Article 15 is a 2019 Indian Hindi-language crime drama 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, 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 ₹93.08 crore (US$13 million) worldwide to become a commercial success.
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The film begins with a group of villagers in Laalgaon engaged in a song while two Dalit girls are trapped in a school bus by some men. Ayan Ranjan, a St. Stephen’s College, Delhi graduate and an Indian Police Service officer, is recently posted to Laalgaon as the Additional Superintendent of Police and is warmly welcomed by officers Brahmadutt Singh and Jatav. He is introduced to the caste discrimination that exists in that village when he stops to buy a bottle of water from a local shop to which an officer tells him that they are not allowed to have their water as the shop belongs to people belonging to a lower caste. He faces a similar situation at his welcome party where he is given a fresh plate to eat while trying to eat from Jatav’s plate and relays this information to his girlfriend, Aditi.
Ayan also meets his college friend Satyendra Rai, who seems very fidgety and uncomfortable around Ayan, though the latter claims they were close friends. The very next day, it is shown that the two girls have been hanged from a tree, while the third girl Pooja is still missing. Ayan orders Brahmadutt to file a FIR and to obtain the postmortem report for the deceased girls. Brahmadutt tells Dr. Awdhesh, a postmortem doctor, to fake the report saying that the girls were too intimate and as a result of the shame, their fathers hung them. Due to the absence of Dr. Awdhesh, his assistant Dr. Malti Ram does the postmortem for the bodies. During the postmortem examination of the bodies, she finds out that the girls were gang raped, but is stopped and coaxed by Brahmadutt to not only delay the report but also to write that the girls were murdered and not raped so that the case becomes that of honour killing. Meanwhile, Jatav and Mayank are threatened and their jeep is burned by men of Nishaad, the leader of a revolutionary group in order to get speedy justice. On questioning Jatav, Ayan realises the gravity of the situation and decides to dig deeper in this case until the victims gets justice. Brahmadutt is furious with Jatav as he is trying to close the case at the earliest and persuades Ayan to do so as well on the pretext that the case is false. It is only when Gaura, the sister of one of the girls, informs him that they used to work for a local builder named Anshu Naharia and had recently asked for an increase in their salary by just Rs. 3 that the investigation gets more serious. Ayan decides to call Anshu for inquiry even though Bhramadutt tries to persuade him not to do so as Anshu is related to the CM, Ram Lal Naharia. During interrogation Anshu says that the girls were slapped so that the entire caste would be reminded of their status. When Ayan asks him what their status is, he replies, “Their status is what we give them”. This deeply disturbs Ayan as he gets to see the loopholes behind the political system. He promptly decides to “un-mess” the mess and the very next morning, he puts the Article 15 of the Indian Constitution on the billboard as a reminder to all the police officers to first and foremost be Indians and that any kind of caste discrimination is a criminal offence and continues to probe into the case.
Ayan meets with Dr. Malti Ram and finds out that contrary to the 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 the higher-ups are hand in glove with Anshu Naharia’s father, Ramlal Naharia. Meanwhile, Mahantji, a Brahmin by caste, has formed an alliance with the head of the Dalit community Shanti Prasad, which is opposed vehemently by Nishaad and he organizes a protest against this.
Ayan meets with Nishaad to request him to stop the protest so that they get more men to search for Pooja. Nishaad refuses, saying that Mahantji and Shanti Prasad are doing this for their own benefits. He says that the protests will continue but allows some men to go so as the search to continue. Ayan gets a call from Dr. Malti who confirms that Anshu was the one who gang-raped and murdered the two girls. Ayan gets an arrest warrant for Anshu and goes to his house to arrest him. Anshu, however, is not at home and is safe with Brahmadutt. Brahmadutt is revealed to be one among the rapists and in order to save himself, kills Anshu.
Meanwhile, Panikar interrogates Ayan regarding the evidence submitted and suspends him. However, Ayan gets to know where Satyendra is, who was missing for a while and gets him to talk. Anshu Naharia had hosted a party and Brahmadutt and Nihal Singh, a fellow policeman, were invited. They got very drunk and in their drunken stupor, raped the two girls taking turns and hung them from the tree to avoid suspicions. However, Satyendra refuses to be a witness and runs away. Ayan confronts Nihal Singh, who asks him not to tell his sister Amali, who works at Ayan’s house, to tell what he did, and due to remorse and regret over his actions, Nihal Singh commits suicide. Ayan, however, relays this news to Amali, sister of Nihal Singh who breaks down, crying uncontrollably.
Jatav arrests Brahmadutt on Ayan’s command, who assaults him and insults him. Jatav slaps him and sends him to jail. Ayan, along with Jatav and other policemen, cross a filthy swamp in order to enter the jungle on the other side, where Pooja could be hiding. Meanwhile, Nishaad is arrested by the police and is taken away in a van. This turns out to be an encounter where he is killed, to the chagrin of Gaura and Jatav, revealed to be a fellow Dalit.
Ayan submits all the evidence to the Home Minister, who encourages Ayan to continue his investigation. Finally, they manage to cross the swamp and find Pooja hiding in a pipe. They rescue her and with her statement, Brahmadutt gets eleven years of imprisonment as punishment. Mahantji wins the election hands down. Ayan and all the policemen buy rotis from a lady at a roadside eatery. The film ends with Ayan asking the lady her caste, which isn’t heard due to the blare of a passing lorry’s horn, and other policemen laughing over it, indicating their reform.
Ayushmann Khurrana as Additional SP Ayan Ranjan, an IPS officer
Nassar as CBI Officer Panikar
Manoj Pahwa as Circle Officer Bhramadutt Singh
Kumud Mishra as Police Sub-Inspector Kisan Jatav
Isha Talwar as Aditi Ranjan
Sayani Gupta as Gaura
Ronjini Chakraborty as Dr. Malti Ram
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Nishaad
Veen Harsh as Anshu Naharia
Vivek Yadav as Nokhai
Ashish Verma as Mayank
Sushil Pandey as Nihal Singh
Kapil Tilhari as Pramod Yadav
Aakash Dabhade as Satyendra Rai
Shubrajyoti Bharat as Chandrabhan
Eza Sumbul Touqeer as Amali
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