A police drama is a rare film for 1980s Indian cinema, and a successful police drama with a bit of a moral is even rarer -- which makes Ardh Satya by Govind Nihalani an unusual item.
Any story comprises a premise, characters and conflict. Characters plotting their own play promises triumph, and a militant character readily lends oneself to this. Ardh Satya's premise is summarized by the poem of the same name scripted by Dilip Chitre. The line goes - "ek palde mein napunsaktha, doosre palde mein paurush, aur teek tarazu ke kaante par, ardh satya ?". A rough translation - "The delicate balance of right & wrong ( commonly seen on the busts of blind justice in the courts ) has powerlessness on one plate and prowess on another. Is the needle on the center a half-truth? "
Anant Welankar (Om Puri) is an ethically strait-laced Bombay police officer who reluctantly joined the force at his father's instigation -- his father had been a career policeman. Once working in the precinct, Anant learns about bribery -- it seems that Rama Shetty (Sadashiv Amrapurkar), a well-known political aspirant known to be involved in a murder, has several of the police officers in his back pocket. Anant finds himself caught between the police violence and bribery on the one hand, and his desire to fulfill his duties to the letter on the other. In one unhappy moment, he is carried away by his fury against immorality during an interrogation and beats a prisoner so badly that the man dies. Stricken and yet unwilling to simply accept his suspension, Anant has to either hew to his own conscience and face the consequences, or ask for help from the notorious Rama Shetty -- a difficult decision when one's future hangs in the balance.
Ardh Satya is a one-man show, and needless to say, it is Om Puri who dominates the proceedings with his heartfelt, brilliant performance as Anant. Puri is an actor who has very rarely delivered something unworthy, although he has been given stuff unworthy of his talent. This performance ranks amongst the finest works of his illustrious career. He captures Anant's honesty, determination, anger and devastation with sheer intensity, and is always moving, credible and convincing. The acting in general is very good in this film, but the rest of the cast are just here to support him, and they do it well. Amrish Puri, as the tough, violent and authoritarian father, is unsurprisingly excellent. He manages to convey a lot of his character's essence through just a few scenes. The same can be said about Sadashiv Amrapurkar, who does a lot with so little. Shafi Inamdar is also pretty good as Anant's boss.
After ‘Aakrosh’, this was the second film for Govind Nihalani as a director. Till this movie was made there was no audience for documentaries in India. This movie proved a point that a documentary can fulfill the requirements of a commercial film without diluting its essence.
This movie, unlike most of Indian movies lacks song and dance, yet was shown to packed houses all over India because the generation of the tumultuous 1980s identified themselves with Anant Velankar.
A must see movie for every Indian and who loves Indian movies.