October 26, 2012 6:29:39 pm
Cast: Arjun Rampal,Abhay Deol,Manoj Bajpayee,Anjali Patil,Esha Gupta,Om Puri,Kabir Bedi
Director: Prakash Jha
Indian Express Rating: **
‘Chakravyuh’ talks of the growing red corridor in several parts of the country,and how it came to be,and how it is playing out right here,right now. It is the latest in Prakash Jhas line of films which puts the spotlight on a burningly important issue,but which comes off less than trenchant because of mainstream considerations. How else can you do naxalism and ‘mao-wadi-ism and idealism and pragmatism,and still expect to entice multiplex viewers?
When SSP Adil (Rampal) is posted to a Naxal-infested area with orders to take stringent action,he finds that it is impossible to get any reliable leads on these ‘armies that hide out in forests,armed and shielded by the surrounding villagers. And when Adils old friend Kabir ( Deol) offers to penetrate the chakravyuh ,you know how it will all go because of the other elements in the story : an ambitious industrialist ( Bedi) who wants to grab mineral-rich ‘adivasi land, greedy politicians only on the side of money,and a bunch of vicious cops only on their own side.
Jha makes it easy for us to hate these black villains,and stay safely ambivalent about the others : the Naxals have a valid point of view,but killing cops,or anyone else,is not good; the cops need to prevent the innocent villagers from becoming victims,but its a war,and there will be casualties. You can see the directors job is cut out because he is on a tightrope : too much overt justification or sympathy for either side would receive flak from the other. But this makes Chakravyuh,with entirely predictable character-arcs and outcome,a lesser film than it could have been.
The two actors who rise above it all are also,predictably,the stalwarts. Om Puri,as the Binayak Sen-like character has the feel of a man who has lived,and suffered,by his ideals . Manoj Bajpayee as the Naxal chief brings a just-right sur to his sketchy part . Arjun Rampal,who has become quite a regular in Jha features,essays his cop with sincerity,and manages to stay in character. Im not entirely convinced by Abhay Deol who is the only character granted any sort of growth in the film,but is effective only some of the time. Anjali Patil,who plays a committed comrade,has nice rawness but is asked to be too dramatic. As to Esha Gupta,who plays a policewoman with low actorly skills,what is she doing here? But then again,maybe shes just right for a film which feels the need to insert one of the most atrociously-worded item numbers Ive seen in a while.
Because finally,thats what all the good intentions and all those ‘isms come down to : packaged in a trying-to-be-palatable-to-all plot,which works intermittently in the first half,and not too well in the stretched second.
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