewan Mulligan as well. She felt that Sinha had given another dimension to the narrative by surfacing the artful shades through the characters and setting. She opines, "Anubhav Sinha's Article 15 is designed like a crime thriller. What works for the film is that it's thought-provoking, hard-hitting while unflinchingly bringing to light burning social issues." Concluding, she wrote that the film is not a 'light watch', rather it is 'definitely relevant', 'compelling' and will start a debate. Devesh Sharma reviewing for Filmfare rates the film with four stars out of five. He praised screenplay, dialogues and cinematography of the film apart from the performance of Khurrana and supporting cast. He recommends watching the film for its 'riveting performances' and its 'underlying message', and opines that the film presents the candid truth about contemporary society. Quoting Jack Nicholson's character from A Few Good Men – "You can't handle the truth" he hopes that the audience goes out to watch the film and 'learns to handle the truth...' Priyanka Sinha Jha of CNN-News18, praising Khurrana and ensemble of Kumud Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and M Nassar for their performances, rates the film with four stars out of five. Agreeing with Vetticad she writes, "Article 15 is remarkable in that it does not pontificate. It merely holds up the mirror to a society still entangled in age-old caste politics that absolutely overrides the modern ideals of liberty and equality." Concluding, she opines that Sinha has a knack of combining elements of popular film-making with realistic story-telling to give masterful films. Writing for the NDTV Saibal Chatterjee, termed it a 'radical' film, tackling social issues. He praised Sinha and Gaurav Solanki for the screenplay and cast for effective performances. He concludes the review as, "[The film] remains true to the demands of the plot without losing control over its principal purpose – administering a bitter pill with just a hint of a sugar coating. It works wonderfully well. Article 15 is a not to be missed film."
Mayur Sanap of Deccan Chronicle rated it four stars out of five and finds it a 'gripping social thriller'. He commended the performances and script, and concludes, "With Anubhav Sinha's straightforward and unflashy directorial style, the film proves to be an effective drama. It may be devoid of spectacle, but it is still full of zeal and warrants a must-watch." Manjusha Radhakrishnan of Gulf News gave four stars out of five, and felt that the film was not easy to watch, however everyone should give it a chance. She opined, "Article 15 sobers you up instantly, but it also makes you think about Indian's complicated social segregation based on the accident of birth." Lakshana N Palat of India Today rated it with three and a half stars out of five, praised the performances of cast and felt that the film's 'overly optimistic ending' was not in tune. According to him, despite rough around the edges and flawed in storytelling, it is worth watching. Agreeing with Sengupta, he opines, "It's a start. It cannot change society but it at least can initiate a conversation and debate that examines the horrors that lurk in this very society, invisible to our privileged eyes." Bollywood Hungama rated the film three and a half stars out of five and praised Mulligan for cinematography, Nikhil Kovale for production design, Sinha and Solanki for story and screenplay. He commended performances of ensemble and direction of Sinha and felt that the look of the film was 'quite rich' and 'haunting' and that worked. He summed up the review as, "On the whole, ARTICLE 15 is a hard-hitting film that raises some important issues related to caste, that is plaguing the country." Kunal Guha of Mumbai Mirror rated the film with three stars out of five and felt that it reminded of hateful atrocities, and wrote, "The film, however, gets a bit tiring in parts when the message seems to be incessantly hammered down." However, he praised the performances of ensemble.
Article 15 had the opening day collection of ₹5.02 crore and opening weekend worldwide gross of ₹30.75 crore. In the opening week the film grossed ₹476.2 million worldwide. With gross of 776.2 million f
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