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About the Half-Truths of Reality


Ardh Satya 1983

A hard hitting cop drama directed by Govind Nihalani which catapulted the careers of Om Puri and to some extent Shafi Inamdaar and of course Sadashiv Amrapurkar. Ardh Satya was Nihalani’s second outing with Puri after the dark Aakrosh of 1980. It released on 19th August 1983. Initially Amitabh was roped in to play the role of the cop but could not and it fell in the laps of Puri.

The movie’s title – Ardh Satya is derived from the Marathi poem by Dilip Chitre which is also referenced in the movie and changes psych of the main character and the flow of the movie. After the socials of ‘60s and the soft romantic and experimental movies of the ‘70s the Rajesh Khanna variety it was the era of Amitabh Bachchan in the ‘80s with his angry young man and compelling movies.

Ardh Satya was one such movie which catered to the art movie sensibilities and well as mainstream cinema dramatics with such gravity, rarely before this any movie had explored the life and times of a Policeman. It became an instant talk of the town. The script was written by Vijay Tendulkar the famous Marathi writer, the director stuck to the script but changed its ending, when shown to the writer he gave his consent for the same. This cop story was more steeped towards an actual reality rather than the glorified portrayal of mainstream cinema cops and baddies. The movie actually explored the system which gave credence to the networking between the politicians, the cops and the goons and the system which easily accepted the maneuverings of a goon who then easily metamorphoses’ into a politico.

The movie opens with a young Anant Velankar (Om Puri) fondly called Velli a Sub-inspector at the Gol Chowki in Mumbai attending a New Year eve’s party, meets Jyotsna Gokhale (Smita Patil) a lecturer and drops her home. A rookie cop compelled to join the police force by his father (Amrish Puri) a strict disciplinarian and himself a constable. As all new cops he is enthusiastic for his job, an upright holder of the law and has a run-in with Rama Shetty (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) the local don when he nabs his henchmen, he gradually realizes that everything is not Black and White and he is surrounded by not only criminals whom he has vowed to bring to justice but also dishonest people in his own department, whenever he nabs any criminal may it be local lads of an MLA or of the Shetty gang they are either let-off or he himself is barred from taking any action.

Now he is fighting not only the system but there is also a fight within, he is bewildered with his situation as to what to do. His fall back are only Jyotsna, who after the initial ideological difference are a company for each other and also lands him moral courage and his senior Inspector Haider Ali (Shafi Inamdar) who gives him not only good career advice but even bails him out of a situation with a local MLA. As going-ons become overtly difficult he takes to heavy drinking resulting in his relations with Jyotsna too deteriorating. In one such drunken stupor he beats a petty-thief to death and is advised to take help from Shetty, who is now a corporator and the man he despises, to get off the hook from the suspension pending enquiry.

After much dilemma and deliberations he visits Shetty in his own den, this is the climax. What will happen, will his psyche allow him to surrender to the leech or the law upholder within him behave differently? This movie is worth every second to watch.

The success of a movie can be measured with its subsequent copy-cats and remakes, which there were aplenty in the mainstream films and this movie was instrumentan in the changed portrayal of police in Bollywood flicks. Rama Shetty’s character was modelled on the real life don Vardharajan Mudaliyar and Amrapurkar portrayed it brilliantly with the right amount of menace and audacity. There is a mention of the 1979 Bhagalpur criminal blinding incident in the movie which itself was spun-off in the form of the later day Ganga Jal. In the initial scene the famous English song of the time ‘Funky Town’ tune is playing in the background. Om Puri won many National and International awards for this role and Ardh Satya also won the best movie and the best director at the Filmfare awards.

Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA

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