ANKUSH: A Weapon to Control (N. Chandra, 1986, India)


Ankush (Control) was an unexpected commercial success on its release and launched the careers of both director N. Chandra and Nana Patekar. Ankush, released in 1986, appeared when the angry young man films had all but ended. N. Chandra, most famous for launching Madhuri Dixit in Tezaab (Acid, 1988), wrote and directed Ankush as his debut feature. Appearing years before Salaam Bombay (Nair must have taken note of Patekar’s breakthrough performance) and Parinda (which also uses Patekar), Ankush is an often forgotten film of the 1980s that succeeds in bringing together an old fashioned didacticism with a socio-political context that references both rampant unemployment and systemic corruption. The film from which it draws most explicitly is another neglected work in the angry young man saga; Yash Chopra’s 1984 film Mashaal.

The story of four unemployed friends who waste away their days internalising the injustices committed against them is questioned by the arrival of Manda (Rabia Amin), a social worker fighting for the rights of labourers, inspiring the group to draw on their individual strengths and find an economic outlet. Chandra’s unashamed admiration for heightened melodrama is counterpointed by a raw urban milieu. Against this underbelly of machismo Chandra introduces two very significant gender tropes; the mother as a symbol of trauma and the young seemingly emancipated feminist social worker. What this produces is an idea of family which in Chandra’s view restores a sense of equilibrium missing from a conservative perspective of Indian society. Nonetheless, the absence of a father figure in the lives of these young men seems to be the real crisis at the heart of this broken society. The entire film functions in a state of trauma that is never resolved, leading to courtroom didacticism, voicing injustices that yield nothing but indifference and more inertia.


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