Saturday, October 27, 2012

Naxalism for Dummies

Prakash Jha returns with yet another political thriller, but this time, the product lacks steam. Chakravyuh, based on the naxalite activities in central India is a dilute potion which offers no deep perspective from any vantage point on an issue of large concern in today’s scenario.

The exterior composition of the plot loosely resembles James Cameron’s Avatar, save for the high end 3D graphics and the blue creatures, and ends in a tragedy. Adil Khan (Arjun Rampal) is a police officer who is posted in Nandighat in order to put an end to the armed rebellion that is preventing the Government’s steel project led by a huge business corporation. Nandighat is the proverbial Pandora in Jha’s film and the naxals are the Na’vis. In order to gain access to their plans, Adil plants his close friend, Kabir (Abhay Deol), among the naxals. However, as one can guess, once Kabir gets into the “chakravyuh”, he sees the other side of story – the injustice, oppression and exploitation that the tribals have gone through. He has a change of heart and joins the movement extensively. This is conclusive proof to state that the plot structure has Avatar written all over it.

The film explores the themes of political lobbying, corporate bullying, henpecked police force, oppression of the weak and the poor, naxalism, Salva Judum’s terror, armed rebellion and a lot more. But in an attempt to incorporate all of this, the script fails to significantly establish any of the above. What we get to see is a fleeting glimpse of all of this and are expected to take one-off incidents as the general truth.

The screenplay is unimaginative and in-your-face. After a point, one gets fed up of the deliberate spoon feeding of ideologies and moral side-taking. At several points, one feels as if the scenes are loosely tied together and have abrupt ends. After Gangaajal, Apaharan and Rajneeti, we are used to a certain style of cinema from Prakash Jha where he delves into an issue of socio-political significance and brings the drama on screen radically simplifying it for the masses. Chakravyuh, however, is a step too far in dumbing down a particular issue. The only people who would find this film intriguing are those who have never read a newspaper in the past few years and those who have absolutely no idea about Naxalism and Naxalite activities in the country.

In terms of the artistes’ performances, the film is a mélange of good actors being cast in insignificant roles and bad actors trying hard to make you hate them even more. Abhay Deol and forests don’t go really well together, however, he does quite a convincing job. Om Puri, like Naseeruddin Shah in Rajneeti, appears for a couple of scenes at the start and you begin to fear that was it for him; but he returns in the final third for a couple of important sequences. Arjun Rampal’s Adil Khan keeps you guessing what the prevalent emotion is; for, his face is perpetually angry, or constipated. Esha Gupta (Adil’s wife) cannot act if her life depended on it and her tight little flattering Police uniform resembles that of a stripper more than a real cop. Anjali Patil – who plays Juhi is the only positive talking point of the film. In her role as the secondary chief of the movement, she shows great potential as an actor in an otherwise two dimensional role.

Chakravyuh has all the elements of a Prakash Jha film, except intrigue. An unnecessary item number with Sameera Reddy, a tribal dance number with imprecise costumes and poorly crafted action sequences – this film is a letdown of sorts. With archetypal characters representing various institutions, Chakravyuh is merely a Guide for Dummies. Watch it if you don’t mind an inaccurate beginners’ lesson in Naxalism.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Published in DNA After Hrs (Pune) on October 27, 2012

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