A man is given a choice. If he picks the easy option he gets to choose from two more. If he picks the tougher one there is a good chance he won’t be given another. It is not just true of Anant Welankar, the young policeman in Govind Nihalani’s Ardh Satya. The tougher choice looks brave and laudable, but it could quickly lead downhill.
Developed from a poem by the same name, Ardh Satya is about the limbo marking the spot between cowardice and courage. It could either mean a compromise or a sign of intelligence. It is not either half-full or half-empty. It is both half-full and half-empty. On a scale of courage, this marks the middle between “impotence” and “manhood”.
Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
On one side is Impotence,
and on the other is Manhood,
and right in the middle,
is the half-truth.
The sub-inspector played by Om Puri is much respected by his colleagues. They have all accepted their positions in the “potency scale” somewhere sliding to the negative. For every move this upstart of a cop makes towards the upkeep of his “manhood” – by ramming into the local goon’s criminal activity or correcting eve-teasers – he is reminded of his eventual powerlessness. The system won’t allow for his manhood because it is a secular place full of compromises.
For Welankar, there is no half-truth. Rama Shetty (the goon) has to be put in jail. Thanks to everyone else, it cannot be done. It takes his naivete to overlook the half-truth, the safe-house for everyone afraid of the full truth. For him, it is either one or the other. To fight this inner conflict he takes to the bottle, the universal succor he hopes will find him the middle of the scale.
In turn, his drinking makes him more violent. He takes the system’s cowardice as his own and stretches the limits of bravery. There is only trouble at the other end, but he pushes on, all the time answering the inner call to be a man. The memory of his father often beating his mother enrages him. Even that anger is more at himself than the father for he didn’t stop him.
All the while, the policeman opts for courage, but is forced to accept cowardice. Then he is given another choice. Then it goes again, the same way. Perhaps, there is no Ardh Satya and it is all just plain lies. But then, what’s the point of the complete truth if it won’t allow you another choice.