Reality Check: How ‘Article 15’ References Real Incidents & People

A look at how Article 15 reflects some of the most disturbing current events.

Updated
Bollywood
5 min read
Ayushmann Khurrana in <i>Article 15.</i>
i

Anubhav Sinha’s film Article 15 has been creating a buzz ever since the trailer was first released. While some applauded it for finally (read: bravely) approaching topics of caste discrimination and violence, a few protested against it. Brahmin outfits like the Akhil Bhartiya Brahmin Samaj called the film an attack on the image of Brahmins. After its release, Article 15 has won critical acclaim, not just for the themes it revolves around, but also for fantastic story-telling, acting and direction.

The fact that Article 15 is brilliantly made is unquestionable, however, what is even more interesting is the detailed colouring of the thread that holds the fabric together.

Article 15 is layered in ways the general public eye might miss - with references to real incidents and real people, the film is a commendable political statement, if not rebellion itself.

The Badaun Case

The film, which is inspired by the infamous Badaun case, in which two girls on 27th May 2014 were found dead hanging from a mango tree in a village in Uttar Pradesh. The two teenage girls were allegedly raped, and the investigation put forward by the CBI was seen as an attempt to dissolve the reality of the situation. The CBI concluded there was no gang rape, even though a post-mortem conducted earlier did clearly conclude it. Article 15 revolves around the same plot-line. Of course, the dark visuals of the two young girls hanging from the tree instantly take you back the images of 2014 - setting the tone for a ride into reality - one that shakes you.

Three cops were suspended for shielding the main accused who allegedly raped and murdered two sisters in Badaun. Their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in Katra village.
Three cops were suspended for shielding the main accused who allegedly raped and murdered two sisters in Badaun. Their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in Katra village.
(Photo: Reuters)

Article 15 doesn't shy away from indirectly calling out those answerable, naming the party in power “Shanti Prasad’s party”, the initials of which are SP. Not surprisingly, the Samajwadi Party was in power at the time.

The Una Flogging

Four members of a Dalit family were publicly stripped and beaten up.
Four members of a Dalit family were publicly stripped and beaten up.
(Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Article 15 is also heavily based on the Una flogging incident of 2016, in which seven members of a Dalit family were assaulted by cow vigilantes, for allegedly killing cows (the boys claimed they were simply skinning dead cows). Four of them were brought to Una, where they were tied to a car, stripped and flogged. Videos of the incident spread like wild-fire.

The film portrays an incident that is a is an exact recreation of this real event, showing four men tied to a similar car being beaten up in broad daylight.

Soon after, protests broke out when members of the Dalit community in parts of Gujarat refused to clean up the carcasses of dead animals, this has been similarly captured on screen as well. In drawing a parallel, Article 15 hence acts as a caveat. What you see on screen is what surrounds you.

After the Una flogging incident, many Dalits had taken a pledge to no longer dispose of dead cattle.&nbsp;
After the Una flogging incident, many Dalits had taken a pledge to no longer dispose of dead cattle. 
(Photo: Reuters)

The Bhim Army Chief and Rohith Vemula

An interesting character in the film, Nishad, played by Muhammad Zeeshan Ayub, is inspired by Chandrashekhar Azaad Ravan, a Dalit activist who is the co-founder and President of the Bhim Army. The organisation works to empower Dalits through education. Zeeshan Ayub’s character in the film is fighting for the same. He too has dedicated his life to a fight for equality, and runs an organisation called the ‘Bhim Sangharsh Samiti’. Nishad is an educated man who is revolutionary in his fight, attempting to bring together the oppressed and standing in the face of the oppressor, unfazed.

Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Nishad played by Muhammad Zeeshan Ayub in <i>Article 15.</i>
Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Nishad played by Muhammad Zeeshan Ayub in Article 15.

Nishad’s character even dresses like Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, wrapping a blue scarf around his neck. Just like Nishad in the film, Chandrashekhar in real life was imprisoned under the National Security Act for being involved in the Saharanpur violence of 2017. This was seen as an attempt to stifle the voices of the weak by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP. In the film as well, Nishad talks about being held under the act, a direct commentary on the unaccountable nature of such power, questioning the legitimacy of its existence. Another interesting, and one of the most impactful moments of Article 15, was Nishad’s monologue as he is taken away and shot multiple times.

He (Nishad) speaks of the accident of his birth, something that instantly reminds you of Rohith Vemula’s suicide note “My birth is my fatal accident.” 

Article 15 also often slips in a character who seems to be inspired by the Hindu nationalist politician Yogi Adityanath. He calls for “all” Hindus to unite against the common enemy. Even at the end of the film, when everything falls and the culprits are revealed, we see a closing monologue that doesn’t forget to mention that said character still wins the election.

Dining With Dalits

The film also depicts a political leader who sits with a Dalit family for a meal in front of the media, but hides the fact they he brought his own pots and pans. This seems to have been picked up from an incident when politician Suresh Rana went to Rajnish Kumar’s house, a man belonging to the Dalit community. Later, Rajnish told the press that Suresh Rana brought his own food, plates and pans. The scenes forces you to think about the hypocrisy prevalent in the society, and how marginalised groups are used to further the agendas of those in power.

File image of BJP MLA Suresh Rana.
File image of BJP MLA Suresh Rana.
(Photo Courtesy: Suresh Rana/Facebook)

All in all, Article 15 proves to be a film that attempts to make a point. It is the details that act as the final nail in the coffin, the last jolt you would need to wake up from your comfortable life. The film doesn’t aim to entertain as much as to act as a wake up call for the privileged like us, reminding us at every moment the realities of those around us, the people that help us live our lives easier. It makes you wonder:

Are we playing our part?
Are we playing a part at all?

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