Producer: Entertainment One / Prakash Jha Productions
Director: Prakash Jha
Starring: Ajay Devgan, Gracy Singh, Mohan Agashe, Mohan Joshi, Yashpal Sharma, Akhilendra Mishra, Mukesh Tiwari, Anoop Soni, Ayub Khan, Ajay Rohilla, Chetan Pandit, Yash Pathak, Prateeksha Khanwelkar, Kranti Dinanath Redkar, Dayashankar Pandey
Music: Sandesh Shandilya, Wayne Sharpe (background)

Genre: Action Social Drama
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Released on: August 29, 2003
Reviewed by: Gaurav Malani
Reviewer's Rating: 7.5 out of 10


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If you overlook the loosely handled Rahul (2001) and the formulaic Bandish (1996), Prakash Jha has had a track record of thought-provoking, meaningful cinema throughout. Gangaajal is no exception. Of course the movie doesn´t have anything original to offer, with the story of an honest cop’s fight against the corrupt system attempted several times before, in films like Ardh Satya and Shool. But where Jha draws in a difference is by redefining the image of the Hindi film policemen. Rather than the conventional corrupt officer or the larger-than-life honest hero, Jha opts for a down-to-earth protagonist who plays strictly by the rules. Also he incorporates some true incidents from the horrific ‘Bhagalpur blindings’ case of 1979-1980 without making the film look pedantic or documentary-like.

Amit Kumar (Ajay Devgan) – an idealistic SP officer, on his first posting gets the charge of a notorious district in Bihar called Tejpur. Tejpur is lawlessly ruled by Sadhu Yadav (Mohan Joshi) and his son Sunder (Yashpal Sharma). Amit attempts to clean up the system but meets with stiff resistance. He tries to breathe life into the decaying police force and some of his subordinates begin to trust him. On one such incident, these subordinates driven by anger and frustration mercilessly assault two criminals in the police lock-up before stabbing their eyes and blinding them with acid. Thus a weapon of revenge is accidentally discovered in the form of acid, metaphorically termed as Gangaajal – which is a religious symbol of purification. Thereby lies the relevance of the title as well. 

Prakash Jha has treated the subject with utmost realism successfully creating an unrefined environment with the crude behavior and aggressive lifestyle of the characters. The mannerisms and language accent add an earthy feel. Mercifully he keeps the narrative devoid of unwanted comedy tracks and romance angles. And if you don’t mind excusing a nautanki item number, the proceedings are kept uninterrupted from the song and dance scene as well. Wayne Sharpe´s background score intensifies the restlessness in the proceedings. Also the screenplay showcases some highly gruesome blood and gore sequences and generous usage of expletive and abusive language which I won’t say was unnecessary from the treatment point of view. But one thing that surprised me was that, despite the violence content that would put the recent spate of A rated films (like Footpath, Qayamat, Supari, etc) to shame, how did the censors pass this film with just an U/A certificate. 

On the downside the movie does falters at the point of its climax (set on the banks of Ganga), where things suddenly go haywire and the director opts for a hastened and conventional end. Also the movie at times gives the viewer a been-there-seen-that kinda deja-vu feeling.

But to his credit, Jha does extract some fetching work from his cast and crew. Ajay Devgan adds credibility and grace to the central character. His eyes speak volumes. The fine array of supporting actors (Mukesh Tiwari, Anoop Soni, Ayub Khan and Chetan Pandit) who play the SP’s colleagues have strongly etched characterizations. Especially remarkable is Mukesh Tiwari who gives his career’s most engaging and retrieved performance so far. (He has been constantly hamming, since his much-hyped debut venture China Gate, in underdeveloped roles like Mitti, Aap Mujhe Aache Lagne Lage, and the recent disaster Hawa). In negative roles, Mohan Joshi repeats his Mrityudand act effectively. Yashpal Sharma is impressive as the debauched son. Mohan Agashe and Akhilendra Mishra are passable. Sadly, Gracy Singh gets no scope. 

In conclusion, for its superlative performances and hard-hitting direction, Gangaajal is surely worth a watch.