Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Chakravyuh: Cliched and clunky
I have suspected it for a while now and I’m afraid it might be true. Film-maker Prakash Jha is well on his way to becoming the Madhur Bhandarkar of political films.
I imagine Bhandarkar should keep his cupboard of clichés under lock and key because Jha is dipping into it liberally. He is also helping himself to simplistic storylines, dumbing down sensitive issues, and of course, adding a song or two in between as the police battle Maoist rebels.
To deal with the Maoist movement in real life is tough enough, and you need to carefully represent it on screen, but Jha deals with it like a bull in a china shop. What could have been the tale of two friends caught on two sides of the Maoist movement, or the story of how it affects people, ends up being a simplistic tale rife with badly shot action sequences and some of the most clumsy acting I have seen in a while.
Arjun Rampal plays Adil Khan, an upright police officer who volunteers to go to Nandighat, a Maoist-affected district. Determined to rid the area of the menace, Khan goes about trying to win the trust of the locals, but is unsuccessful because the Maoist enjoy their support and infiltrating their camp is considered impossible.
Enter Kabir (Abhay Deol), Khan’s closest friend who offers to help him out by pretending to be a Maoist sympathiser, gaining access to its top leadership and then relaying information to Khan.
But when Kabir spends time with the Maoists and learns of their ideology, he is hit with a serious case of the Stockholm syndrome, beginning to sympathise with the same people who almost shot him dead when they found an outsider amidst them.
Jha stops short of delving into the problem, and strings together his story using news clippings and some staple Bollywood homilies. So we hear about the evil corporation which wants to take over tribal lands, we hear about how the Maoists will grant the villagers their rights, but that’s about all.
There are item songs, and some really clunky plot points to go with all this. What really brings this film down though is the acting. All the leads, including Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol and especially Esha Gupta lumber through their roles, not once making you empathise with their characters. Anjali Patil, who plays Juhi, a Maoist commander who falls in love with Kabir, distinguishes herself well.
“Chakravyuh” deals with an important issue, one that is very vital to India right now, so you might want to watch it for that reason. Otherwise, this is a cliché of a film.