Movie audiences over 100 years of Indian cinema are fed with all sorts of police officers who in their mindless action films are lost in fake patriotism and who go all nuts over their profession and look fascinating just on the virtue of their dramatic dialogues and style. ‘Ardha Satya’ scores the difference here. It is a portrayal of an officer who is lost in his trials and tribunals. He is honest, justice-seeking but somewhere he is ill trodden by the system not in his beliefs but his deeds. The focal aspect of the movie is its reality and presentation of the cop who looks a normal human being and is a person who is not some stereotype superhuman which would have been the easy way to go for a cop movie.
Ardh Satya is story of Anant Velankar(Om Puri) who in the first place had no intention of joining the police force. But due to the pressure of his father he is forced to join the police force. Now as he has joined it he wants to work efficiently but the system won’t let him to. Due to some incident he has to seek help of some politician in Delhi to get out of the situation. This corrupt behaviour troubles him. Also, he all through his life feels guilty of being inactive when his mother is beaten by his father. He is angry because his credit for his stolen away for him and bestowed upong someone else. This all leads to his extensive drinking habit. It is not just a cop story but a story of Anant’s dedication to his job, his frustration, his deterioration and fall from grace.
The most crucial scenes in the movie are sequences between Anant and Jyotsna played by Smita Patil. Their relationship does not have much romanticism but has humanity and respect. Om Puri’s character takes shape from various conversations that these two have. The pivotal sequence being the one in which Jyotsna gives Anant a poem to read from which movie derives its name. As Anant reads the poem, towards the end his smile fades away and his voice becomes morbid and subdued. (The poem is given below).
Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle,
kaun tha mein aur kaisa tha,
yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega.
Chakravyuh mein ghusne ke baad,
mere aur chakravyuh ke beech,
sirf ek jaanleva nikat’ta thi,
iska mujhe pata hi na chalega.
Chakravyuh se nikalne ke baad,
main mukt ho jaoon bhale hi,
phir bhi chakravyuh ki rachna mein
farq hi na padega.
Marun ya maarun,
maara jaoon ya jaan se maardun.
iska faisla kabhi na ho paayega.
Soya hua aadmi jab
neend se uthkar chalna shuru karta hai,
tab sapnon ka sansar use,
dobara dikh hi na paayega.
Us roshni mein jo nirnay ki roshni hai
sab kuchh s’maan hoga kya?
Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
Chakravyuh recited by Om Puri in the movie
Jyotna’s character is quite important as it shapes the protagonists. Many a times when drunken Anant calls her she doesn’t like it. After reading so many bad cop stories she is under the belief that if Anant has to marry her he has to leave his job. Anant now with his challenging job and his inability to act in some situations finds himself in between manhood and impotence and ultimately frustrated. He has gone astray in this half-truth(ardh satya).
Anant’s relationships with those who surround him are aptly portrayed. Even the portrayal of his relationship with his parents, in spite of the minimal screen time it is given, is spot on and is very troubling.
In the acting department film is superb. Om Puri all the way leads them all. He captures Anant’s honesty, determination, anger and devastation with sheer intensity, and is always moving, credible and convincing. The support cast which has very limited screen time is wonderfully played by Amrish Puri (Anant’s father), Sadashiv Amrapurkar(Rama Shetty) and Shafi Inamdar (Anant’s senior officer). Last but not least Smita Patil is incredible in the film. She looks natural, tender and provides warmth that is missing in the film. Also, when drunken Anant calls her, he is never shown; in the frame we see Smita Patil, her expressions of anxiety, anger and care for Anant simply flow out.
The film is blessed with wonderful direction of Govind Nilhani and screenplay by Vijay Tendulkar. Movie has certain scenes in which a close up shot of Om Puri is taken in his anger and you are left enthralled by its sheer intensity. Towards the climax when Om Puri expresses his devastation in front of Smita Patil is one of the finest scenes of the film wherein she is calm and listening quietly to Om Puri and lends him a hand of support but just withdraws it. The film’s climax is most unexpected and fills viewers’ mind with lots of questions. Overall, this movie, considered to be a landmark in Indian cinema with its meticulously written characters is excellent and absorbing.