India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Red Alert: Bollywood’s take on the Maoists

July 9, 2010

With “Red Alert“, Bollywood rushes in where many experts fear to tread.

Here is a problem — Maoist violence — on which something is to be said on both sides.

Red AlertAnanth Mahadevan makes a bold attempt to say it and almost sails through on the back of competent performances by every actor except Suniel Shetty.

The movie follows his travails — a labourer who is forced to cook, then drive and soon enough kill for the Maoists before he has had enough and escapes with the help of a fellow rebel played by Sameera Reddy.

“Red Alert” is linear and taut — no songs, less melodrama and cameos remaining cameos.

But it is the Bollywood penchant for finding solutions in the course of a two-hour movie that chokes this one.

Even after I went into the theatre armed with the mantra ‘it is a film, not a documentary’.

Can a Maoist revolutionary have a change of heart to become a corporate honcho and then serve the people?

If you can stretch your imagination that far, please go ahead and watch it.

Shetty is the weakest link in this film that otherwise offers you a chance to re-acquaint yourself with actors like Seema Biswas, Ashish Vidyarthi, Bhagyashree and Vinod Khanna.

After trying action and comedy Shetty is trying, well, “acting”.

He delivers his lines with the same cadence with which he mouthed “Babu Bhaiyya…” in “Hera Pheri”. What consistency, indeed.

His muscular self is as unconvincing as Sameera Reddy is convincing in her emaciated avatar. Relatively speaking.

The character-artists are all fine but their characters fail them — policemen rape, rebels are Robin Hoods, politicians are manipulative, journalists want breaking news, singles die — phew!

My editor watched “Red Alert” at a film festival screening last year where some critics wanted the director to tone down the “Bollywoodish” elements. I wish Mahadevan had taken note.

A warning for those whose appetite for this movie may be whetted by seeing Naseeruddin Shah on the posters. Blink and you will miss him.

For the patient among you, please watch it on television. It will be more rewarding — easier on the mind as well as the purse.

Red Alert” is only for those who need a primer on the woes of people caught in the pincers and who care for the simplistic message that whoever wields power becomes a bully.

Tip: Try to leave the theatre at least fifteen minutes before the credits roll so you avoid the puerile ending and come away with some sense of how complicated the situation on the ground is.

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