Cast: Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Manoj Bajpayee, Esha Gupta, Om Puri, Anjali Patil
Director: Prakash Jha
How many times we see a Bollywood film bringing up a burning issue like Naxalism to the forefront? Director Prakash Jha’s ‘Chakravyuh’ does it but then it also considers the restrictions of mainstream filmmaking.
\'Chakravyuh\' is for the people who believe that things go just fine if your stock exchange functions smoothly.
On the outset, the film is a story about two friends Adil Khan (Arjun Rampal) and Kabir (Abhay Deol). Their friendship receives a severe jolt when Kabir decides to leave the police academy after realising that he couldn’t cope up with the quintessential ‘police’ attitude. Later, Adil emerges as a respected police officer who takes up the job of police superintendent in Naxalism affected area Nandighat (Any resemblance!).
Adil’s reunion with Kabir, who is a failed businessman, prompts him to plant Kabir as a mole inside the enemy camp. The unexpected happens when Kabir starts struggling between two entirely different ideologies.
Be it ‘Daamul’ or be it ‘Aarakshan’, Jha has always come up with a film that is based on an ‘issue’ but is politically correct. This time again, he has tried his best to not hurt the popular sentiments. The police have been shown from all sides but the man who is at the helm of affairs is morally upright and knows his limitations. There is a deliberately put scene in the film where Adil refuses an offer from a business tycoon Mahanta (Kabir Bedi), while there are other policemen under Adil’s jurisdiction only who are protected and sympathised by him, so that confuses the audiences about his actual stand.
Now, come to the other side. Manoj Bajpayee is the dreaded Naxal commander Rajan, who doesn’t sound ideologically equipped but is the leader at the ground zero. In another nuanced performance, Bajpayee conveys the conviction of someone who has lost all his faith in the government. His dialect is fine, body language and ruthlessness is fine, but what disturbs is his approach towards the people he sympathises with. Of course, his laws are different but who will explain the reasons behind such self styled ownership of the land. He has been seen in conversation with ideologues but the topic of discussion remains the availability of arsenals rather than the faith which could drive the local people against the forcible eviction.
However, Jha’s handling of the human side of Naxalites is praiseworthy. He clearly knows the difference between a Naxal and a human who is also a Naxal. Their lives with glimpses of poverty have been portrayed with apparent objectivity. Naxal commanders can love, can be hit by greed and can dance too.
Capitalism doesn’t get into a head-on collision with communism in ‘Chakravyuh’, and that makes it interesting. There are two forces fighting against each other but their goals are not global. It’s more of a war between two leaders, one of which believes that the government machinery is always right.
Who is innocent and who is deliberately becoming innocent is another question. How can the path of gun be justified? Why the ministers shying away from taking the responsibility when they clearly represent the popular notions? How can be a minister who is more concerned about outer investments in his area and who dances with ‘adivasis’, not go for the healing therapy. Is their any chance of finding a middle way? But, as I said there are restrictions of mainstream Bollywood filmmaking. Restrictions that drove Prakash Jha to cast the short pant wearing Esha Gupta as an intelligence officer and Sameera Reddy as a ‘Kunda khol’ item girl.
Arjun Rampal’s image and dialogue delivery mar his chances but it is one of his better performances, in fact he has a given Abhay Deol a run for his money in double shots. Abhay Deol is satisfactory but we have seen him doing better in emotional scenes. The director could have worked a little more on bringing out his headstrongness and conviction on the path of violence. It seems that his soft corner for Juhi (Anjali Patil) is more responsible for his change of heart than the plight of adivasis and atrocities of police.
Anjali Patil is the surprise package of ‘Chakravyuh’. She has come up with an authentic performance. She is vulnerable, maniac, ideology driven, all at the same time. Patil is Jha’s perfect portrayal of a Naxalite.
‘Chakravyuh’ has some amazing scenes. The first gun battle between the police and the Naxals is shot with fantastic imagination. It comes as a disturbing surprise. The grandeur hasn’t been compromised on. The handling of the crowd shows the storyteller’s control on the sets.
Overall, ‘Chakravyuh’ is a well intentioned and finely crafted film, which shies away from taking any stand. A good watch for the people who believe that India has progressed a lot and things go just fine if your stock exchange functions smoothly. And yes, claps for the last ultimate voice-over of the film.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
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